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Whitmer creates council to help steer schools out of the pandemic

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a press conference on February 1, 2020.
State of Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is tapping dozens of Michiganders to help schools chart their post-pandemic futures.

The governor’s Student Recovery Advisory Council, created Thursday through an executive order, is tasked with producing recommendations for supporting students’ academic and mental health.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated inequities in our education system, and we know more work is needed to address the significant impact this pandemic has had on our children,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This council will be integral to ensuring our students and educators are equipped with everything they need to thrive.”

The group’s recommendations will add to a growing national conversation about how best to help students bounce back from the upheaval caused by COVID-19. Typical proposals include tutoring programs, summer school, and adding days to the school year. The recommendations could influence how districts spend their share of $1.6 billion of federal COVID-19 aid that is headed to Michigan schools (those funds are currently being held up in a political battle between Whitmer and Republican lawmakers).

Parents, school leaders, educators, experts in public health, pediatrics, mental health, community members, and a student will have seats on the council. Chairing the group is Kevin Polston, superintendent of Godfrey-Lee public schools in suburban Grand Rapids.

Many members also served on the council that helped to guide Whitmer’s back-to-school recommendations this summer.

One notable addition: Angelique Peterson-Mayberry, school board president of the Detroit Public Schools Community District. No public school leaders from Detroit were included on the last council.

A list of council members is below. You can find their full bios here.

  • Kevin Polston, Grand Haven, superintendent of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, was appointed to represent school leaders and is designated to serve as council chair.
  • Angela Blood Starr, Kalamazoo, regional school health coordinator for the Calhoun Intermediate School District, was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Nicole Britten, St. Joseph, health officer for the Berrien County Health Department in Benton Harbor, was appointed to represent individuals with expertise in public health.
  • Craig Carmoney, Sanford, superintendent of Meridian Public Schools, was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Johanna Clark, Frankenmuth, principal of Frankenmuth High School, was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Mary Gebara, Okemos, trustee with the Okemos Public Schools board of education and chairperson of staff outreach for the Okemos Education Foundation, was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Dominic Gonzales, Lincoln Park, high school senior in the Detroit Public Schools Community District, was appointed to represent students.
  • David Hecker, Huntington Woods, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan, was appointed to represent community members.
  • Paula Herbart, Lansing, president of the Michigan Education Association, was appointed to represent community members.
  • Melissa Isaac, Mt. Pleasant, director of education for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Elizabeth Koschmann, Ann Arbor, licensed psychologist and an assistant research scientist in psychiatry at the University of Michigan, was appointed to represent individuals with expertise in mental health.
  • Stephen McNew, Monroe, superintendent of the Monroe County Intermediate School District, was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Vic Michaels, Detroit, assistant superintendent of student services and athletics for the Archdiocese of Detroit Catholic Schools and director of the Catholic High School League, was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Justin Michalak, Grosse Pointe Woods, assistant superintendent for special education for the Macomb Intermediate School District, was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Faye Nelson, Grosse Pointe Woods, director of Michigan programs for the Kellogg Foundation, was appointed to represent community members.
  • Nicholas Paradiso III, Grand Rapids, vice president of government relations for National Heritage Academies, was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Lisa Peacock, Traverse City, health officer for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, was appointed to represent individuals with expertise in public health.
  • Angelique Peterson-Mayberry, Detroit, president of the Detroit Public Schools Community District board of education, vice chair of Detroit Youth Sports Commission, and a member of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation board of directors. Peterson-Mayberry was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Bill Pink, Ada, president of Grand Rapids Community College, was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Gwendolyn Reyes, Grand Blanc, assistant clinic director at the Hurley Children’s Clinic, director of the pediatric residency program at the Hurley Children’s Hospital, medical director for the Flint Community Schools Wellness Program, and a clinical assistant professor in the Michigan State University Department of Pediatrics and Human Development. Reyes was appointed to represent individuals with expertise in pediatrics.
  • Robert Shaner, Shelby Township, superintendent of Rochester Community Schools, was appointed to represent school leaders.
  • Anupam Chugh Sidhu, Canton, instructional technology manager for Wayne RESA and president of the Plymouth-Canton School Board, was appointed to represent parents

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