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Episode 10 - MMSD’s Associate Superintendent of High Schools, Ennis Harvey joins Superintendent Carlton D. Jenkins
Episode 102nd February 2023 • Lead to Liberate • Madison Metropolitian School District
00:00:00 00:41:21

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In this episode, Dr. Jenkins is joined by Associate Superintendent of High Schools, Ennis Harvey. They speak about Mr. Harvey’s background, and how MMSD high schools have been collaborating around best practices. Together, they have a powerful conversation about race, equity, and the continued social justice pandemic.



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 Carlton D. Jenkins, Ph.D.:

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Lead to Liberate. I am your host, Dr. Carlton D. Jenkins, the very proud Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District. We're continuing to dive in, and trying to look inside the minds of our staff in terms of what made them want to come to MMSD? Or what made them want to stay in MMSD? And what paths they’ve taken to make sure that they're leading to liberate. Today, we have with us none other than Mr. Ennis Harvey. Mr. Harvey is quite the individual – he has a music background, musician by trade – and now he's our new Associate Superintendent. So let's just dive right into it and get to Mr. Harvey. Mr. Harvey, how are you today?

01:10: Ennis Harvey:

Thank you, Dr. Jenkins. Hey, today's a great day for teaching and learning in MMSD.

01:15: Dr. Jenkins:

Well, I'm glad to hear you say it's a great day, because I know I've been on some paths out there with you in our schools. Can kind of like, talk to us…first of all, before we even get into the schools. Hey, you come from somewhere else, ah, in this country, you have an undergrad degree from historical black college. Could you tell us a little bit about that. And then beyond that, what inspired you to come here to the Madison Metropolitan School District?

01:43: Mr. Harvey:

So my formal training actually started at Tennessee State University, where I marched in the Aristocrat of Bands at Tennessee State. From there I transferred to Morris Brown College, well earned a degree, a bachelor's degree, in music education. At a very early age, I always…had a spirit of inquiry, and the joy of teaching what I learned to others, it was borne out of that passion to become a teacher. Throughout my career, I've been fortunate to have many titles, but my most coveted title was that of teacher. For me, if you're not teaching, you're not leading. And so as I look forward to leading both teachers and leaders, that's my mantra: ‘if you're not teaching, you're not leading.’ Because, I think, it is my belief that a leader knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. And so if you're not doing those things, we're here to support that and build environments in which all our students can thrive as well as the staff.

02:43 Dr. Jenkins:

Yeah, well, that's outstanding, just teaching and leading. But tell me this, I have to bring this point out. Over the holidays, I understand too, when you were the principal, you also earned another special title. Could you tell us that title? And how did you get to that point?

02:58 Mr. Harvey:

n to the Macy's Day Parade in:

03:53 Dr. Jenkins:

Yes, I appreciate you sharing this story, because I've heard it from others. And I know that you don't speak on it too much. But I just love the enthusiasm that you speak, uh, that you share with us when you're speaking about that experience. So now coming here to Madison, let's jump into it. You came here as the Chief Transformation Officer, and you were working with the elementary schools. And since then, you have changed your position as an Associate Superintendent for High Schools. Wow. How do you go from elementary to high schools? And do you have that same level of passion for trying to work with our high school scholars?

04:30: Mr. Harvey:

So now, I was given an opportunity to come to Madison, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up both for two reasons. Both to bring the knowledge of education to Madison as well as to receive learning from Madison. Madison is very unique as it’s situated in a place where it’s on the cusp of doing the unbelievable and unthinkable as a staff. And so at one point in my life I was an elementary principal. And one thing I was, I took from that opportunity is how do you nurture students to give them the love for reading? [Mmm] For me, if students’... reading is the very foundation that will liberate them for the rest of their lives, and so that that translates to middle school and high school. And so as I transitioned from being at the elementary level to high school, ah for me, high school students are those students where you can really speak in the abstract, and they can really lean in and say, ‘Okay, let me dream.’ And so I bring that to the space each and every time I'm in it, because we are building the leaders of tomorrow, but are we setting them up to be successful in creating those real post secondary options for them to really be successful? For me, success is not graduation. For me, success is at 25 years old, can they be a productive part of our community, and have a life in which they are thriving in, not just surviving.

06:14: Dr. Jenkins:

Wow. But tell us this, do you have much high school experience yourself beyond having been associate superintendent?

06:20: Mr. Harvey:

Yes, I was the high school principal. I also was assistant band director at a high school as well.

06:25: Dr. Jenkins:

Okay, great. Well, now, when we're coming to Madison, let's just put it out there. We have some of the greatest disparities in the country. We do. We have some of the students here who have demonstrated that they can compete internationally with any scholar in the world. And then, yet, we still have some disparities – long time disparities. So how do you go into a school, and knowing this level of excellence that you want to achieve? And knowing that we're really trying to liberate our students, and liberate our families and our communities? What's your take on that? What are you doing about it?

