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Madison Metropolitan School District

Weekly Update to the Board of Education 9-16-2021

A message from Superintendent Carlton D. Jenkins, Ph.D.

Dear Board Members,

This week, which marks the third week of our fall semester, has certainly been eventful. Throughout this week, our district staff have been leaning forward together with intentionality. During visits to schools throughout the district, we are having conversations with students, staff, families, and community members as we work to elevate their voices in our decision making and operations. These discussions have illuminated the level of empathy, positive energy, and equity-mindedness found throughout our district.

One of the topics we have been discussing is providing elementary families with virtual instruction options as we continue grappling with the COVID-19 global health pandemic. During the latter weeks of our summer break, the rise in cases due to the Delta variant spurred an appetite for virtual learning among many of our families. As we made this pivot, our initial plan was to serve 150 students; however, the number of applications received was more than 300 percent higher. In order to accommodate the needs of our families, we deliberated with teachers and administrators about instructional design. We agreed to utilize concurrent instruction as a last resort, because most parents indicated this was not their preferred instructional mode in last spring’s feedback surveys. Therefore, many of our buildings made adjustments to classes in order to free up some teachers for virtual instruction, without our district resorting to externally sourcing instruction through an outside vendor during a nationwide teacher shortage. As we refine our practices and monitor our progress, we look forward to paying close attention to the concerns largely coming from three out of our thirty-two elementary schools, because all voices can inspire us to new heights.

Our discussions have also involved coming up with collaborative solutions to emerging challenges such as balancing the transition of our teachers back to five days per week of in-person instruction while increasing our district’s capacity to ensure early literacy and beyond through evidence-based insights from the Science of Reading. As such, we have shared our intention to tweak our pacing for the delivery of LETRS professional development as we have listened to the voices of teachers and principals. As we lean forward together with humanity, we will continue to gain powerful insights through additional collaborative conversations.

Intentionally focusing on uplifting human decency as we address the pillars of excellence and equity continues to challenge us to build on and refine our existing policies and practices. One example of these efforts is our conversations around implementing a moratorium on 4K-5 suspensions. Our desire to minimize the ongoing trauma of our elementary students returning to in-person instruction after 18 months of disruption caused by COVID-19 has caused us to interrogate our out-of-school suspension data and our Behavior Education Plan (BEP). We plan to utilize insights from the best of our collective experiences and current practices to chart a new course toward ensuring each of our schools are places where students, staff, and families thrive.

Thanks for your continued support and partnership. We look forward to providing you with more updates on our district’s progress and planning next week.

Sincerely,
Carlton D. Jenkins, Ph.D.

 

Weekly Update, September 16, 2021