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State Board Narrows List of Candidates For Next State Superintendent

April 5, 2019


LANSING – The State Board of Education today narrowed the list of applicants for the next State Superintendent to five candidates.

“It was a difficult decision to narrow it down to five because we had so many highly-qualified candidates. It was a really tough choice,” said State Board of Education President Casandra E. Ulbrich. “They have varying degrees of backgrounds. We’re going to have a really diverse group of people with very different backgrounds.”

After reviewing all 51 applicants with its hired executive search firm, Ray & Associates, the State Board agreed to bring in the following candidates on April 22 and 24 for public interviews. 

  • Jeanice Swift, Superintendent, Ann Arbor Public Schools
  • Michael Rice, Superintendent, Kalamazoo Public Schools
  • Randy Liepa, Superintendent, Wayne RESA
  • G. Eric Thomas, Chief Turnaround Officer, Georgia Board of Education
  • Brenda Cassellius, Immediate Past Minnesota Commissioner of Education

At the April 24 meeting, the State Board will select those who will become finalists. Those finalists will come in for a public interview on May 7, after which the State Board is expected to select Michigan’s next State Superintendent.

In addition to preliminary discussions with State Board members on what skills and attributes they’d like to see in the next State Superintendent, Ray & Associates conducted conversations with education stakeholders and top policymakers in Michigan, as well as background checks of the applicants.

“We wanted to make sure we had a lot of different perspectives,” Ulbrich said. “This has been a very open, transparent, and inclusive process.”

Today’s discussion was held in Closed Sessions to respect those applicants who requested confidentiality in the initial phase of the process. Applications came in from 11 states.

The State Board of Education is granted the responsibility to appoint a State Superintendent by the Michigan Constitution. The State Superintendent is the principal executive officer of the Michigan Department of Education and is chairperson of the State Board without the right to vote and shall be responsible for implementing its policies, and has all the powers and duties provided by law.

The State Superintendent is responsible for the day-to-day management, supervision, and leadership of the Michigan Department of Education. The Superintendent is responsible for developing cooperative working relationships with other government departments; the Governor’s office; the state legislature; and constituent groups, in service of SBE policy and the Michigan’s Top 10 in 10 strategic plan for improving education.

This top education position became open last spring upon the death of State Superintendent Brian Whiston. Chief Deputy Superintendent Sheila Alles was appointed Interim State Superintendent by the State Board at that time.