Madison middle school principal ousted after less than a month on the job

MMSD leaders would not confirm a reason behind Dr. Copeland’s departure, but they say the search for new leadership begins immediately.
MMSD leaders would not confirm a reason behind Dr. Copeland’s departure, but they say the search for new leadership begins immediately.
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 3:52 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2022 at 5:43 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The search begins immediately for a new MMSD principal after the district confirms the top educator, Dr. Jeffrey Copeland, at Ray F. Sennett Middle School is no longer employed with the district as of Monday.

In a statement, MMSD spokesperson Tim LeMonds says, “I can confirm he is no longer employed with the district. Unfortunately, due to this being a personnel issue, I am unable to provide information on the nature of his separation with MMSD.”

Two people with first-hand knowledge of the situation, including MTI president Mike Jones, told NBC15 Dr. Copeland was fired on Monday after a meeting with district leaders. Copeland took over as Sennett principal at the start of this school year.

Jones says many teachers are upset by the move, and that they expressed to him that Dr. Copeland created a safe and stable environment in school, one that hadn’t been felt until he took over as principal.

“It’s the start of the school year. We have a new administrator. We’ve had a really positive start according to staff pretty much across the board in terms of this administrator and their leadership and their support for the kids and families and the staff,” says Jones.

Teachers are now fighting for transparency, trying to learn more about what they call the district’s decision to fire him.

“Obviously we don’t know the full facts of the case, so it’s difficult to speak on that one way or another. But I think the focus should always be on the students and families and staff at Sennett because that is a community that deserves all the support and stability at this time,” says Jones.

LeMonds says now that Copeland is off the job, the district will be putting in place a “leadership support plan” for the remainder of the school year continuing the school’s “momentum in providing consistency, high expectations and a welcoming and inclusive learning environment.”

LeMonds says two former MMSD educators. Dr. Susan Abplanalp and Randi Kubec will return to the district from retirement to serve as co-interim principals as the hiring process for a permanent principal gets underway. Currently MMSD’s website currently lists 306 open positions district wide.

A school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday. Teachers say they will be voicing their support for their former principal then. Copeland has 30 days to file a grievance to begin the reinstatement process if he wishes.

“Stability is going to be the key. But stability comes with transparency, it comes with trust, it comes with consistent communication, it comes with consistent empathy and enough time to process these things,” says Jones.

Dr. Copeland’s picture and principal’s message has been removed from the Sennett website as of Tuesday. On Monday it read:

I am Dr. Jeffrey Copeland, principal of Sennett Middle School. I am a South Florida native who currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia. I graduated with a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from Argosy University, Master of Science in Administration and Supervision from Troy State University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from “The Bethune Cookman University”.

My leadership skills have afforded me the opportunity to serve in several educational positions, ranging from middle to high school. I have served as a substitute teacher instructional paraprofessional and teacher. I have served as an Assisted Principal, Summer School Administrator and Turnaround Behavior Specialist. Over the years, I have had the pleasure to teach some amazing students in Mathematics, ELA, Social Studies, Health, and Physical Education with great academic success. A few of my accomplishments include, “Most Improved in Math and ELA”, “Highest reduction in Suspension Rate” and “The District Community Partnership Award.”

I am a member of several educational and social organizations to include: National Education Association, and the National Association of Black School Educators. My combined experiences and educational background are assets to assist the Sennett Middle School family in becoming a competitive academic powerhouse in the Madison School District and beyond. Together we will shine bright like STARS and have an extraordinary FY23 school year.

Dr. Jeffrey Copeland
MMSD leaders would not confirm a reason behind Dr. Copeland’s departure, but they say the search for new leadership begins immediately.