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The week in review: Goodbye, EAA and master teachers. Hello, Alycia Meriweather and Big Sean

Detroit superintendent Nikolai Vitti named his first deputy, former Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather, center. She introduced Vitti in May as he met with principals and applicants at a job fair.
Detroit superintendent Nikolai Vitti named his first deputy, former Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather, center. She introduced Vitti in May as he met with principals and applicants at a job fair.

Today marks the last day in Michigan’s six-year-old experiment in school turnaround. Long-struggling schools in a special turnaround district are returning to Detroit’s district — just as new schools chief Nikolai Vitti shakes up the central administration to get more educators into the classroom. Check out that news and more below and have a great holiday weekend!

— Philissa Cramer, Chalkbeat managing editor

VITTI WATCH: During his fifth week on the job as Detroit’s new schools chief, Nikolai Vitti geared up for a firing spree. To get more educators into the classroom (and save money), he’s cutting 70 administrative positions, including roles that support principals, and ending the district’s year-old “master teacher” program. The 140 teachers who had been helping their colleagues through the program will spend the time with students instead.

Vitti also made one big hire: Alycia Meriweather, who was widely beloved as interim superintendent, is his first deputy pick. “Some people are afraid to have talented people around them because somehow that person might outshine you,” he said. “But the strongest leaders are comfortable with who they are and recognize that strong people make them look better.”

Oh, and he rubbed elbows with a rap star:

END OF AN EAA: Today is the last day for the Education Achievement Authority, Michigan’s six-year-old turnaround district. Its 15 schools are returning to the Detroit district. One researcher’s take: “The EAA could fairly be regarded as a train wreck of educational policy.” A principal’s: “There was a lot of good … that could be lost.” What’s clear: The change comes with uncertainty and risk.

HELP WANTED: Detroit is still looking for 100 more teachers. One potential source: Michigan’s second-largest school district, which just laid off 47. But does the state really have a teacher shortage? Depends on the job.

ARTS AND CRAFTS: The district is looking to add music and art teachers to make a dent in a dispiriting statistic: Half of schools offered no arts instruction at all last year.

Meanwhile, local CEOs are paying to update Randolph Tech, which has few students but potential to add skilled labor to the city. Bonus: Here’s some more stuff CEOs are saying about the city’s schools.

LANSING REPORT: Gov. Rick Snyder is gearing up for another round on education, according to Ingrid Jacques: In his remaining 18 months in office, he wants to get himself more power, figure out how to improve or close low-performing schools, and advance “competency-based education,” a model for measuring learning that’s gaining traction nationally. He also wants to change graduation requirements to include career training.

IN OTHER NEWS: Michigan is increasingly scrutinizing whether principals are certified. The state’s new accountability plan got criticism from advocates of high stakes. Advocates explain why a new analysis of the state’s funding system is needed. Michigan’s highest court ruled that private religious schools’ admissions decisions can be reviewed to make sure they follow laws protecting people with disabilities.

AND VIEWS: The Detroit News reminds us that last year’s Detroit schools bailout package came with strings — and says they should be followed.

MORE FROM CHALKBEAT: New research about school vouchers finds short-term negative effects. Middle-class districts in Memphis are getting more money for poor students, even though they don’t have more of them. Yearlong teacher residencies are in vogue, but research suggests they might not benefit students.

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