KALAMAZOO, MI -- Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Michael Rice said he is seeking the state superintendency because it is an important time for the future of education in Michigan.
The State Board of Education named five finalists, including Rice, who will interview for the state superintendent position, the board announced after a special meeting Friday, April 5.
The local superintendent is seeking the statewide leadership position because it’s a “generational moment” for school funding, literacy, and accountability in the state and the teaching profession, Rice said after a Kalamazoo school board meeting Thursday, April 11.
“It’s an important moment in Michigan education history,” he said. “It’s a crossroads moment.”
The school district has seen significant gains in both total enrollment and graduation rates since the Kalamazoo Promise, which offers free college to Kalamazoo Public Schools students, was instated in 2005.
Also during Rice’s tenure, voters in the May 2018 election passed the school’s largest bond issue of $96.7 million to fund facility upgrades and new security improvements.
Prior to being named superintendent in Kalamazoo, Rice served for five years as superintendent of the Clifton Public Schools in New Jersey. He began his career as a high school French teacher — and speech and debate program founder and coach — in the Washington D.C. public school system. Rice’s education includes both a doctorate and a master’s degree in public administration from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University.
Though an appointment to the state leadership position would pull him away to Lansing, Rice said Thursday there is still “tremendous work” to be done here in Kalamazoo.
“The reality is this work is never done," he said. “The work that we do on behalf of young people is never fully accomplished. Whether we’re in the district for a year or 12 years, there’s going to be important work -- great work -- that needs to be done over a period of years.”
The post, which oversees the Michigan Department of Education, was vacated when former state superintendent Brian Whiston died May 7, 2018, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Sheila Alles was appointed interim state superintendent after Whiston’s death.
The board reviewed 51 applicants seeking to replace Whiston before scheduling public interviews with Rice and the other finalists, the State Board of Education said.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift from Ann Arbor Public Schools, Randy Liepa, superintendent of Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency and out-of-state finalists Brenda Cassellius and Eric Thomas were also among the finalists.
The State Board of Education will interview two of the five at 11:30 a.m. Monday, April 22. The three remaining finalists will be interviewed 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 24. The board will hold a second round of interviews and expects to make a final decision at a third meeting set for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 7.