07:00: Mr. Harvey:

So, it is my belief, if a flower is not growing, you don't fix the flower, you fix the environment in which it grows in. And so building structures that promotes…promotes high expectations while giving them love. Uh, it is…I believe…I think Blackburn said it best in rigor is more than a five letter word. That standards-based learning and high expectations is that any child can achieve. So as I go into the high schools, we have those conversations with principals. Ah, so as we do our instructional, our instructional tools and environmental scans, and then we add an impact check, which is every 30 days, [mmm] we check the pulse of how is the school going? [mmm] How well are we doing? What are we, what are we not? What are we not building on and it's okay, if we're not getting the right because we're here together, we come to the table together to create that environment of inter-rater reliability. Additionally, we started this, this year, we started, we started having our PLCs, where each principal, comes to one school, and we look at certain practices each school has. So we are building a playbook. So we take a best practice from this school, from this school, and from this school. And by the end of the year, we will playbook with all our best practices in which all our students can be in an environment to thrive in. That's both academically and socially-emotionally.

08:28: Dr. Jenkins:

Wow. So you’re telling me in Madison, you know, here we have six high schools. So if I'm in an alternative school with a best practice, you may also see that practice over at Memorial?

08:40: Mr. Harvey:

Yes. And so I think that, that's the, that's the glue, right? Because no matter what school you walk into in MMSD, it is, it is a school, a welcoming school with high expectations, and, and high outcomes. That is the expectation that we have both of our staff and our students here in MMSD.

09:02: Dr. Jenkins:

Yeah, and I think about these disparities. Thinking about what you just said, and I think about equity. What kind of training is going on in the district to really address not just saying the word, but getting to it, what we really are seeing our students, seeing our staff, and responding to our community.

09:21: Mr. Harvey:

Well, before we can talk about training, I think we’ve got to talk about mindsets. We’ve got to talk about diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. For me, diverse is presence. Inclusion is participation. Equity is power. And belonging, the same to our students. I see you and I celebrate you. As well, we take both our central office staff as well as our building-level principals, and we're getting to the rest of the staff through inclusion-equity training, on a monthly basis. So I think it starts at mindset, you know. So when we talk about it, we got to get out of the saviorism, right? In when we start talking about race, and be very frank with that race. I think polio fairy says in his book that if you want to keep a people oppressed, mythify it as helping. And so, I don't subscribe to the ‘waiting on superman’ concept. I subscribe to…We were given everything that we needed to survive in this lifetime by our maker. And so I want to really lean into our children, to give them that self assurance, to give them that confidence, that no matter where you go, no matter what obstacles or challenges that face you in this world, we can move forward. Because for me, when you talk about equity once again, that's a difference than equality. For me, you know, equality has given me a pair of shoes. Equality is giving me a pair of shoes that fit. And so we try to mirror that in the environments we create for our students to be successful in.

11:14: Dr. Jenkins:

Yeah, well, I appreciate you touching on this. But now that you have, let's go here. In the Madison Metropolitan School District, we have touted ourselves as being an anti-racist district. We have been a district about social justice. We said we are, unapologetically, how we engage with African-American children, LatinX children, our scholars who receive special needs services, our LGBTQIA plus community. When we think about all of our children, our indigenous children, every child, Hmong. We say here inclusion, we mean it. So when students identify how they identify, we're accepting of that. So what kind of expressions have you seen? Because I've been reading lately, the surveys that came back in from the students, that you're clearly listening to their voices? And you're being very inclusive? You’re taking equity to the next level, you're becoming explicit and not just being anti-racist. You are raising when you see issues of anti-blackness, issues of anti-LGBTQIA plus, issues of anti-Hmong. You know, recent situations happening around the country, we want to make sure that we are who we say we are. So what evidence do you have that students are speaking up? Or how you’re addressing those things?

12:37: Mr. Harvey: Well, first of all, as a black man, I've lived it. Each and every day, you know, and I think that, you know, whatever your political party is, you can have it over here, but this black skin doesn't wash off. [Mmm.] And so I take that approach, as I lean in to have these conversations with, with high school students in the forums, in creating that space, right? We got to set the conditions where our students can, can really lean in and give their truth. You know, I endeavor not to create safe spaces, but brave spaces. And so when we talk about that brave space, challenge them, but while also giving them an opportunity to make mistakes. You know, I do believe that both students and staff should have opportunities to fail in low-risk environments. And so when you, you add an equity lens on it, um, just because they fail, they can get back up no matter what color they are. But when we talk about pushing, pushing in and leaning in, around anti-racism, anti-black, um, for me, the legacy I'm leaving is the life I'm living. And so to that point, with our students, I want to always create that space where they can speak their truth, without blame or judgment, and really set systems in place to hear them, but also change practices based on that. I think a lot of times in education, we create these great quasi systems, but we don't change the practice. And so we say we listened to you, but are we listening to change practice? Or are we listening out of this the way we've always done it?

