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Transition News

Thursday, March 21, 2024


District Administrators,

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to update you directly on a few key items.

Leadership Transition

We ar making some organizational changes at the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) that you should all be aware of.

As you know, we have been engaged in a months-long, statewide conversation, both internally and externally, to determine the future direction and priorities of our agency. Alongside that process, we are thinking through the structure of the agency, and I wanted to share some news about transitions in my cabinet that are occurring over the next few months.

First, I want to report that Dr. John Johnson, Deputy State Superintendent, will be stepping down from his role on June 30.

I am deeply grateful for John’s leadership, his friendship, and his passion, values, and advice over the last three years and before. We started this administration in some very interesting times. The pandemic was still just a year old then (now it’s a toddler at 4 years old), and our agency was not only facing the leadership transition with my election, but also the challenge of new, remote work structures, and a rapidly changing education landscape.

Throughout his time in office as Deputy, John has been a steadfast leader, who worked collaboratively to ensure our new administration could be successful. Please join me in thanking John for all of his service to the agency during these unprecedented and very challenging times. He will not be leaving the agency, but rather will be moving back into a role in state civil service. We will continue to be grateful to have his leadership and his institutional memory.

I’m also pleased to announce that Tom McCarthy will be promoted to the role of Deputy Superintendent as of July 1, 2024. Tom has a long history in the agency and in both the legislative and executive branches of state government, and there’s no one with a deeper commitment to learners and educators. He understands how the agency works, and how to engage with all our agency partners. Please congratulate Tom and give him your support as he and John work together over the next three months to effectively transition.

As of today, I would like for any correspondence from your educator and LEA community to go to Tom McCarthy ( He will immediately begin to serve as your primary liaison to the agency, and the bi-weekly communications will begin coming from Tom, or may continue to come from Mary Jo Christiansen, his executive staff assistant. You can also see our biweekly communications on our website.

If you have any scheduling questions or school visit requests for me, or for any other member of our executive team, including Tom, our executive director of the office of state superintendent Sachin Chheda, or our executive director for equity & inclusion Demetri Beekman, please use our scheduling request form.

I also want to announce that Sara Knueve will be leading the individual teams that comprised the Division for Academic Excellence (DAE). She will begin in that role on Monday, March 25, joining us in Cabinet alongside the other assistant superintendents and agency leaders, and helping our leadership team during the transition period. Sara has already been an instrumental leader in DAE as the divisional Policy Initiatives Advisor, and she is well-positioned to take on this additional role. I’m grateful she’s agreed to help during this critical period of time.

In the meantime, I am continuing to work with my leadership team to think about how we are organized, and recognize that we need to continue to attract top-quality leadership. As a reminder, division administrators and members of the executive team are not hired through the civil service process, but are appointed directly by me.

I’m asking you to help me build the pool of potential candidates who may be interested in working with us at the DPI and leading a division as an assistant state superintendent. I want to encourage each of you to submit suggestions for those I should consider for senior leadership positions such as this.

As I consider applicants, I’d like to find leaders who have successful experience as a district administrator in a K-12 public school district, as well as leaders who have a strong background in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in their current work. I’d ask that you submit suggestions through this Google Form.

Thank you for your patience with this important set of updates. Below, I have noted some upcoming events I intend to be at. I have been attending CESA events more frequently, and I look forward to the opportunity to visit your district as well.

Again, I offer my thanks to all of you who are every day serving the needs of learners and educators. Thank you all for your work.


Dr. Jill Underly
Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction


Where can I connect with the State Superintendent?

  • CESA 11 area and PAC, April 11-12
  • WASDA Spring Convening, Friday, April 26 in Green Bay
  • CESA 5 PAC, May 3
  • WAEWDC, May 13
  • CWI, May 14 in Milwaukee
  • CESA 12 PAC, May 17