In this thought-provoking episode, MMSD’s Associate Superintendent of Middle Schools, Dr. Angie Hicks shares what it was like to grow up in Madison after the civil rights movement. The conversation moves to integration, educational disparities, and why she is compelled to serve this community.
From the Madison Metropolitan School District, this is Lead to Liberate, a podcast documenting stories of inspiration, growth, and empowerment across our schools.
00:28 Dr. Carlton D. Jenkins:
Hello, everyone, again. This is Dr. Carlton D. Jenkins; this is Lead to Liberate. I am your host, the very proud superintendent here in Madison Metropolitan School District. We’re continuing to bring our staff in, to talk to them to find out why do they want to be a part of leading to liberate? We have an outstanding guest today, you will not believe it. I just can't wait until you hear all of her background. First of all, this is Dr. Angie Hicks. Dr. Angie Hicks, a tenant Madison Metropolitan School District, elementary, middle and high school. And now she's taken on several roles here in our school district, not only as a custodian, a teacher, a principal, and yes, now an Associate Superintendent for Middle Schools. We couldn't have had a more dynamic individual, more respected individual throughout our community to be a part of our team. And this is not a recruitment. This is a retention. Dr. Hicks, how are you today?
01:24: Dr. Angie Hicks:
I'm doing well, Dr. Jenkins. Thank you for having me on, this morning. I'm really excited to, um, you know have this conversation and share with you about, you know, why I'm here in MMSD. Why I stayed in MMSD. What I, what visions align with yours in terms of MMSD, and how we can move forward collaboratively and collectively to ensure success for all of our scholars in MMSD.
Yeah, and definitely I would just love to have a conversation, you and I, but right now we're talking about you sharing this with the entire community. We want our students to know – yes, right here in MMSD, you started as a student. And can you tell us a little bit about how your career matriculated as a student and then now, professionally.
02:07: Dr. Hicks:de, now. I started in MMSD in:
I think over time, though, it changed. When I went to middle school, actually, I started off at St. James Catholic School [mmhmm] for sixth and seventh grade, and then went back to Lincoln Middle School during my eighth grade year. And in that space is where I started to feel a difference [mmm] in how teachers saw me or, or heard me, because I love school, and I could excel in school, but I just didn't feel like I was getting the opportunities. [mmhmm] In, in, in some places I was I was beginning to get pigeonholed into what I could be and what I should do. But thankful to my mother, Easter Carson, for pushing me and showing me like no, this is my baby and you're going to be who you need to be.
Um, when I got in high school, I went to Madison West – let's go Regents, whoop, whoop, whoop! [Alright] [Laughter] It was very tracked, like, right, you were going on this path or that path and, and I really wasn't seen in high school, that high school was very large. I was just, you know, a little grain of sand in this whole beach [wow] on the, on the beach, and it wasn't as connected. They were teaching content and not understanding they were teaching a human being [mmm, okay] who needed more than just the information. And so, so, while I had my own adolescent growth journeys, during that, my high school process I was able to recover. Again when we talk about GPAs and all of that I, I started out strong in high school. You know, actually I started off I came in with a whole credit because, I started, went to summer school before even high school started because that's what you could do back then. And I had good grades. And but then, you know, adolescence came in and started smelling myself a little bit, and not not doing the things that I needed to do. But I had a strong enough foundation where I could recover. So when I talk to young people, I really tell them, your most important year of high school is your freshman year, [mmm] right? Because that lays the foundation. You can always, you can always recover if you have some hiccups or whatever along the way. But when you start off and don't do well, and behind the gate, it's really hard to recover. You still can – because there are programs and opportunities and ways to do that. But it, the hill to climb is much more steep.
05:51: Dr. Hicks:graduated from high school in:
07:17 Dr. Jenkins:
Let's pause here for a moment, because you didn't just go to college, right? Ah, undergrad, where did you go again?
07:23: Dr. Hicks:
I went, so I went to the University of Iowa. I started there. But then I finished at UW-Madison.
