Taylor, who will serve as the agency’s first African-American head, replaces Gov. Tony Evers at the helm of the Department of Public Instruction, a role she’ll hold through the remainder of Evers’ third DPI term, which ends in April 2021.
Department of Public Instruction Secretary Carolyn Stanford Taylor
61 years old, born in Marks, Miss.
Served as assistant state superintendent for the Department of Public Instruction’s Division for Learning Support for 17 years, beginning in 2001. Previously worked as a classroom teacher and principal in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Graduated from UW-Madison, earning a degree in elementary education.
Married with five adult children: three boys and two girls. One still lives in the state; she serves as the principal of Mendota Elementary School in Madison. The other four are spread out. One works with the criminal justice system in Beaumont, Texas. Two are in Nashville, Tenn., where one works as a counselor and the other is in the private sector. The last works a private sector job Memphis, Tenn. Husband has been retired for eight years. He previously worked as a senior marketing representative for BASF, a German company.
Favorite non-work interests?
“Church takes up a lot of my time outside of work. But my major interest would be reading and bowling. The last book I read was ‘The Hate You Give.’”
Why the interest in being in the Evers administration?
“The history goes back a little bit farther than that. I came on board in the Burmaster administration. When (Elizabeth Burmaster) was elected to state superintendent, she asked if I would join her team, so I’ve been at this agency since 2001. Tony was her deputy, so he and I have worked together the entirety of that time. It was an opportunity to effect change at the state level. My background is in education, so I taught school for 10 years, became a principal, did that for 11 years and at each move I had an opportunity to touch lives, to change the trajectory of kids. And then at some point you start to look at the policies that are coming down to schools. And you want to have a voice there, you want to be represented in that policy-making body, so this was a great opportunity to have a statewide view and step outside of the isolated environment of just Madison schools because that’s where I worked 21 years, was with Madison. So I get to see the state perspective.”
What are your priorities for the agency under your leadership? What should the agency be doing differently?
“We will continue with our equity agenda on closing gaps to access, opportunity, achievement … The equity agenda was part of Tony’ s agenda, but I was also involved in setting that agenda so that’s why it’s near and dear to my heart that we stay the course. … One (budget item) in particular that I’m very, very passionate about is making sure that we’re looking at our youngest learners and preparing them for school, because we know that many of our kids are in environments that are not in regulated environments or licensed environments and that’s through no fault of the parents, they do what they need to do to put their kids in the safest environments they can afford. We find that many of our youngest learners are coming with language, social, emotional competency kind of deficits, and so we want to change that. We’re talking about doing full day, 4-K kindergarten, and also looking at 3-K in some of our largest urban districts. So I’ll be looking forward to working with the Department of Children and Families and Health and Human Services and others who are working towards that agenda.”
What’s the best advice you’ve received since getting the job? Worst advice?
“I think the best advice is to look at this as an opportunity, which i do. We know that with Tony in the governor’s office and Tony having been in this position that we are well-positioned to work collaboratively. So I’m looking forward to that, that we’ll have greater collaboration between our agency and other state agencies as well as with the Legislature, because I think Tony has mentioned in a number of arenas that he is interested in working across the aisle. And I know from all of the years that I’ve worked with Tony, he is very genuine when he says that. So I’m looking forward to that. Things that might be a challenge or a barrier to someone else I’m looking at as an opportunity. We’ve got a great team of folks here at the department — very bright, intelligent, passionate people, and those folks are just excited to do something that’s going to change things for our kids and our communities.”
Anything else to add?
“I guess one of the things that I would like to have people know about me is that I came from the South, the segregated South, where schools were segregated up until my fifth grade year, when I attended an integrated school. And having had those experiences, having the opportunity to compare those two environments, and for me I think what has made the difference is having those caring, nurturing adults in my life who saw me as capable. They saw talent, skill in me that perhaps I did not see at that time. And those people made a difference in my life. And that’s what I want to do for others.”