New Leadership Team at the Madison Metropolitan School District
Continuing the Push for Equity and Black Excellence
|Chief of Schools for High School Michael Hernandez (l-r) Chief of
Schools for Elementary Carlettra Stanford and Chief of Schools for
Middle Dr. Tremayne Clardy
In their previous roles, the chiefs of staff were involved in developing the district’s second strategic framework with Black Excellence at its center. There is
no going back and 2019-2020 is not a transition period for the plan.
“I think I can lead a lens on ‘Let’s problem solve together on how to get it done, whether it’s in a different part of town or if it’s a different staff because
shrugging our shoulders and going back to the good old days is not an option’” Hernandez said. “I say this all the time. We say this because we have all had
different experiences. But the good old days weren’t good for everyone. We need to make sure that people understand that. The times have changed
everywhere. If we’re not willing to say it’s okay for our own child, we shouldn’t let that happen to anyone else. That’s the challenge. But it is also the
excitement part about this because we get to change and to try some new and exciting things. That part about our conversations, Tremayne’s, Carlettra’s and
mine is let’s collaborate as opposed to be silos. And let’s see how we might be able to work together to build that foundation and see it go all the way up.
That is something that is exciting and a challenge as well.”
Stanford also emphasized that the current school year will not be one that is a holding pattern.
“We’re all doing equity and Black Excellence as a priority,” Stanford said. “For all of us, one thing that we wanted to make sure is that all of our principals
and staff and everyone knows that even though there has been some change, a lot of change, within the district, that we are going to continue to move
forward and we are going to continue to do the work and that is going to be an expectation. Our work around race and equity, our work around Black
Excellence, our work in making sure that we are doing what is best for African American students — those are the students who are experiencing the
largest gaps — is not going to stop. We know we are in a place where we are looking for a new superintendent. And that is great. But we are not going to
pause this year to wait until that happens and see who is selected. We have who we need right now to be able to continue to do the work. And so that is
what we are going to do.”
All three chiefs of staff feel an urgency about getting the job done.
“Ultimately our kids can’t wait for us to get our stuff together,” Stanford said. “We have to keep moving forward and doing what’s best for kids and always
keeping them at the center of everything that we do. That’s why I am really excited about working with this team, with Tremayne and Mike and with Chelsey
and our sub-partners because that is something that we are all on the same page about. And it’s just making sure that we are working together as a
collective to support the people who are doing the work every day in the schools, to make sure that it is happening and make sure that it is having a
positive impact on our scholars.”
For Clardy, what is needed is for everyone to reach deeper within themselves to bring forward their best effort for the sale of the children.
“The direction we have to go is deeper in the work,” Clardy said. “Our strategic framework, as you know, has the voices of thousands from our community
in it. The community asked for and supported Black Excellence as one of our strategies in moving forward and lifting up the brilliance that our Black students
already have. In understanding that, Black Excellence lifts up all students. And to Mike’s point that he just made, we’re definitely not going backwards. We’
re going to go deeper into this work very aggressively, but with a lot of intentionality. I use aggressive in a positive way. You have to think intentionally
about how we are going to move forward and not allowing an uncomfortable state or a little push back to deter us from our mission. We have a moral
obligation to make some corrections of the experiences of our students, especially our Black and Brown students, and we as a team look forward to leading
this charge along with the rest of our district colleagues.”
While equity used to almost be a side item a while back that would be gotten to if there was time, this team of chiefs of staff will make sure that it is deeply
imbedded in the very foundation of the school district.
“When we walk into a space, people know that along the line, whether we’re evaluating a SIP or talking about giving feedback, we’re going to ask these
equity questions,” Hernandez said. “And it makes some people uncomfortable. But the beautiful part about that is it means that they are thinking about it.
When you do that so many times, it’s a habit. So then it doesn’t need me or Tremayne or Carlettra to walk in. People will just be thinking about it. It’s
modeling your expectations of what you hope others are doing all the time and eventually, it doesn’t become person dependent for the high schools, middle
schools and elementary schools. It becomes a habit, a practice of thinking about equity in everything we do. And that’s the part where I’m almost more
comfortable when I’m uncomfortable. It’s crazy, but that’s just the case. I don’t care if someone is upset with me when I walk out of a room. We’re going to
say what we believe because we cannot go backwards. The city can’t go backwards. Our partners are stepping up in wanting to support the schools. We
have many staff who are wanting to do this work. There are some who are still hesitant. It’s our job to help them find their way. We have so many staff right
now who are ready to do this work.”
On some levels, Clardy wants to treat middle school students like customers and wants their input to ensure the schools are exactly what they need in order
“We really shifted our focus to understanding what it means to belong to a school community as a student and how do we elevate the student voice so we
learn from our students through our learning partnerships what experiences allow them to be more engaged,” Clardy said. “How do they better understand
their expectations of a high level of rigor? And what responses are actually rigorous responses that will allow them to be their best selves. When I say a
sense of belonging, you have to feel like you belong to a school community to actually perform well in the school community. We have to be intentional about
that and also measure it. But the measurement needs to come from the students and their voice and how they are talking about their experiences within the
building and in the classroom. Do they feel safe? Do they feel challenged? Do they feel they are a part of the school community? And the student voices can
be so powerful with that. We are really leveraging that aspect of the work at the middle school level. We’re digging into a new way of working around school
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
When Dr. Jen Cheatham resigned as the MMSD superintendent earlier this year,
her two chiefs of staff, Dr. Alex Fralin, chief of schools-secondary and Nancy
Hanks, chief of schools-elementary, also left the district leaving a temporary
leadership vacuum at the top.
Dr. Jane Belmore was named the interim superintendent by the MMSD Board of
Education and through a competitive hiring process, three new chiefs of schools
were hired on two-year contracts: Michael Hernandez, chief of schools-high, Dr.
Tremayne Clardy, chief of schools-middle and Carlettra Stanford, chief of
All three of them were hired within the ranks of the Madison school district.
Hernandez was the principal of East High School. Clardy was deputy chief of staff
for middle and Stanford was principal of Mendota Elementary School.
All three chiefs of staff are humbled and honored that they were chosen to lead
and are excited to be in a position where they can make a difference in the lives
and academic success of Madison’s public school children. Perhaps Clardy said
“Personally, I’m living a dream,” Clardy said. “I love my work. I love what I do. It
doesn’t feel like a job because when you love what you do, it’s intense and it’s
hard and you don’t get a lot of sleep, but it’s very fulfilling. I get to get up every
morning and work with a group of people who want to change the experiences
and change the narrative of Black and Brown students and families. That’s my
dream job. I have nothing but positive things to say about the direction our district
has gone and where we’ll continue to go. I’m living my dream.”
And it will be the dream of many students and families of color if the Madison
Metropolitan School District can finally get over the hump and truly become a
place where all students thrive and succeed. Mike Hernandez, Dr. Tremayne
Clardy and Carlettra Stanford are set to give it their best to make it so.