Note: this letter was sent to the school board on February 20.
Board of Education Members,
Following your decision to select Dr. Matthew Gutiérrez as the next Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), we want to present the concerns of the Black community directly to each of you.
1. The differences between Madison and Seguin in both size and diversity causes us to question whether Dr. Gutiérrez is satisfactorily prepared for the issues facing the Madison District specifically labor relations, community relations and organizational leadership.
The Seguin District serves 7,467 students in 13 schools: one early childhood center, eight elementary, three middle, and one high school. There is one learning center and one alternative high school in the District. The racial/ethnic enrollment is 5% black, less than 1% Asian, 71% Latinx, 23% white, and 1% two or more races.
The Madison School District serves over 27,000 students in 48 schools: 32 elementary, 11 middle, 4 comprehensive high schools, and one alternative high school. The racial/ethnic enrollment is 18% black, 9% Asian, 21% Latinx, 43% white, and 9% two or more races.
In comparing the aforementioned, MMSD serves three times more than the number of students and schools than in Seguin. We have four times the number of elementary schools, almost 4 times the number of middle schools and high schools. There is absolutely no evidence exhibited in his resume or experience that demonstrates he is capable of performing well with little to no background in transforming school districts of this magnitude.
Dr. Gutiérrez’s background and experience do not satisfy the Black community’s expectation to address the scope of issues facing the Madison District’s challenge for improved educational outcomes for all students. There is a significant lack of confidence demonstrated by the Black community in his answers to our questions in the meeting held prior to his public meeting. His answers articulated a lack of familiarity with our issues and he showed neither an understanding nor past experience in addressing the widest Black/White achievement gap in the United States. That gap contributes to the highest percent of incarcerated Black citizens in the U.S. – which is deleterious to the entire State of Wisconsin.
Dr. Gutiérrez did not discuss how he will effectively “scale up” his management of a district that is 4 times his current district and one that is significantly more complex. When specifically asked about workforce challenges, he again, failed to provide any strategic examples of recruiting African Americans. As such, we were totally, unimpressed.
2. The process concluding with your appointment was flawed, incomplete, lacked substantive input from the Black Community, and the decision did not adequately represent the Black community.
We are dissatisfied with the process and how the input of the Black Community was minimized, if considered at all. The Board interviewed seven candidates and brought forth three finalists, two of which we find would not be voted as Superintendent. One for allegations of discrimination, misuse of funds and conflict of interest. The other for a separation agreement with the former District including a non-disclosure clause saying neither party could discuss the reasons for the separation.
According to the District’s timeline, background checks were conducted in November 2019. The Board should have known these issues existed and made a decision on advancing candidates therein. We believe Dr. George Eric Thomas was the more superior candidate. While the Board selected the three finalists, it is our position that Dr. Thomas’ vision was inspirational, his achievements in improving schools were outstanding, and his experience in a large educational environment was exceptional and needed in the Madison District.
Given the differences between Madison and Seguin, we expected a greater and broader background of experience, skills and abilities that would move the Madison District further in cultural competency, social justice, and academic outcomes for black students. Dr. Gutiérrez is woefully lacking in all of these categories.
3. The Texas Performance Summary Ratings Report for the Seguin School District identifies how well students in this district are doing compared to their peers across the state. The 2018 ratings suggested a worrisome sign: A larger number of schools in this (we would prefer to say, his school district) district are rated below average in school quality. The data shows Below average: District: 60%, State avg: 40%. Average: District: 20%, State avg: 31%. Above average: District: 20%, State avg: 29%. As such, the Seguin School District is significantly underperforming.
The Madison District is facing the greatest academic achievement gap in its history. We cannot afford to lose any ground addressing this issue. The reported results for the Seguin District are not encouraging, do not promote confidence, and raises serious questions about Dr. Gutiérrez’s ability to meet the needs of black or any of the students in the Madison District.
It is our understanding that Dr. Gutiérrez will conduct community tours in April as he prepares to begin employment on June 1, 2020. As part of this process, we plan to hold one or more meetings with him to address issues contained in this letter, present action plans for future engagement by the Black community, and to better understand his goals and objectives in meeting the Black community’s concerns. We are also interested in Dr. Gutiérrez identifying how he plans to address the District’s Goal of achieving Black Excellence.
Please let me know the contact person to facilitate Dr. Gutiérrez’s visit and schedule during the April visit. We look forward to the conversation and plans to achieve academic success for the future of black students in the Madison District.
Yolanda Shelton Morris
Dr. John Odom
Dr. Ruben Anthony