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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.
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.

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