Jennifer Cheatham

Jennifer Cheatham is a Senior Lecturer on Education, Co-Chair of the Ed.M. program in Education Leadership, Organizations and Entrepreneurship, and Co-Chair of the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Since earning her Ed.D. from HGSE in the Urban Superintendent’s program, Jennifer’s continued focus has been on leading for equity and transformational change in school districts. Her expertise lies in creating instructional coherence, cultivating strong teams, designing systems for professional learning, and strengthening routines for organizational learning. Most recently, she has been leading an effort to better define and prepare senior education leaders with the political acumen to lead for equity in school systems.

For over six years, she served as the superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District. During her tenure, she and her team established strong routines for continuous improvement at every level of the school system, strengthened the district’s core instructional program K-12, improved the district’s approach to family partnership which included design of their local approach to community schools, expanded options for post-secondary success, strengthened hiring and induction systems with a focus on diversity, and established powerful one-of-a-kind partnerships with a focus on research and innovation. Jennifer, in partnership with the community she served, also introduced a new, bolder agenda for the future grounded in a commitment to anti-racism, inclusion and alliance to children and families of color.

Jennifer previously served as the Chief of Instruction for Chicago Public Schools, a Chief Area Officer for Chicago Public Schools, the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction for San Diego City Schools, and a coach and professional developer for the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative (BASRC) in San Francisco. Before joining BASRC, she led a multi-year initiative aimed at improving academic literacy for middle school students in Newark, CA where she began her career as an 8th grade English teacher.

In her coursework, she teaches about equity-focused leadership, leading for learning, and leadership entry. She is also co-author of a newly released book called Leadership Entry for Equity-Focused Leader: Empowering Schools and Communities.

Education: Ed.D., Harvard University; Ed.M., Harvard University; M.A. in Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; B.A. in English, DePaul University, Chicago.

photo of Jennifer Cheatham