What Michigan needs in our next State Superintendent

The following excerpt is from a Detroit Free Press guest opinion column from April 4. The column was written by Amber Arellano of The Education Trust-Midwest, Ryan Fewin-Bliss of the Michigan College Access Network, Hassan Jaber of ACCESS, Lisa Knight of the Urban League of West Michigan, Jametta Lilly of Detroit Parent Network, Dr. Grace Lubwama of YWCA Kalamazoo, Peri Stone-Palmquist of the Student Advocacy Center of Michigan, Alice G. Thompson of Black Family Development, Inc., and Dr. Holly Windram of Hope Network’s Michigan Education Corps. The full column is available here.

As the top education official in the state, Michigan’s next superintendent has the potential to fundamentally shift how public education is viewed and supported in the years to come. The impact of visionary leadership for improving public education cannot be understated…

To create the systemic changes needed to propel Michigan forward, the next superintendent must shift the Michigan Department of Education’s focus from compliance to technical, best-practice and equity-focused assistance. This includes using data to inform decision-making and making the changes necessary to look with clear eyes at honest and transparent data, especially data that allows us to compare Michigan’s educational performance with that of other states — and to help educators implement college- and career-ready high standards for teaching and learning in classrooms.

Michigan’s next education leader also must be prepared and equipped to build upon current systems to support educators and improve practice. Whether it is reforming exclusionary discipline that kicks far too many students of color out of school, or implementing strategies and policies that fail to consider quality, the Michigan Department of Education must be equipped to lead with best practice.

Our next superintendent must truly have the needs of all Michigan students at the center of all that they do. This means addressing Michigan’s unacceptably poor track record for serving special education students. It means ensuring that no matter family income, school is a safe and healthy environment where standards are high and students are supported to reach their full potential. And it means that gaps in opportunity and achievement between students of color and their white peers are erased by improving access and quality for everyone.

Finally, we need a superintendent who knows what it will take to turn Michigan into a leading education state once again, someone who focuses on quality implementation of sound policy. And we especially need a leader who will stand up to the special interests and put politics aside for the sake of all students — and student learning.

Read the full column here.

Superintendent search narrows to five

On Friday, the Michigan State Board of Education identifies five candidates for Michigan’s top education post. Candidates will be publicly interviewed on April 22 and 24. Finalists will be interviewed once again on May 7, during a public forum. The State Board of Education’s hiring timeline anticipates a mid-summer start. The five finalists are:

Brenda Cassellius, former Minnesota Commissioner of Education, where she counts alternative licensure, educator evaluation, early literacy, early childhood education and increased funding among key accomplishments. Prior to serving as the Minnesota commissioner, Dr. Cassellius was a classroom teacher, administrator and superintendent.

Randy Liepa, superintendent of Wayne RESA, president of the Michigan Association of Intermediate Scool Administrators, and member of the School Finance Research Collaborative Steering and Technical Committee. Previously, Dr. Liepa was the superintendent of Livonia Public School and has also worked for Wayne-Westland Community School District.

Michael Rice, superintendent of Kalamazoo Public School, which has grown under his tenure, created full-day pre-kindergarten, improved reading achievement, Advanced Placement (AP) participation and increased the high school graduation rate. Dr. Rice began his career as a high school teacher, previously served as a district superintendent out-of-state, and is a member of the School Finance Research Collaborative Steering and Technical committee.

Jeanice Kerr Swift, superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools cites improved achievement, quality academic and arts programming and improved fund stability as accomplishments during her tenure. Dr. Swift has been a classroom teacher, teacher coach, principal and school district administrator out-of-state. She was named Michigan Superintendent of the Year, 2018, by the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

G. Eric Thomas, chief turnaround officer at the Georgia Board of Education, has been responsible for developing and executing the turnaround strategy to support Georgia’s lowest-performing schools. Previously, Dr. Thomas was a teacher, turnaround-school principal, principal coach and school district administrator.

Capital Update

House Education Committee meets today, April 9, at 9:00 a.m. in room 521 of the House Office Building. AgendaHouse Bills 4368 (Hornberger – R) and 4369 (Johnson – R), regarding school calendaring and waivers for pre-Labor Day start.

House School Aid and Department of Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets on Wednesday, April 10 at noon in room 352 of the State Capitol Building. Agenda: presentations from education associations and other stakeholders. What is Ed Trust-Midwest thinking about in the Fiscal Year 2020 executive budget recommendation? Be sure to check out our analysis, Advancing Equity & Opportunity: Prioritizing Public Education in Michigan’s State Budget.

Senate K-12 and Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets on Thursday, April 11 at 8:30 a.m. in the Harry T. Gast Appropriations Room on the 3rd floor of the State Capitol Building. Agenda: presentations by the Detroit Area Precollege Engineering Program (DAPCEP), Lighthouse Academy, Eidex, Michigan Restaurant Association and Square One.

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@LoriAHiggins: Who will be Michigan's next state superintendent? Here are the five people who have a shot at landing Michigan's top education job