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Search for state superintendent moving forward now that election is over


The state Board of Education has taken a big step toward hiring a new state superintendent. On Monday, it selected a search firm to find possible candidates.

The board still needs to iron out contract details with Iowa-based Ray & Associates. Assuming that goes smoothly, it expects to hire a replacement for retiring state Superintendent Mike Flannagan before May.

Board President John Austin says members have made clear what kind of candidates they are looking for.

“We want a strong educational leader with a proven record of improving educational performance who shares a philosophy and a substantive approach for how to do that with the board,” Austin said after the Board of Education’s special meeting on Monday.

And we now know the board’s philosophy and approach will continue to lean Democratic. Democrats maintained their 6-2 majority on the board with last week’s election. Austin says some members did not want to move forward with the superintendent search until they knew who would be making the decision.

He also says the next superintendent’s role could depend on what the Republican-dominated Legislature does in the coming weeks and months.

“If they want to move a lot of a la carte education and more privatization and more free market stuff that is hurting schools, then part of what we need is a superintendent who can be a vigorous advocate for the effective way we increase educational attainment,” said Austin.

Flanagan, who has served as state superintendent since 2005, is retiring in July. He has built a reputation of trying to work with both Democrats and Republicans - some would argue, to a fault.

Austin says the board plans to hire someone who will be more aligned with the Democratic-dominated board.

“We want a superintendent who is eager to work with the board and be aligned on the kind of strategic direction for improving education, and who isn’t sort of betwixt and between different philosophies, whether it’s governor or Legislature.”

Although, he says the decision will not be made based on ideology – rather, a shared “philosophical” approach for education policy.

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