The person in charge of charting a new academic course for the Detroit Public Schools is a familiar face in the district.
Former federal judge Steven Rhodes, the district’s emergency manager, has named Alycia Meriweather as the new interim superintendent
Merriweather is a lifelong Detroiter and DPS graduate who “started with the Detroit Public Schools as a four-year-old with Head Start,” Meriweather said during a sometimes-emotional press conference Monday.
Meriweather started at DPS as a middle school science teacher in 1995 before moving into administrative positions. Most recently, she was executive director at the district’s Office of Curriculum.
As interim superintendent, Meriweather said her “main objective will be to provide a focus on coordinated academic leadership,” to create a “high functioning system that exists for the sole purpose of providing a high-quality, equitable learning experience for all of our students.”
Meriweather said she did not seek out the position, but her name was put forward by fellow DPS staff members.
“I had to think very hard about this, because I understand the weight of the current situation,” Meriweather said. “But I also believe in Detroit Public Schools.
“I am a lifelong Detroiter. I love this city and I love this school district. More than both of those, I love the children of the city of Detroit.”
Meriweather will work with Rhodes, who is currently acting as the DPS “transition manager,” in hopes the state legislature will quickly pass a bankruptcy-style restructuring to create a new, debt-free school district.
That $720 million package is still being debated in Lansing. Gov. Snyder, and others have warned that if nothing is done, DPS will go broke sometime this spring.
Rhodes was under pressure to put a DPS insider at the helm of the district’s academic transition, following fierce criticism of how a string of emergency managers have handled things over the past seven years.
Late last month, Skillman Foundation CEO Tonya Allen turned down the interim superintendent job, and strongly urged Rhodes to pick a DPS insider for the position.
“It was important to me that we looked within Detroit Public Schools – as well as the city of Detroit – to identify a qualified individual to fill the interim superintendent’s position,” said Rhodes in a statement.
“As a veteran educator who has served at many levels of Detroit Public Schools’ academic operations, Alycia’s skills and experience make her uniquely qualified to serve in this critical leadership position.”
DPS teachers and administrators were largely thrilled to hear the news of Meriweather’s appointment.
State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, a former DPS teacher and outspoken critic of the district’s decline under emergency management, called the appointment “great news. Teachers are very happy,” she said.
"It needed to be someone from within, and needed to be somebody who knew us, who worked in Detroit Public Schools and went to Detroit Public Schools. And this time, I believe someone actually made the right decision and listened to us,” said Detroit Federation of Teachers interim president Ivy Bailey.
“There’s going be times we'll have to agree to disagree. But I think it's going to be easier to work with someone who kind of has the same perspective and historical knowledge of the district that we have."