07:29: Dr. Jenkins:
Right. So I just want to make sure our viewers, hear this. She didn't just go to college. She went to big, two big colleges right off the bat, right. Coming from Madison Metropolitan School District. We're talking to Dr. Angie Hicks. Here she is now, someone who almost did not graduate, because of a quarter of a credit, was still a student at a high level able to go to Iowa able, to graduate from UW-Madison, and now have a Ph.D. And I want all the students to recognize this is someone who looks just like you. In fact, they used to tease her, and call her Charles Barkley on the playground. [Laughter] Okay, she's done all this stuff, athletically, but also academically. But here she goes, again. I just wanted to, just come in on this point, because I see your passion for children. Every day, all day, 365 days a year. So what drives you to want to lead to liberate to make sure that students have all of what they need so that they can become a Dr. Angie Hicks from MMSD?
08:36 Dr. Hicks:
So, I would just say, as we're growing up, and we're young people, we don't really understand what it is that we need. [Mmmhmm] And as I've matured into who I am today, I realize that… I understand that now. And so I try to ensure that I can do whatever I can to make sure that the young people who are here, are able to access that. Because we don't know what we don't know, because we don't know it. But once we learn and know, we have to do better. And so I'm here to make sure that our young people have access to opportunities, [mmm] information, so that they can navigate this thing called life. Because life is hard. Everything that feels, feels good to us isn't good for us. But what, we want it in the moment. And so I think that, and plus, you know, I, Dr. Jenkins, I come from a place of faith. [Mmm] And so all of this is bigger than me, and I listen to that spirit to help to guide me into what it is that I should do. Because, you know if the Angie Carson in me shows up, [mmm] it's not going to come out too well. So I have to make sure that I am really being intentional about you know, making sure that the young people who aren't even thought of yet [mmm] so generations and generations to come have an opportunity and access. And it's like, you know that Dr. Martin Luther King said, you know, I may not get to the promised land with you, but I've been to the mountaintop, right? I may not go with you, I may not get there with you. But, um, but I'm gonna help you to get there. And so that's the why. [Yeah] I think that, you know, how our communities go, how our youth go, is how our country is gonna go. And I think that, while you know, economics drives things, I think that everyone needs to have the opportunity. And I don't, I just don't think that you know, and I'm talking as a black female. Now, as a black girl, we didn't always have the opportunities, [mmm] and we, and we still don't have the opportunities. And so someone has to, you know, lead the charge of knocking down the doors and in climbing the walls and going over, going over the ledges so that we can ensure that our young people have opportunity, access, and are successful. And success for me means being able to take care of yourself and your family independent of somebody else [right] doing that for you. But the level of success you attain is limitless. [Right] But I just want to make sure of that, out the gate, foundationally for everybody
11:06: Dr. Jenkins:
Right. And let me just say this, I see your passion. Like we're talking about the Science of Reading, and the LETRS professional development at the elementary level. And now you're in charge and looking at the new textbook selection for the middle schools. And you bring that same level of passion. I mentioned your nickname on the court, that's, that was actually given by the guys who were there because you can compete against anyone – from an academic level, athletic level. And I've just observed you, you go into all spaces, and you’re from MMSD. Also, we're hearing about your elementary and middle school experience. What from that, do you bring into the job today, knowing that you didn't have as many people who look like you? Did, you did have Momma Bernard with you, as well, but what propelled you to say, hey, I can do this too, in MMSD.
12:00 Dr. Hicks:
So I've, you know, I grew up in Madison, and I had a village. So everybody was responsible for everybody, took care of…anybody's parents could communicate to you, redirect you or whatever. So that's, that's what I come from. And, and knowing that, I also know that now, people live next to each other and don't even know their neighbors, which is sad. And our biggest, the big, most important, One of the most important things that we have, and that we need, is communication. And we don't do that. And the connectedness that's gone. And so I'm really, really trying to make sure that we continue to just like, connect. That, that, as an adult now, I, I didn't know what I didn't have then. I didn't know what I needed then. Right? I just wanted what I wanted in the moment. You talk a lot, too, about the long view. Right? [Mmhmm] And it is about the long view, not just in the moment. Because the moment is gonna… it's only that – a moment. [Mmhmm] We know that the future is coming. [Right] So how are we preparing for that? How are we being ready for that? And in order to do that, I have to… I'm a connected person, I want to connect to people, I want them to know that – that they have a village wherever I come and whoever I am, adult, child, you know, peer, whomever, that we have a village. We can't, we can't operate in isolation because if we do then guess what? We’re on our own track, and we're doing what we want to do, and not for the good of the, of the people. [Wow] Not for the good of the community.
