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Mayor Mike Duggan has tapped one of his advisers to help him fine-tune his plan for turning around Detroit schools. Richard Tao has recently been meeting with various stakeholders in the education world, and he’s made a good impression so far.

Duggan could use as much help as he can get, as tackling Detroit Public Schools’ massive debt and overall city school performance is a huge undertaking. Plus, Duggan is trying to convince lawmakers and city leaders that his turnaround plan is the way to go—rather than the one laid out by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Alexis Wiley, chief of staff for Duggan, downplays Tao’s involvement with education, saying he’s a senior adviser who works on a variety of projects for the mayor, such as animal control.

Wiley says Tao is a lawyer who first came to Duggan’s administration last year as an intern.

“He’s really smart,” Wiley says. “He was hired to do any kind of project.”

But key individuals on the education front, from Michigan Association of Public School Academies president Dan Quisenberry to Skillman CEO Tonya Allen, have met with Tao and believe he is playing a more significant role in school reform plans.

“It shows the mayor is getting serious,” Allen says.

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