Board President Nichelle Nichols Gives an Update the State of MMSD: District Update

Nichelle Nichols

MMSD School Board President Nichelle Nichols in front of Vel Phillips Memorial High School, which is still undergoing reconstruction

Part 1 of 2

By Jonathan Gramling

Like Ali Muldrow before her, Nichelle Nichols brings a diverse set of experiences to the role of the board president for the Madison Metropolitan School District. Nichols, who was elected to the board in April 2022 and elected president this past April, had worked in MMSD’s central office — her children went to MMSD schools — and at non-profits like the Urban League of Greater Madison, which partners with the district. She has the perspective of school and community.

While the district has many challenges before it, Nichols praised her predecessor Ali Muldrow for steering the district through some troubled waters.

“Ali was board president at a time when the district was obviously going through the pandemic and welcoming Dr. Carlton Jenkins,” Nichols said. “And then there was so much focus on mitigating all of the issues with the COVID-19 virus and getting students back into the schools. And then unfortunately, the announcement of Dr. Jenkins’ leaving. I really appreciate her leadership.”

One of the immediate leadership challenges for Nichols is steering the recruitment and hiring process for the next superintendent. The first phase is gathering community input.

“As school starts in the next couple of weeks, we plan to launch the community engagement phase of the process,” Nichols said. “The community input survey is available right now for families as they are enrolling their children. And then we will continue to push out that survey and keep that survey open, which is asking family and community members for their thoughts on our school district and what qualities they think are important in the superintendent.”

From there, the district will focus on in-person engagement to obtain additional perspectives.

“In October, our search firm will be here in Madison to lead some in-person engagements,” Nichols said. “There will be focus groups and listening sessions and opportunities for people to weigh in on what is important to them in a superintendent, what is the vision that folks have for our district. I think it will be important for our next superintendent to understand and know these things.”

In November, the search firm will review the input for the surveys and in-person sessions to distill it into a document that expresses what is needed in the new superintendent, which will eventually become the superintendent’s job description upon board approval. And then the search begins.

“November and December will be our peak recruitment phase,” Nichols said. “The search firm will be actively recruiting and also receiving interests from identified individuals. And then we will move into an early screening phase of those applicants. By December-January, we are hoping to move into a semi-finalist round where that candidate pool is narrowed down and board members are then beginning to engage in our process with just a few finalists. By February-March 2024, we are aiming to be in the finalist round. There will be opportunities for community engagement. By March, the plan is to be able to extend an offer and to announce our next superintendent. They will lead the 2024-2025 school year since school districts do begin their new fiscal year on July 1. Our goal would be to have our next superintendent in for sure by July, but depending upon the person’s situation, they may be able to start transitioning earlier than that.”

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