Pledging to be “our students’ number-one fan,” Seguin Independent School District Superintendent Matthew Guitiérrez made his case to the school district and community to become the next superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Wednesday was the second of three “Day in the District” visits of finalists for the post, which consisted of meetings with School Board members, school staff and students; tours of school facilities; and a public question and answer session. Marguerite Vanden WynGaard visited yesterday; George Eric Thomas will visit tomorrow.
Guitiérrez answered questions for about 90 minutes before an audience of about 50 people at East High School.
Guitiérrez, who is currently superintendent of a district of 7,500 students in the suburbs of San Antonio, Texas, repeatedly emphasized the importance of serving “every single learner,” including students of color, LGBTQ students, special education students, and all others.
“I can guarantee you that I would be the strongest advocate for every single learner,” he said.
He lauded the school district’s explicit focus on Black Excellence, but noted that it can’t come at the expense of students of other ethnicities.
“One of the things about Madison that makes it attractive is just the, the bold stances that the school district takes to ensure that we are going to serve all students. To say that one of the three goals within the strategic framework is going to be black excellence is huge. And that is something that you do not see. I’ve had an opportunity to be in large systems and have not seen such a stance. And I think that’s an amazing start,” he said. “But we cannot forget at the same time that we are serving other populations of students. We are serving special education students that have some extreme means. We were serving Latinx students. We’re serving Asian students, we’re serving Anglo students. We’ve really got to understand all of the students we’re serving.”
Guitiérrez said he would focus especially on recruiting teachers of color from around the country.
On police in schools, a controversial topic in Madison recently, Guitiérrez said the district’s priority is to keep students safe in an era of mass shootings.
“God forbid that some person comes in to try to cause harm in our students, who is going to be able to respond?” he said “Now in Texas it may be a little different because you’ve got school systems that support teachers carrying firearms. But if there were to be some tragic event that occurred and there was no one to respond to that event, it would really present a huge liability to the district.”
He did say he would seek opinions of stakeholders before taking a firm position, however.
“I’m talking as an outsider,” he said. “I think it’s important to get feedback from most importantly from students. How did they feel? And I did ask the question of students, students that represent very different backgrounds and their answer to me was they feel safer with the presence of an SRO (school resource officer).”
Guitiérrez said he would not intend to make major changes to district policies and procedures right away, but would focus first on becoming familiar with the school district and the community.
He did say he would be cautious about implementing new initiatives.
“We can design all these great plans and bring in all of these great programs and initiatives, but whose plate is it going to land on?” he said. “It’s going to go on the plate of teachers right now. I believe the teachers can’t carry their plates. They’re falling all over the place. And so we’ve really got to think of how can we help teachers be laser focused on a few initiatives so that they can do the right work when it comes to social emotional learning, when it comes to restorative practices, restorative justice when it comes to ensuring that they are planning the best lessons for students.”
In response to a question on charter schools, Guitiérrez said he would “be the strongest public school supporter that there is in the State Capitol and an advocate to ensure that we are providing the most innovative programming for our students, and that there is no competition from charters.”
Video of the entire question and answer session is available on the school district’s Facebook page.
The School Board intends to make its selection in February.