State ed board appoints Kalamazoo superintendent to long-vacant top post

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    Updated 8:00 a.m. May 8, 2019

    Michigan’s Board of Education appointed Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Michael Rice as the state’s new top education official, filling a position held in an interim capacity for the last year.

    Rice’s selection as state superintendent caps a process in which the state board evaluated more than 50 applicants for the job, including finalists like Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) Superintendent Randy Liepa and Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Swift.

    Michael Rice

    “Dr. Rice has a stellar reputation in the state of Michigan; he’s been in Kalamazoo for 12 years and has out-of-state experience, as well,” said state board President Casandra Ulbrich, adding that she doesn’t “think there’s any surprise for him as to what we’re facing here in Michigan, and how far we have to go to get back up to the position we want to be in.”

    Before taking the helm in Kalamazoo in 2007, Rice was the superintendent of New Jersey’s Clifton Public Schools, and was once a high school teacher in Washington, D.C.’s public school system.

    The position has been held by former Chief Deputy Superintendent Sheila Alles* in an interim capacity since the May 2018 death of former Superintendent Brian Whiston.

    The state board, composed of six Democrats and two Republicans, voted 5-3 in favor of Rice’s appointment. The Detroit News reported that the three board members who voted against Rice expressed support for Liepa and concern over Rice’s leadership style.

    In a statement, the state board announced that the position’s annual salary is set at $216,000 and that Rice will start work this summer.

    This story was updated with the correct spelling of Sheila Alles’ name.

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson covers local government, education, health care and the social safety net, and LGBTQ issues. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington, and before that covered local politics in Chicago. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He enjoys film, the Detroit Pistons and his cat. He once competed in the National Spelling Bee, but was eliminated before any potential ESPN appearances.

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