3 finalists picked for Detroit schools chief

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Detroit Public Schools Community District has narrowed its search for a new superintendent to three finalists after conducting a nationwide search.

Acting Superintendent Alycia Meriweather is not among the three, and only one of the finalists is from Michigan.

“As a school board, our focus and our goal is always to do what is best for the children,” said school board President Iris Taylor in a statement Saturday. “This is our primary consideration in everything we do, and is also at the forefront of our thinking during this process.”

The district retained Ray and Associates for the search in late January, following community input through surveys and focus groups. Seventy-five applicants from around the country vied for the job.

The search firm narrowed the field to 10 applicants. The board reviewed the application packages, including videos in closed session. Board members were given an individual number for anonymity and each member scored the applicants individually and submitted their score cards to the search firm. The firm then tallied the scores of applicants and gave each applicant a number prior to going into open session, so that names could remain confidential.

Parent Domonique Hister said she finds it absurd that that after reviewing 75 applications, only one candidate is from Michigan.

“I’m almost at a loss for words right now,” said the mother of three children— ages 14, 13 and 11 — in the district. “If you are from here, especially if you’ve gone to school here or live here, you have a better grasp of what is needed here. These children, who are our future, deal with a lot and I don’t think a lot of people who are not from here, would understand that.”

She was also surprised Meriweather was not on the list of finalists.

“Especially since she already is the acting superintendent and I thought she’s done a pretty good job,” she said.

In open session, the board discussed the applicants, by number only, and further narrowed the selection down to three potential finalists. Those individuals are:

■Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Fla.

■Derrick R. Coleman, superintendent of the River Rouge district.

■Orlando Ramos, regional superintendent for Milwaukee Public Schools.

Although Meriweather was considered in the initial priority list she was not named in the current round of potential finalists, according to the statement.

“We have high regard and a great appreciation for Alycia’s efforts in moving the district forward,” said Taylor in the statement. “We are pleased that she will continue in her role through the end of the school year and we look forward to working with her in future endeavors.”

Meriweather’s existing contract under the previous administration expires June 30. The board reaffirmed the contract on March 14 to assure compliance with the law.

Potential finalists will be given a rigorous interview schedule in the upcoming weeks. Interviews will be open to the public and will engage all district stakeholders including, but not limited to DPSCD staff, business leaders, elected officials and community residents.

“We are pleased to continue the vetting process of selecting a permanent superintendent to lead our district,” said Taylor. “The board will exercise due diligence to assure that the best candidate is chosen.”


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