Nancy Evans retires as James C. Wright Middle School Principal
The Quiet, Effective One
By Jonathan Gramling
Part 1 of 2
As we sit in her office at James C. Wright Middle School, an office she has occupied for the past seven
years as its principal, Nancy Evans is surrounded by poster boards filled with the class photos of her
students and her since she began teaching at Lincoln Elementary School back in 1980. She is relaxed and
convivial as the weight of her responsibilities begins to lift as her pending retirement draws near. Her
youthful zest and appearance do not appear to have diminished over her 34 years in education.
Evans has had a great impact on the educational scene in South Madison over the past 30 years, but it has
been done with little fanfare.
“I don’t think that Nancy will ever be forgotten,” said Rainey Briggs who was a student at Lincoln
Elementary and is now the incoming principal at Glendale Elementary. “I think she has done nothing but
great things. It is hard to fill shoes that are that big. Granted I am not going to the school that she was at,
but I am still working with a population of kids that she lived and loved to work for. She is a big-time role
model. She is someone whom I will call because I think it is important to keep people who are amazing at
what they do in the loop of what is to come.”
It is by a quirk of fate that Evans was even here to have the impact that she has had. She came to Madison
two years after her ex-husband began his graduate studies at UW-Madison from her native Newark, New
Jersey where she was teaching. It was supposed to be for two years until her ex-husband finished his
degree. Evans never left. “It’s been a long two years,” Evans quipped.
While Evans’ impact has been huge, it has been done rather quietly, without a lot of fanfare. That’s just the
way that she likes it.
|Nancy Evans has spent most of her
30 years in the Madison
Metropolitan School District
teaching students from the South
“Compared to the early years, you don’t hear much about Wright anymore,” Evans said. “We do our work extensively, but it is quiet work. There are
people who know about us. But compared to those early years, you don’t hear a whole lot about Wright.”
“In many ways, we are just another middle school in the school district,” Evans continued. “We are an instrumentality of the district. So we do
follow all of the district policies and procedures. We have our own uniqueness that comes to us as a result of the charter agreement. It keeps us
small. But it also allows us to do a lot of things that a lot of other schools might not be able to do. So while you don’t hear a whole lot, it doesn’t
mean that we are mediocre or that we aren’t doing anything. A lot of our work is the kind of thing that you hear about, but it is the quiet work that is
needed to work with the children. That is where our successes have been. That is not always something that you can or would put out there and
publicize. But we do a lot of good work with the children.”
When Wright first got its charter back in the mid-1990s, it was billed as a technology magnet school. While that was its original mission, the
mission has changed over the years.
“How does a public school maintain a technology focus,” Evans asked. “Well it isn’t easy. When Madison Middle School 200 or Wright first opened,
there was a lot of money available for that. And we had all kinds of technology in the building. We had a Mac lab. We had a PC lab as it was called
at that time. But to try to maintain the technology, which changes overnight, is not something that could be maintained in a public school setting.
Now we have technology like a lot of other schools. And there are schools that probably have even more. You end up writing grants because the
public funds aren’t there.”
Wright’s mission has evolved to social action. And that isn’t the only thing that has changed at Wright.