Jane Belmore, a former teacher and principal, has taken over the Madison Metropolitan School District as its interim superintendent.
Belmore, who was most recently the dean of education at Edgewood College, told WISC-TV she would work to make structural changes to make the district "more nimble."
She also said there would be some challenges because she's made it clear that she doesn't want to permanently succeed outgoing superintendent Dan Nerad, whose last official day at the district is Friday. Belmore sat down with WISC-TV's Theo Keith to talk about upcoming challenges and opportunities for the district.
WISC-TV: You've left a good job at Edgewood College for a district that's been in the news. You'll know there's been some controversy around issues like the achievement gap. Why would you leave that position to come over here?
Belmore: I don't feel like I'm someone who would have to spend a lot of time getting to know the district, and at this point, I don't think we can wait for that. I think this is not going to be a year of standing still, it's going to be a year of really moving toward reaching the goals of closing the achievement gaps, really implementing practices and programs for all of our students -- no matter their achievement levels.
WISC-TV: At the same time, you know the district well, so you know there are a lot of moving parts here. Madison is a place where everybody wants to weigh in on what the district should be moving forward.
Belmore: While that is a challenge, it is also a strength. I think it would be much harder to work in a situation where there wasn't that kind of commitment. So, I think it's going to be a challenge to make sure that all voices are heard and that we can actually take steps to move forward.
WISC-TV: Are you good at "minding the ship" or are you going to want to make some changes?
Belmore: I will be making a few changes and I already have a few things in the works. But those changes will be made in a very mindful way; I'm kind of looking at this as short-term changes for long-term good. So, I will not do anything that will drastically impede anyone else coming in. At the same time, I think there are a few changes that need to be made so we can have a year of growth and constantly moving ahead.
WISC-TV: What are some of those changes?
Belmore: One of them is that I'm kind of reorganizing a little bit so that some people are reporting directly to me who were not reporting directly to the superintendent in the current organizational scheme. Basically, that is just for the fact that (my tenure here) will be a year. I won't have time to move through the steps of the organization; I'm going to need that communication directly with myself.
WISC-TV: You're going to be here for a year, but everybody knows that. They're going to be reporting to someone else this time next year. Do you see any challenges along with that?
Belmore: I think there might be some challenges but as I'm doing my entry plan, I hear that people are really ready to move. They're very energized around the achievement gap work and they've invested a lot in it. So those are some of the things that won't change, and that will keep everybody's energy going in the right direction
WISC-TV: Are there different philosophies, different approaches in private and public education?
Belmore: In some ways, the private sector, especially Edgewood, maybe because of size and organizational structure, was able to be pretty flexible and nimble in responding to community needs, as is their mission. I know Madison is a bigger organization and I know the layers that are there too. So, I think it would be my goal to make us become a little more nimble in that way. At the same time, the wonderful diversity and resources that are available in public education are outstanding.