Michigan school chief to take medical leave

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

State school Superintendent Brian J. Whiston will taking a long-term disability in 30 to 60 days to attend to his health, state education officials announced on Wednesday.

Appointed state superintendent by the State Board of Education in April 2015, Whiston was diagnosed with cancer late last year.

He has been receiving medical treatments since then while continuing to run the Michigan Department of Education.

Whiston told the state board Wednesday he will continue to lead the department for the next 30-60 days, depending on his medical treatments.

The board will have to appoint an interim superintendent during Whiston’s leave, MDE spokesman Martin Ackley said.

“We have worked with the State Board, Governor Snyder, the legislature, and education stakeholders over the past three years to develop dynamic strategies to make Michigan a Top 10 education state in 10 years,” Whiston said in a statement.

“We have begun setting those strategies into motion and I believe Michigan’s public schools will rise up and meet that goal,” he said.

In an interview with The Detroit News last month, Whiston said he has had a rough couple of months with his health.

“I started off with liver and kidney failure, went to cancer and then a heart attack. The last two months have been a little rough ... I have a good sense of humor and good faith, so I am in good shape,” Whiston said Feb. 13 during a break at the state board of education meeting.

Before becoming the state’s top education official, Whiston was superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools from 2008 to early 2015. He also was director of government and community services for Oakland Schools and a local school board member for 17 years.

Earlier Wednesday, the state board gave Whiston a rating of outstanding on his annual evaluation and extended his contract by one year.

“We appreciate the vision that he has set for the Department of Education, and the goals he has set for the Top 10 in 10 that were established with multiple entities and organizations,” said state board Co-President Casandra Ulbrich.

“It takes true leadership, true talent, to be able to establish something as important as a vision and a list of goals that go with that vision; and to get literally everyone on board at every level of the organization to encompass their work around that vision and those goals.”