Madison schools turned to a familiar face to lead the district for the next year, appointing former longtime teacher and administrator Jane Belmore to succeed outgoing Superintendent Dan Nerad on an interim basis.
"She knows our strengths and she knows what we need to do to improve," said school board President James Howard at a Tuesday press conference. "We are particularly confident in her ability to hit the ground running."
Belmore, 63, who's been dean of the Education department at Edgewood College for the last three years, worked in the district for 29 years before that, starting as a teacher and retiring in 2005 as assistant superintendent for elementary schools, a job she held for five years. She got her doctorate in education from UW-Madison in 2000.
"I will spend time early on coming up to speed with the current priorities," she said, a process that she said would include visiting summer school sites and meeting with teachers, parents, principals and school board members.
Her appointment came after the school board considered nine candidates from inside and outside the district, according to board president Howard. District spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson declined to name the other candidates on Tuesday, saying only Belmore was a finalist.
Belmore lauded the district's nascent 4-year-old kindergarten program and the AVID/TOPS college preparatory program for low-income and minority students at the middle school level.
She listed as priorities continuing efforts to close the district's academic achievement gap between white and minority students and crafting the first employee handbook to replace union contracts that expire June 30, 2013, after the state effectively ended public-sector collective bargaining.
"What we do really needs to hold our students and their welfare at the center," she said. "And part of that of course is the welfare of our teachers. They're part and parcel of the same package."
The choice of Belmore got immediate support from Madison Teachers Inc., the union that represents most teachers in the district, and the Urban League of Greater Madison, which works closely with the district on closing the minority achievement gap and pushed unsuccessfully last fall for a charter school aimed at minority and low-income students.
MTI Executive Director John Matthews said in a release that he had great respect for Belmore as a teacher and administrator and "is ready to work with her."
Urban League President Kaleem Caire said in a statement that Belmore "has consistently demonstrated a belief in academic success for all of our students, and is an advocate for finding solutions that strengthen our diverse community."
Belmore will start July 16 under a contract that still must be finalized. Strauch-Nelson said details of her salary and other benefits will be released when the contract is approved by the school board.
Current superintendent Dan Nerad will leave the job July 27 under an amended contract approved unanimously by the school board at a Tuesday morning meeting.
Nerad thanked the board for its work in crafting the terms of his early exit so he can start his new job as superintendent in Birmingham, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. He also pledged to help Belmore transition to her new job, which will last a year as the district looks for a permanent replacement.
Belmore fended off suggestions that she would put her hat in the ring for the permanent superintendent job, saying she would strictly abide by the one-year commitment and return to teaching at Edgewood after her time is up as interim superintendent.
"I promised my husband one year and that is 365 days," she joked. "I think it's important to have this position as interim."