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Visionary, Poet, Principal

Dominique Ricks Is First-Ever Black Principal in Madison-Area School District

Robert Chappell MAx’20
April 29, 2019
Dom Ricks

Dom Ricks ’14, MA’18, who has been the dean of students at Glacier Creek Middle School in Middleton, Wisconsin, since early 2018, has recently been named the principal at Middleton’s Kromrey Middle School. At 27, Ricks is not only the first-ever Black principal in Dane County, Wisconsin’s Middleton-Cross Plains School District, but also the youngest in the history of the district.

“I think the main thing I bring is vision,” says Ricks. “I definitely beat out some experienced administrators. I think that’s the biggest surprise for me, personally. They could’ve picked people who have 5 or 10 years of experience as a principal. I have zero years’ experience as a principal, but I bring something that really can’t be taught.”

Ricks is also a spoken-word poet and performer, and hopes to bring some of that sensibility to his new school. “I know the high school has a history of hip-hop course. I would love to see that pipeline down to the middle schools, and I also would like to see a spoken-word poetry class or even like a rap lyricism class get started at Kromrey sometime in the near future,” he says. “I really want to focus on student voice and students being self-advocates and self-starters and being able to speak up for themselves and expecting that adults listen. I honestly think poetry is the best place that teaches kids how to be self-advocates. I couldn’t imagine a better place — everybody has to shut up for three minutes and listen to you. I found that to be the most empowering thing ever. So just speak and be heard. That’s when I found out I actually had something to say, when people would be quiet and listen.”

Ricks previously taught eighth-grade literacy in Wisconsin’s Verona Area School District and also taught middle school in his home state of Louisiana.

“We are thrilled that Dom has accepted the position,” assistant superintendent Sherri Cyra MS’96 said in a statement. “We are excited for the future of Kromrey students, families, and staff members under Dom’s leadership.”

Ricks was named Teacher of the Year at his Louisiana middle school in 2015. He was also recognized nationally on PBS that same year as a Louisiana American Graduate for going home to teach students from a similar background as his. He has done a TED Talk discussing his views on educational equity, and he recently completed his master’s degree in K–12 administration with a focus on social justice from the UW. He is currently pursuing director of curriculum and instruction and director of pupil services licenses.

Twenty-four educators applied for the Kromrey principal position, and seven were interviewed by the district. Ricks will replace Steve Soeteber MS’90, who is retiring after 18 years in the district.

Ricks says equity will be his top priority as principal.

“For the past few years, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about [equity] issues, but now we're at that point where we’ve got to seriously start looking at the systems we use, and ask ourselves, ‘In what way are we still contributing to the problem?’ ” Ricks says. “And as I look around — and this is in no way any disrespect to anybody I currently work with — we have a lot of people who don’t necessarily ask those critical questions all the time. That’s not any fault with them. But I do think that me being in this position, I have the opportunity to really show them the ways in which we can  change those systems, push ourselves and get outside of our comfort zones. And that itself is what’s best for kids. It’s best for all kids.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Ricks is Dane County’s first Black principal.

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