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We asked four MMSD principals to share their experience leading a Madison school. Each emphasized a culture of support and collaboration among principal peers. Read on to learn more about what it is like to be a principal in the MMSD.

Jamie Sims, Black Hawk Middle    Matt Hendrickson, Memorial High    Sylla Zarov, Franklin Elementary   Angie Hicks, Wright Middle
        Jamie Sims                               Matt Hendrickson                             Sylla Zarov                                  Angie Hicks
  Black Hawk Middle                         Memorial High                          Franklin Elementary                           Wright Middle


Jamie Sims, Black Hawk Middle
Jamie Sims
Black Hawk Middle

What was your pathway to leadership?

My pathway to leadership begun in the 2015/16 school year when I came from Georgia to Madison as a Dean of students. Shortly after serving in that role I became the Assistant Principal and then the Interim Principal at Black Hawk Middle School where I currently still serve as the principal. My trajectory was leveraged by me having the ability to work at Black Hawk from the very beginning which allowed me to display my leadership strengths from day one in hopes of my trajectory leading me to where I am serving currently.

You could be a principal anywhere. Why MMSD?

What I love most about MMSD is the ability to work with students and families that come from all different walks of life. For me it is an honor to be able to serve such a diverse community and learn so much about my own culture along with the many others that come in and out of Black Hawk Middle School on a daily basis. I feel very humbled and blessed to work here in MMSD. It has become my new home.

How do you lead for MMSD's core values and Black Excellence?

I lead with my heart and doing whatever it takes to see my students, staff, and community supported to be successful. I do what I do because I 1. have a deep passion for teaching and learning , 2. Truly love and care for my students, staff, and community, and 3. I am willing to do whatever it takes to uphold my personal belief and approach around Black Excellence when it comes to working with my staff, students, and families around what it means and why it drives all of our work as a school at Black Hawk. One way I remain consistent in my leadership role around MMSD's core values is by being intentional about making time to reflect on them to ensure that the work we are doing at our school reflects those values and beliefs as it relates to our students, systems, and professional learning plan.



Matt Hendrickson, Memorial High
Matt Hendrickson
Memorial High

What was your pathway to leadership?

My path to leadership was a mix of preparation and good timing. I was interested in school administration and had started my course work when I was asked to serve as an Interim Assistant Principal. During my interim year, my commitment to creating great schools became clear and I knew my next step would be in administration. I returned to the classroom while finishing my course work and then applied for the permanent Assistant Principal position. I spent many years serving as an Assistant Principal learning from various mentors, colleagues and fellow leaders. All of those experiences as an Assistant Principal prepared me to again step into an Interim role this time as a Principal. I knew that MMSD had prepared me to be a leader through ongoing professional learning, on-the-job training, excellent role models and when I accepted my new role as a permanent Principal I was ready and well supported.

You could be a principal anywhere. Why MMSD?

The Madison Metropolitan School District is large enough to have resources and opportunities to grow and learn as a leader but connected enough that you can pick up the phone and have a direct conversation with anyone, including the Superintendent. I have built strong friendships with administrators around the district and I always know that I can count on their support and insight as we work toward continuously improving outcomes for our students. Madison is also a great place to live and raise a family. I am proud to be a community member, parent, and MMSD employee.

How do you lead for MMSD's core values and Black Excellence?

The Madison Metropolitan School District has done a wonderful job setting the course for the future of education in our district. As a leader, it is first and foremost my goal to act as a role model for students, staff and our community, embracing our core values including Black Excellence. I feel supported when I need to evaluate our systems and challenge the status quo when the status quo isn’t reflecting our core values and lifting up our students who are most marginalized. I strive to build a culture in my building that embodies excellence, belonging, racial equity, student voice, focus, and creativity that will live long past my own personal leadership journey so that all students now and in the future are career, college, and community ready.


Sylla Zarov, Franklin Elementary
Sylla Zarov
Franklin Elementary

What was your pathway to leadership??

