Madison school officials debut new achievement gap plan

Nerad interviewing for superintendent job in suburban Detroit

Officials with the Madison Metropolitan School District are revealing new recommendations on how to close the achievement gap in city schools.

Superintendent Dan Nerad said the new plan, which includes a focus on improving literacy, the expansion of AVID/TOPS programs to middle schools, a mentor academy to help students find role models in the community and other measures, will cost less.

The original plan cost about $105 million over five years. The revised plan’s price tag is $55.6 million over the same time period, administrators said. The lower cost is attributed to several initiatives being pushed back, such as extending the school day.

“If we’re going to make a difference, we’re going to need to invest,” Nerad said. “On the other hand, as we started working through the final plan, we realized that we also need to balance this with the needs of the community going forward, and it needs to be a sustainable plan.”

Some expected items have been cut, including youth court expansion, parent-home child program and community learning centers.

Nerad said this achievement gap plan is more feasible and less costly, but did not propose how it would be funded.

No school board members attended Nerad’s announcement, although the superintendent told reporters they “shouldn’t read anything into that.” Others, including Boys and Girls Club Chief Executive Michael Johnson, were there, although Johnson said he did not get an advance look at the scaled-back proposal.


“We have to stop this blaming game — blaming this agency, blaming this person, blaming the superintendent,” Johnson said, without endorsing Nerad’s plan. “Let’s get behind a plan and let’s try to figure this thing out and make sure our kids get the support they need.”

But one of Nerad’s toughest critics, Urban League of Greater Madison Chief Executive Kaleem Caire, said the district should take more time to get a better plan.

“This plan has a couple of things in there that certainly are things we should be doing,” Caire said, adding he would advocate for more literacy programs. “But as far as setting us up for the future, I think it falls short on that.”

Caire said his Madison Prep charter school is still the best proposal, but that he would hold off on advancing that plan until the school board acts on Nerad’s.

“This is a good first step, potentially,” Caire said. “But I want us to take the bigger leap because we have to.”

Nerad said that the achievement gap plan must be a part of the budget. That process will begin at Monday night’s school board meeting. Nerad said he’s hoping to give the school board approval as part of the budget by June 18.

“It’s time to take words and move them into action,” Nerad said. “We’re willing to have this conversation, and we’re willing to come together to serve the great kids of this community. We need to serve them better and we need to do it together.”

Nerad’s revised plan is available at

District officials said that public hearings on the plan will be held on May 22 and June 11 at the McDaniels Auditorium in the Doyle Administration Building in Madison. 

The school board met Monday night to discuss the plan, and members said the revised plan’s lower cost helps.

“I think (the plan) is very focused. It covers just about every base. There’s something in it for every sector, and I think it covers most of the students very well. The question really comes down to, ‘What can we afford to do?’ I think that’s really going to be the bottom line,” said James Howard, president of the Madison School Board.

Some board members said the proposal does not engage secondary school children enough. Others said they want to see data results for these programs before they’re approved.

The board will deliberate on the plan for the next month and a half.