13:48: Dr. Hicks:
My mother came to Madison, Wisconsin from Birmingham, Alabama, at Phenix City, Alabama, but Birmingham…
13:54: Dr. Jenkins:
Birmingham, my people are in Birmingham as well. Yeah.
13:56: Dr. Hicks:
But Birmingham. And um, you know, I asked her often. Um, well, mom … she was, she was, she was raised at a time, you know, when the civil rights era. And she said, the, one of the worst things that happened to us is desegregation. [Mmm] Not, not segregation, desegregation, because now we're, we're … with everybody in her community. They were doctors, nurses, teachers look like her. Right? They were a part of the community. They were from the community, if I can't give back and help my community, right? Where I come from, who poured into me, how am I going to be able to do that somewhere else? Again, to whom much is given, much is required. My community poured into me, I have to pour into my community. It's a non-negotiable. It's a non-negotiable.
15:12: Dr. Jenkins:
Wow, let's go right into that point. Because we are on Lead to Liberate. We go deep in, sometimes. I'm telling you now, for our viewers out there, our listeners, I want you to hear this. She described herself as an African American female. Your identity matters. She described her upbringing in a community that looked a lot like her. Understand what she's talking about desegregation. It wasn't that individuals weren't for integration. And an attorney once asked me that, see you so you're not for integration? I said, No, that's not what I said. I'm not for integration, the way that it has happened to us. Now, if you want to start there, we can build it back up, and we can get into the Green Six conditions, Green vs. Kent County, and talk about making sure that we have equitable resources to the benefit of all of ours, here in Madison Metropolitan School District, here in the State of Wisconsin. We just, on the national exam, okay, the national exam, we just came in first place, again, for the largest disparities. You understand? On the NAPE exam. So fourth grade math, the next closest state to us, 18 percentage points. So what Dr. Hicks is saying here is real. This is what we experienced with our students. We talked about the disparities, but we're here to do something about it. She's here to lead to liberate. And she's giving you insight into who she really is, what drives her, her why. So for the rest of the conversation, I hope that you're staying tuned with us, and you're trying to understand it on a deeper level where she's coming from. Because we talk about our students. Well, our students do grow up, and she could be anywhere in the world. And she chose to stay in Madison. Why Madison?
17:02 Dr. Hicks.
Um, Dr. Jenkins, as I stated before, this is this, is home, right? You can have a house anywhere, right? So I could go anywhere, and then create a home. I feel like, while it has been challenging, in spaces and places, I think that Madison has done well for me and my family, in terms of showing up in spaces sometimes that I didn't expect it to, right. Um, I've, as an adult, I've always been on in activism or in space is trying to do trying to do, give back. My soul and my spirit is servanthood, right? And the community in which I live, where my family is, my mother's side of the family is smaller, my dad's side of the family is larger, and they're out out out east in New York. But I needed that connection, right? And I needed to be able to, um, to pour into how my elders poured into me. And if we all leave and run away from where we're from, we can, we can contribute in other places, but I just felt the need, and I was called to stay here. It wasn't my choice. I could have stayed in Texas where I had moved to live, I could have went to Virginia or Alabama. But I chose to stay here, because there was a lot that needs to be done, and like to give back to, not to just my intimate community, but the larger community. [Mmm] And again, I'm here to serve. And when you're here to serve, it's about being selfless, sacrificial, and that being right, but being righteous for righteousness sake. And so that's the why. And I wanted young people to be able to see somebody who, who they truly knew regardless what color they were… actually, Madison being as the, as segregated as it is, that it doesn't matter what you look like. How you care and how you show up for others that matter. Because while we have that dash – you know our birth date, and our, the date we expire. That dash is, is the thing that matters. How do I make people feel? How did I show up for other people? Those are the things, and if I can't do it at home, then where?
19:39: Dr. Jenkins:
Wow, I tell you, we've been today engaged in a conversation with Dr. Angie Hicks, as her mother would say Angie Carlson, as her husband says Angie Hicks. [Laughter] So it has been a great pleasure today to engage with you and one thing that I would like to say as well. And she really touches all children, I think throughout our community. You see students of all races, families of all races, they all look up to, and have been inspired by Dr. Angie Hicks. Thank you.
You're listening to Lead to Liberate, a podcast by the Madison Metropolitan School District demonstrating how the more we know, the more we grow.