slowdown

Detroit school board pushes special meeting to discuss superintendent off until Thursday

PHOTO: Allie Gross
Derrick Coleman took center stage during a day of interviews to become Detroit's next schools chief.

When the Detroit school board on Thursday scheduled a special meeting for next week, it seemed like a sign that a vote for superintendent was near.

But late Friday, the board canceled the special Monday meeting, signaling that it is unlikely to make a final decision then — even though Tuesday marks its legal deadline to choose a schools chief.

Members still plan to meet on Tuesday but have pushed off the major discussion about who will lead the district. Later Friday, the special board meeting to discussion the superintendent candidates was rescheduled for Thursday, April 13.

Two finalists are vying for the district’s top position: Jacksonville, Florida, schools chief Nikolai Vitti and Derrick Coleman, who runs the suburban Detroit district of River Rouge. Each spent a day interviewing in the city recently.

The schedule change comes as board members face pressure to slow the search down and consider other candidates, including interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather. Both of the city’s leading newspapers this week called on the board to reopen the search, and Dan Gilbert, the businessman and philanthropist who is heavily involved in Detroit issues, joined the chorus supporting Meriweather with a tweet on Friday.

Board member Lamar Lemmons told Chalkbeat that the board wanted more time after visiting River Rouge. That visit is scheduled for Monday.

First Person

I’m a teacher, not an activist. Here’s why I’m joining the March for Science this weekend

PHOTO: Creative Commons / Jeremy Wilburn

I became a science teacher because there’s nothing I love more than talking about science. This Saturday, I’ll march for science in Cleveland because there’s nothing I believe is more important than defending science in our society and our classrooms.

My love affair with science goes back to my seventh-grade teacher, Mr. Hurst, who took a hands-on approach to science education. Through labs and real-world investigations, my classmates and I discovered the complexity of scientific discovery. While I originally pursued a career in lab research, I soon realized that my true passion lay in teaching – that I could fulfill my love of science by delivering the same quality of teaching that I’d received to the next generation.

I’m marching for science on Saturday because every student deserves such a strong foundation. A well-rounded education should be a reality for every child in America – and that must include science, technology, engineering and math. Without it, our country won’t be able to solve the very real crises looming just over the horizon.

The world’s population is growing exponentially, consuming a limited supply of natural resources at a faster pace. We rely on nonrenewable forms of energy that we’ll inevitably exhaust at a great environmental cost. Medical advances have slowed the spread of infectious disease, but our overuse of antibiotics is leading to a new generation of drug-resistant pathogens.

Our children need to know what they are up against so they can design their own solutions. They need an education that enables them to think analytically, approach a problem, tackle new challenges, and embrace the unknown. That’s exactly what good science education does.

Still, I understand that some may wonder why teachers are marching – and even if they should. Some will inevitably accuse teachers of “politicizing” science or stepping “out of their lane.”

But marching for science is distinct from the kind of political statements I dutifully avoid in my role as a teacher. To me, marching is a statement of fact: without science teachers, there is no science education; without science education, there is no future for science in America. Science teachers and their classrooms are the agar in the petri dish that cultures our students’ scientific minds. (Did I mention there’s nothing I love talking about more than science?) In any movement for science, teachers have a role to play.

Marching, like teaching, is to take part in something bigger. Years from now, if I’m lucky, I might glimpse the name of one of my former students in the newspaper for a scientific discovery or prestigious award. But by and large, it’s my job to plant seeds of curiosity and discovery in a garden I may never see.

On Saturday, I’ll be there alongside doctors and nurses, engineers and researchers, and citizens from all walks of life who love science and want to see it valued and respected in our country. We might not see the fruit of our labors the day after the march, or even after that, but the message we send will be clear.

If you’re a parent or student – maybe one of my own – I hope you see that passion for science on full display around the nation this Saturday. I hope you see why having committed science teachers like myself and my colleagues is inextricably bound to the fate of our world. I hope that recognition grows into action to support teachers and demand universal access to an excellent science education, like the one I strive to provide every day in my classroom.

Sarah Rivera teaches engineering, biology, biomedical science, and environmental science at Perry High School in Perry, Ohio. She is also a member of 100Kin10’s teacher forum.

Superintendent search

With clock ticking to choose a superintendent, Detroit school board calls special meeting for Monday

Detroit's school board is considering two superintendent candidates, Nikolai Vitti (left) and Derrick Coleman.

Update: The board later canceled this scheduled meeting, then rescheduled it for Thursday, April 13. Read more here.

Detroit’s next schools superintendent could be selected early next week.

Detroit’s newly elected school board announced late Thursday that it would hold a special meeting April 10 to offer a “superintendent search update.” The board is also scheduled to have its regular monthly meeting the next day.

Board members are weighing two finalists — Jacksonville, Florida, superintendent Nikolai Vitti and River Rouge superintendent Derrick Coleman. Each recently spent a day interviewing in Detroit, and board members traveled to Jacksonville this week to see Vitti at work. The members plan to visit River Rouge, which borders Detroit, on Monday.

LaMar Lemmons, one of the members who went to Florida, said bad weather forced the group to stay an extra day. “A storm kept us here so we get to see some more,” he told Chalkbeat, adding: “We’re even more impressed than we were yesterday … It has been a great, informative experience.”

Lemmons broadcast parts of the group’s visit to a school Vitti created for students with dyslexia on Facebook Live.

The board is under pressure not to make a decision just yet, including from advocates of Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather, who has broad support from teachers, unions and community leaders but was not selected as a finalist. The Detroit News called for the board to slow down, saying in an editorial, “The focus should be on making a sound decision rather than a quick one.”

It’s not clear whether the board plans to vote at either of the meetings, which are happening on the first two nights of Passover, a major Jewish holiday. But next week is important for the board because Tuesday marks 90 days since members were sworn in on Jan. 11. State law requires the board to choose a new superintendent within 90 days of taking office, although the law isn’t clear on whether that clock started Jan. 1, when the board took control of the district, or Jan. 11, when it was sworn in.

If the board declines to vote next week, it will be in violation of the law. But it’s not clear what consequences that could have for the district.