‘Making sure all our students feel wonderful and welcome’: Madison schools welcome students back

Freshmen at La Follette get red carpet treatment

Schools within the Madison Metropolitan School District are welcoming students back for another school year.

It comes after a turbulent school year with multiple teachers accused of racism, security threats and a big change of leadership. Dr. Jennifer Cheatham left as superintendent to join the Harvard Graduate School of Education at the end of the last school year. District board members named Dr. Jane Belmore as interim superintendent while they search for a permanent replacement.

Belmore stressed that racism in the classroom will not be tolerated.

“We’ve already said that’s not to be allowed no matter what, and there’s no tolerance for that, and we’ve let our staff know that,” she said. “We’ll be taking actions if that does occur and we don’t expect it to. We expect it to be a really good year.”

Belmore is excited for a new year, saying the district will have the same goal of high student academic achievement but also focus on building strong relationships and racial equity.

“It’s part of that whole belongingness. For students to do really well in school, they need to have great relationships with each other and their teachers. Really knowing that kids are individual and unique and all the things they bring to school is really important,” Belmore said. “So we’re just calling that out this year, making sure all our students feel wonderful and welcome.”

Freshmen at La Follette High School received a special welcome Tuesday morning, complete with the red carpet treatment, a DJ and doughnuts. Upperclassmen will have the same greeting Wednesday.

“Welcome to La Follette!”

With a welcome like this, it kinda makes you want to go back to school, doesn’t it? � #FirstDayOfSchool2019 @MMSDschools @WISCTV_News3 pic.twitter.com/o5amMiDkpI

— Madalyn O’Neill (@news3madalyn) September 3, 2019

There’s change in leadership at the high school as well, with new Principal Devon LaRosa.

“I can’t wait for students and staff to come back today and really just have some fun,” he said.

Last school year, police investigated alleged sexual assaults involving two teens within La Follette and responded to reports of fights in a nearby neighborhood, where a shooting injured a teenager.

Belmore said there’s been some safety changes this year in schools, including different entrance procedures.

LaRosa asks parents to come to him or staff members with any worries and echoed the priority of forming bonds with students in the new school year to address concerns.

“When kids feel like they belong and feel like they’re part of something, the other stuff goes away in my mind, and really it’s been proven,” he said. “Any educational research will tell you, building solidified relationships where kids feel like they have a place and a safe secure place and someone to talk to and they know they matter and we care about them and it’s true, I think everything else falls by the wayside.”

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