Dr. Jesse Rodriguez

Dr. Jesse Rodriguez was officially appointed as the new superintendent of Proviso School District 209, the district announced on March 31.

Rodriguez comes to Proviso from the Milwaukee Public Schools system, where he oversaw 32 schools — ranging from kindergarten and elementary to high school.

According to district spokesman Rob Daniels, Rodriguez will receive a yearly salary of $212,000.

He brings 20 years of education experience to the district, with most of that time spent in the Milwaukee public schools, according to Daniels. Most recently he served as a regional superintendent. He is fluent in English and Spanish and has served as president of the Wisconsin Association for Bilingual Education for four years.

Rodriguez holds a bachelor of arts degree in history and Spanish, with a minor in secondary education. He obtained a master of science degree in educational leadership and research and service, as well as a doctorate in leadership, learning and research from Cardinal Stritch University.

Rodriguez said Monday he was excited to join the team at Proviso and looked forward to officially starting in the position in July. Until that time, he said, he’ll continue to be in regular contact with the District 209 Board of Education and administration. Rodriguez said he is currently working on a draft of his plans for the district that will outline his first 100 days at the helm.

“Proviso really stood out for me,” Rodriguez said of his search for a superintendent position. “Each of the three high schools come with their own unique successes and challenges.”

Board President Theresa Kelly said she was pleased that the district’s exhaustive search was over and that a new superintendent, who will take over from outgoing Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart, is now confirmed.

“I’m happy it’s done and I’m looking forward to working with Dr. Rodriguez,” she said. “He has a lot of innovative ideas to move this district forward.”

Rodriguez said his first order of business as superintendent will be to meet with the district’s administrators and members of the community to learn more about their wants and needs for the district. He plans to hold question-and-answer sessions with community members and teachers to identify challenges the schools face.

“I want to know what they think will make Proviso a better [district],” he said. “But I have some ideas of my own that I will share.”

Some of those new ideas could be presented in his action plan to the board, which he said will detail what he hopes to accomplish in the district.

“Some of that will depend on the student profile,” he said, “what they think their challenges are. It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s make changes,’ but how do we make that happen?”

Rodriguez said he felt up to the challenges of the job and that his experiences in Milwaukee have prepared him well for Proviso.

“Three of the high schools I oversaw were very similar to Proviso,” he said. “We had a Proviso East and we had a Proviso West and we had a math and science [high school] as well.”

As for Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy, Rodriguez said he hopes to expand the school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

PMSA recently began the IB program, which is a track similar to Advanced Placement courses with a focus on developing students’ skills in a globalized world. Students can take credits earned in IB courses and bring them to colleges and universities around the world, as well as the United States.

Rodriguez said he was pleased the school had already started down the path and hoped to expand its offerings. In particular, he said he hoped to add more career programs, with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. 

He added that developing personalized learning plans for students was another important part of his plan for the district. He also wants to review all the programs offered at Proviso for possible consolidation to make the best use of resources. He said he didn’t know what that might mean at the moment but would be able to comment more on it after the review.

Perhaps his biggest goal, he noted, was to narrow the achievement gap among students in the district and to grow proficiency — also to get more students into Advanced Placement programs.

“I have a strong commitment to equity, excellence and empowerment,” he said.

But first and foremost will come listening, he added.

“Identifying what the community wants in their school — they are the stakeholders —  is the most important thing I can do to start.”