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Chancellor selected for state's struggling schools

DPS emergency financial manager Roy Roberts says without Proposal S, the district would be severely crippled.
Sarah Hulett
Michigan Radio
DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts is also chairman of the Educational Achievement Authority, which approved a four-year contract for incoming chancellor John Covington.

The board that will oversee Michigan’s lowest-performing schools has chosen John Covington as its chancellor.

Covington plans to leave his post as superintendent of the Kansas City school system to take the job. He’s overseen efforts to close schools and balance the budget in that job, which he’s held for the past two years.

Covington says he’s the job offers a unique chance for innovation in education:

"When we have the opportunity to create something from the ground up and to demonstrate once and for all that even Detroit, Michigan, that has been saddled with educational problems and woes for a good many years now, that we can get it right."

Covington says eventually, he believes he can help Michigan's lowest-performing schools raise graduation rates, and he says he's interested in extended-day and extended-year programs. He says he wants to make sure kids in struggling schools get "a lot more than … a piece of paper that we give them at graduation that’s not worth the paper it’s written on."

Covington's salary will be $225,000 a year, plus he'll receive a signing bonus of $175,000. The Educational Achievement Authority approved a four-year contract. Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, who serves as chairman of the authority, says Covington's salary is competitive, and Michigan is lucky to have him:

"He is an innovative leader in the urban school reform movement, and I’m thoroughly convinced that the candidate is the most poised person to assume the role of chancellor here in Michigan."

The Educational Achievement Authority will eventually oversee the lowest-performing schools throughout the state. But it will first start with schools in Detroit, beginning in the 2012 school year.

Earlier today, the state released a list of Michigan’s lowest-performing schools. Ninety-eight schools were on that list. Thirty-eight of them are in Detroit.

Sarah Hulett is Michigan Public's Director of Amplify & Longform, helping reporters to do their best work.