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Detroit Emergency Manager to Appoint New Superintendent

Detroit's public school system will have a new superintendent, the city's emergency manager Roy Roberts announced late last week.

Karen Ridgeway will be the district's new superintendent in charge of academics, replacing John Telford, who was appointed by the Detroit school board last summer, the Detroit Free Press reports. Ridgeway had been the district's superintendent from 2011 until the board appointed Telford.

Roberts regained academic authority over the district last week, when a new state law permitting emergency managers to run troubled institutions went into effect. His task is to remedy the district's financial distress.

A previous emergency manager law in Michigan had been suspended and then repealed last year, relegating Roberts to a more-restricted role and allowing the school board to appoint Telford. The year has been marked by lawsuits between the district's board, led by LaMar Lemmons, and Roberts.

The governance of Detroit's schools has been particularly complicated and contentious this year, as the state has stepped in to run 15 schools in the district even while the board and Roberts have been disputing governance issues. The Detroit public school system currently educates about 50,000 students, while an additional 11,000 attend the state-run district and about 47,000 attend charter schools.

The entire emergency manager law is the subject of a lawsuit. The city of Detroit also has a new emergency manager. Emergency managers also run the school districts in Highland Park and Muskegon Heights. The protesters are concerned that the emergency managers violate citizens' right to elect the officials that run their schools and cities.

In indirectly related news that might be of interest to readers of this blog, Roberts announced earlier this year that Detroit will close 28 schools by 2016 in order to help remedy the city's budget woes. The list of schools has not yet been determined. School closings in Chicago and Philadelphia have also drawn national attention, and activists in Detroit have joined groups from several other cities in submitting complaints to the federal education department's Office for Civil Rights about the closings.

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