14:23: Dr. Jenkins.

Wow, ah that's, that's really powerful. And I think about right now, have we had, how we have, just a magnificent program with Madison College, the STEM program. We have a number of students of color, number of students of poverty, students receiving special needs services. How do you replicate that so we can say that all of us students have high-quality learning going on, meeting beyond grade level expectations? And not just tie it to testing, but other forms of assessments that can actually show their strengths?

14:56: Mr. Harvey:

Well, it's, it’s, great question there Dr. Jenkins. First of all, I mean, how you replicate it – we start by observing it during our instructional tours, and really having those conversations. I, I don't approach it from a deficit model. I, I look at what's going well in certain situations, and how do we replicate that to create the models that we want, while understanding that we still have some work to do. But when you speak about the partnership that we have with, with Madison College, and the students that are there, to really see them thrive, I really, have conversations with them: ‘Tell us, what do we need to do to fix it?’ ‘What was your experience like here?’ And how do we support that experience to, to replicate it, as you spoke, throughout all our high schools? And so we're, we're underway with that. And so like, say we, I think we're celebrating a lot of great things we're doing, but we have a few more miles to go to get it done.

15:57: Dr. Jenkins:

Right. Wow, we’ll you said we're celebrating a few of the things. Recently, we received the notice that we have 32 National Merit Semifinalists. And I think that's something to celebrate. When we look at those numbers, we want to make sure that we're getting all of our students within that group, who desire that, to be at that level of a National Merit Semifinalist. Those are like academic all Americans. And then recently, we noticed that the graduation rate that’s 87%, higher than it's been in the last five years. How do we push into these spaces to make sure that our students, in terms of that highest level of learning, and then also, a number of our students are beginning to participate in different apprenticeship opportunities? Talk to me about that. What are we going to do to continue to push, to make sure Madison stays at the forefront of being able to compete internationally?

16:49: Mr. Harvey:

Well, first of all, you know, we have to educate the whole child. And so, to your point of testing and assessments, I think if we continue to push with standards-based, grade level, appropriate standards, high expectations, and then building those, those supports for our students to be successful. Again, it's my belief that all students can achieve at high levels with proper supports in place. And we, to reach that goal of having Madison be at the forefront of it, I think that we are standing on fertile ground, to really say, hey, what does the environment look like both for teaching and learning, social-emotional, and professional learning for our teachers. I think that's the critical piece. I think, because in the classroom, that's where the magic happens, right? [Mmhmm] That's where the true engagement is. So we got to put those supports in place not only for students, but for teachers as well. The more, the more the teachers know, the more they can grow. And so when we approach that, we approach it in a sense of building systemic processes and procedures to support just the ways that you spoke of, those 32 scholars that achieved that. But we want that for all our, all our scholars, right? [Mmhmm] So we have to continue to really lean in, we have to continue to really say, ‘hey, how do we really maximize what we're doing?’ And we have to be very intentional with it.

18:28: Dr. Jenkins:

Right. Talking about intentionality, we're just coming through this dual pandemic, right? We're talking about COVID-19, we talk about social justice, give us your one-minute take on what has been the difference? Or if there is a lesson learned for you coming from the pandemic that we knew, to still the pandemic that we have, the social justice?

18:50: Well, for me, I think the pandemic only illuminated the disparities that we have in America. Uh, and so there, there are some things that we really have to really look at social emotional, because our most marginalized students experienced out in a pandemic was totally different than our most fluent ones. Were they a lot of our students had to be the ones to be the caretakers for their younger siblings, while the parents were out working, versus the fluent ones where they had opportunities to go to tutors, that opportunities to have, you know, friends in study groups, so we got to be very intentional coming out of the pandemic and putting supports in place to really say, Hey, okay, this happened, but how do we really ensure that we build them back to a place where they feel confident enough to say okay, after this these two years, I


still believe in myself. Very good. I tell you what, Mr. Ennis Harvey, the Associate Superintendent here in Madison Metropolitan School District, as you can see have much on the plate as he's trying to move the needle and lead to liberate. We really appreciate you being here with us again this week. We look forward to next week, we're gonna have to bring you back, Mr. Harvey, because there's much to be said about how we lead to liberate, moving from what was a dual pandemic, to now still yet a pandemic of social justice. Thank you very much. And thank you for listening in today. Everybody, we'll see you next. Thank you.


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