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State schools superintendent Whiston to take health leave

Michigan superintendent Brian Whiston
Michigan Department of Education
Michigan Department of Education

State schools superintendent Brian Whiston is stepping down and taking long-term disability leave so he can focus on fighting cancer.

Whiston made the announcement today at a meeting of the Michigan State Board of Education.

Whiston set a goal of making Michigan one of the nation’s top 10 states when it comes to the quality of schools. He says plans that have been put in place to turn around struggling schools make that possible.

“They’re just now in progress, and it’s just very sad to me that I won’t be part of seeing whether they all worked or not,” Whiston said.

Whiston says one of the most promising plans creates local consortiums of educators, businesses, foundations and parents to help turn around 72 low-performing schools.

He will go on medical leave after taking the next month or two to wrap up some projects.

The department said Whiston informed the State Board of Education on Wednesday he will take the leave in 30 to 60 days.

Whiston, appointed in April 2015, was diagnosed with cancer late last year. He has been receiving medical treatments since then while continuing to run the Department of Education. He told the board that he'll continue to lead the department until his leave begins, depending on his medical treatments.


Vincent Duffy has been news director at Michigan Public since May 2007.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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