Last week, Madison East High School announced alumna Patrice Hutchins will serve as assistant principal for the 2021-22 academic year.
“I lived in Madison most of my life. I grew up here. I went to Sandberg [Elementary], Sherman [Middle School], and East [High], so I’ve been pretty much an east side kid my whole life,” she told Madison365.
The new assistant principal comes from a social work background. Hutchins initially entered the field to help address some of the disparities among Black and Brown students. She has worked in the Madison Metropolitan School District for almost a decade after receiving both her bachelor’s and masters in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I was actually deciding between going to education or looking at support programs for child welfare so I ended up doing school social work and I’m really glad I did because I loved it,” she said. “The biggest reason was getting to impact the whole child and not just working with a certain situation in a child’s life but getting to impact them in a bunch of different ways.”
Hutchins’ career in education began as a social worker at Madison La Follette High School. As a school social worker, she developed more of an understanding of classroom dynamics, educational strategies, and family engagement.
“I think one of the nice pieces in terms of starting this path was not just focusing on my role as a social worker but what is happening in the entire building that’s impacting students the entire day,” Hutchins said.
This path would lead her to working as a dean of students for three years within the district which she described as a good experience. Hutchins said this role connected her more towards leadership.
“I actually got asked two weeks before school started when I was at La Follette to take on a dean role because one had opened up,” she said.
As a dean of students, Hutchins learned more about the behavioral aspects of working with students. She explained when administrators only focus on the behavior of students without examining root causes this often leads to punitive actions such as kicking students out of school. However, she explored creative opportunities to make changes in her role.
The social worker-turned-administrator looks forward to working with an amazing instructional leadership team at East High School and trying new things. As assistant principal, Hutchins plans to place an emphasis on the voices of parents and families, especially considering the challenges brought on due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of times we don’t hear from the families that are struggling the most and the students that are struggling in school,” she said.
Hutchins also plans to continue to support teachers in the classroom. She said administrators will continue to visit classrooms and affirm school values. Hutchins also believes school leaders have done a great job at seeing what staff need, including professional development opportunities.
“The important part is acknowledging that teachers are content experts and they know what they’re doing,” Hutchins said.
East High School implements professional development days just devoted to equity days. These sessions offer staff an opportunity to learn with and from each other, discuss equity within the classroom, and think about systemic issues within the building.
“I think one of the reasons I wanted to be an administrator there is to continue to help and grow that work,” Hutchins said.