I attended UW Madison in the early 90s and got my degree in Early Childhood Education. I taught in the Chicago area in the early years of my teaching career (North Chicago and Chicago Public Schools). I moved back to Madison to raise our children here and to send them to MMSD (I have 2 Memorial graduates and a current 10th grader). From the mid 2000s through 2011, I was a classroom teacher at Muir Elementary. I then became the Instructional Coach there for two years while also working toward my masters in administration from Edgewood College. I received my masters in December 2014 and then pursued my career goal of becoming a building administrator. I became the assistant principal at Glenn Stephens and was there for a year prior to becoming the principal at Franklin in 2015. I am just beginning my 5th year as principal at Franklin. My passion for teaching and providing the conditions so that our students are successful at school is the same passion that led me to work at the principal level to create systems and structures to support students, families and staff thrive in the school setting.

You could be a principal anywhere. Why MMSD?

I am grateful to work in a district where we have a strong vision laid out in our Strategic Framework. We are doing the right work for our city; especially around Goal 3 and Black Excellence. I have support from MMSD Central Office to make decisions that are best for my school context and an incredible network of principals to collaborate with.

How do you lead for MMSD's core values and Black Excellence?

Much of our professional learning at Franklin is grounded in working toward being anti-racist educators. Our school piloted the new School Improvement Plan this past year which is grounded in a framework designed to center our work on race, rigor, and relationships. It is exciting work that impacts all levels of the system. My personal leadership style begins with continuously learning and pushing myself while learning and growing with my staff. I am a teacher at heart, so creating conditions for teachers to team and collaborate is extremely important to me. At Franklin, we are focused on what it means to belong and we intentionally privilege the voices of our African American and Black families and students in this process.


Angie Hicks, Wright Middle
Angie Hicks
Wright Middle

What was your pathway to leadership?

After having served three years in the United States Army, I began this journey in MMSD in 1990. I was a clerk-typist senior in the Human Relations Department where the Director was Dr. Herman T. Moody. During that time I returned to UW-Madison to complete my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. While working on my degree and working for Dr. Moody, I had to take a leave of absence to complete my practicums and student teaching. During this time I became a tutor coordinator for the Title V Indian Education Program under the leadership of Ken Whitehorse. I also began working as a part-time custodian at Emerson Elementary School. After completion of my student teaching in December of 1994, I was hired as a 6th grade self-contained teacher at Whitehorse Middle School. In the fall of 1995 I was hired at Emerson Elementary School where I taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grades for 10 years. During my time as a teacher at Emerson, I made the decision to enroll in graduate school at Edgewood College to obtain my masters in Educational Leadership which I completed in 2002. In 2004 I left the classroom at the request of Chris Hodge who at the time, was the principal the principal at Frank Allis Elementary to become the Literacy and Math Coach and Comprehensive School Reform Grant Facilitator at Allis for 1 year. I then applied to become an Assistant Principal at the encouragement of Dr. Valencia Douglas, then Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools. I was selected to be the Assistant Principal at Sherman Middle School where Dr. Ann Yehle was the Principal and worked there for two years. I then was transferred over to Velma Hamilton Middle School where I was Assistant Principal under the leadership of Hank Schmelz. During my time at Hamilton, I made the decision to return to graduate school to complete my doctorate degree in Education. I completed my degree in 2011 from Edgewood College. I then went on to become Principal at James C. Wright Middle School and Badger Rock Middle School simultaneously. I was the principal for both schools for one year. I have been the Principal at James C. Wright Middle School since 2011.

You could be a principal anywhere. Why MMSD?

This is my community. This is where I was born and raised. Here is where my roots have grown. If I can’t give back to my community then who will? I have a responsibility and duty to give back. To whom much is given, much is required. This is my mission, my ministry and my calling.

How do you lead for MMSD's core values and Black Excellence?

The district’s core values align with my core values when it comes to my purpose and philosophy in education. As a Black woman, my lens is always centered on equity, social justice and truth. The work that we do in education is one of collective responsibility. All stakeholders are an integral part of the process of reaching our goals. This work is a partnerships Our mission is to ensure that EVERY scholar achieves at high levels, develop self-efficacy and becomes community, college and career ready which is aligned to our equity vision of where ALL are held to high expectations, ALL feel included, valued and supported and scholars are the central focus. As a Black woman who is leading and doing the work of educating, supporting and loving scholars, I bring my whole self to the work and that is Black Excellence.