Kalamazoo superintendent picked to be next state Superintendent of Public Instruction | Michigan Radio
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Kalamazoo superintendent picked to be next state Superintendent of Public Instruction

May 7, 2019

Michael Rice
Credit Kalamazoo Public Schools

The Michigan Board of Education chose Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Michael Rice to be the next state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Rice has been the superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools for a dozen years. It was his experience there and outside the state of Michigan that attracted board members.

“From our perspective, it was important to have someone who not only knows the state of Michigan, but can bring some perspectives from other states that might have seen things we have yet to see and experience them and actually move past them,” says Board President Casandra Ulbrich. 

Rice will replace former State Superintendent Brian Whiston, who died a year ago after a battle with cancer. Interim Superintendent Sheila Alles has been overseeing the day-to-day operations of the state Education Department for the past year. She’ll stay in that post until July 1st.   

Rice still has to sign a contract.

The negotiations are expected to move quickly. The job pays $216,000 annually as part of a three-year contract.

Rice is expected to start in July.  

The final vote was five to three, with the dissenting board members preferring Wayne RESA Superintendent Randy Liepa. A third finalist, Ann Arbor Superintendent Jeanice Swift, was quickly eliminated as the board began its deliberations. 

The board’s choice of Rice may not be popular at the state Capitol.

In his interview with the board, Rice was critical of several education policies pushed by Republican state lawmakers, including Michigan’s third grade reading law and new grading system for school performance.

Board president Casandra Ulbrich says they want a superintendent willing to push back against “bad policy.”

“We wouldn’t have hired someone if they weren’t willing to do that,” says Ulbrich.