Superintendent candidate answers questions from the community - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Superintendent candidate answers questions from the community

MADISON (WKOW)-- Madison school board members are under some pressure as they decide whether to offer the superintendent's job to the candidate who was in town this Thursday.

Some are concerned they might lose her if they don't offer right away. Others don't want a rushed decision. There were supposed to be two candidates at Thursday night's forum, but the candidate, Walter Milton Jr, dropped out earlier this week. That left Dr. Jennifer Cheatham to campaign alone for the job.

It was a long day for Cheatham, starting with a meeting in the morning with staff, then talking to  school board members, and touring local schools in the afternoon. The day wrapped up with an hour long public forum at the Monona Terrace Convention Center.

"They've been doing their due diligence to make sure that I'm a candidate that has the qualifications for the job. So I feel comfortable," Cheatham explains.

Members of the public were given small note cards to write down their questions during the forum. By and large the most popular question was how to close the achievement gap. Cheatham says her track record at the Chicago School Distrtict shows her experience in closing that gap.

"I looked at the data in Madison and the dropout rate especially for students of color, for English language learners, for students with disabilities, it's horrendous," Cheatham says. "It's a real problem. Alarms should be going off."

Other questions focused on her relationship with teacher unions, school boards and parents. Cheatham says her philosophy is to involve everyone in important decisions.

"I would make sure that I don't make the policy decision and then try to convince everyone that it's a good policy decision. I'll make sure that I get that input first so that the policy decision I'm making is the best one I can make," Cheatham says.

Definitely a message that teachers and union leaders were happy to hear, but many are still concerned that Cheatham is the only remaining candidate.

"I think that this community really does expect another candidate and I would hope that the board would be willing to hold off and have a second candidate come forward," Madison Teachers Inc. President Kerry Motoviloff says.

Having only one candidate is a big concern for many people who said it's nothing against Cheatham, but they believe it's only fair to bring in some competition. They believe that extra competition will insure that the district finds the right person for the job.

A source close to the superintendent race tells 27 News that Cheatham is a favored candidate in the Racine school district's search for a superintendent. School board members are still discussing whether or not they're going to hire Cheatham as superintendent.

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