Former Madison East principal and current Madison Metropolitan School District Chief of Secondary Schools Mike Hernandez has been named assistant superintendent of the Appleton Area School District.
The Appleton school board formally approved the hire Monday, according to an email from Appleton schools superintendent Judith Bateman. Hernandez will begin his new job on July 1.
“It’s an outstanding opportunity,” Hernandez said in an interview Wednesday, noting that the demographics in the Appleton area are shifting. The area is becoming more diverse and the school district is working intentionally toward equity, he said.
“I’m going to be working collaboratively with the other leadership, but focus on secondary schools. Listening to their vision and their beginning focus and work on equity, it really fired me up,” he said.
Hernandez taught in Ohio and California before coming to Madison in 2007 to become principal at Sherman Middle School. He served there for eight years before taking the helm at East. He became co-chief of secondary schools in 2019.
He said he’s most proud of the relationships he’s been able to build while in Madison.
“I’m most proud of the fact that I still have students, former students reaching out,” he said. “I run into them in the community, and I still get a hug or a handshake or a dab or whatnot. And I’m always like, ‘Hey, you can call me Mike now.’ And they’re like, ‘you’ll always be Mr. Hernandez.'”
He also said he’s proud of taking Madison East from a school that meets no expectations to a school that exceeds all expectations following a similar turnaround at Sherman — though he gave credit to “outstanding staff.”
He said the move to Appleton is also a step up the career ladder, as his goal is to become a superintendent one day. He notes that only two percent of the nation’s school superintendents are Latino.
“I think that that’d be pretty neat to be in that club and to be a role model for our youth and our Latinx professionals,” he said. “It’s bittersweet. I was wrestling with this thing for a while. There’s some part of me feels like I’m letting down our community by leaving, but the other part is like, no, after 14 years, maybe fresh eyes will be able to help to navigate all of this and gives me an opportunity to grow.”
He was named one of Wisconsin’s most powerful Latinos in 2019.