Sun Prairie schools announce new equity director after turbulent year

Michael D Morgan Jr

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — The Sun Prairie Area School District created a new diversity leadership position this week, offering the job to a current principal within the district.

SPASD selected Michael D. Morgan Jr. to be the first-ever Director of Systemic Equality and Inclusion, according to a press release Friday afternoon.  Morgan is the principal at the Prairie Phoenix Academy alternative learning school.

The school board still needs to approve Morgan’s hiring on June 14.

“We could not be more excited to welcome Mr. Morgan to our District’s leadership team,” Superintendent Brad Saron wrote in the release.  “I have no doubt that he will do meaningful work and create changes that go far beyond the walls of our District.”

The job’s creation comes after a turbulent school year in Sun Prairie.  Students, parents, and community leaders complained when middle school social studies teachers assigned homework in February dealing with slavery, stating the work was racially insensitive.  The district said the teachers used the lesson plan without approval.  All three resigned in April.

The assignment led to protests, further complaints about diversity issues, and an active lawsuit. 

Filed in Dane County Court in April, the plaintiffs are seeking $75,000 or more in financial relief, as well as court orders forbidding independent assignments that are not first reviewed by the district, as well as requiring the district to undergo third-party diversity training and ADA training, mandating the district provide counseling services for the students affected by the assignment, and retain a neutral third party to conduct a racial harassment assessment for each school.

“This is not about money,” attorney B’Ivory LaMarr said during an April 23 press conference. “There’s not any amount of money that would suffice for the actions these teachers conducted.”

For its part, the District called the assignment “a grave error in judgement.”  SPASD says it created Morgan’s position “after having conversations with community members, staff members, and other stakeholders about how it can better work to create equitable outcomes for all students.”  The Director will also better engage the community, the District said.

Morgan has a deep background in education.  He holds a bachelor’s degree from UW-Milwaukee, masters degrees from Cardinal Stritch and National Louis universities, and is working on his doctorate from Edgewood College.  Prior to Sun Prairie, Morgan was a principal at a K-8 charter school in Milwaukee.

The District says it chose Morgan from a “very accomplished and talented pool of candidates… that involved diverse individuals from both inside and outside of the District.”