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Published in Print: May 19, 1999, as Detroit BoardNames Interim Schools Chief

Detroit BoardNames Interim Schools Chief

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Detroit's new, mayorally appointed school board selected former Wayne State University President David Adamany last week to lead the district until a permanent chief executive officer is named.

The seven-member board voted 6-1 on May 12 to name Mr. Adamany to the temporary post. His contract was being negotiated last week.

Because the state law that transferred control of the city schools to Mayor Dennis W. Archer initially required a unanimous vote, the sole holdout--Marvis Cofield--had stalled efforts to name an interim chief for nearly two weeks beyond the April 30 deadline.

But legislation signed by Gov. John Engler only a few hours before last week's meeting cut the board's vote requirement for naming a CEO to only five. It was a revision of the takeover legislation signed by the Republican governor in March.

That law wrested control of the 180,000-student system from an 11-member, elected school board and delivered it to a seven-member reform board. ("Mich. Lawmakers Approve Takeover Bill for Detroit," March 31, 1999.)

Mr. Cofield, a community activist who runs a martial-arts studio, declined to comment on the board's vote. But a fellow board member, William J. Beckham, said Mr. Cofield had favored former Superintendent Eddie L. Green and that he had rejected Mr. Adamany, in part, because he is white. The district's enrollment is largely African-American.

Although Mr. Beckham said several school board members are interested in finding a black leader to run the Detroit schools "for the long term," he said race should not have been a factor in naming an interim chief.

"It's a unique time, and we needed a unique individual. We can't get hung up on race," Mr. Beckham said last week.

'Off on the Wrong Foot'

Yet in some quarters, the appointment renewed skepticism about a reform-minded school board that regularly turns to the mostly white, majority Republican lawmakers in the state capital--as they did last week for the revised takeover legislation.

Mr. Adamany could not be reached for comment last week. He has won praise for overseeing a $300 million expansion of Detroit's Wayne State University during his tenure there from 1982 to 1997, and for sensitivity in dealing with race issues.

Mr. Adamany is faced with crafting an academic- and operational- improvement plan, moving ahead with school repairs and construction, negotiating union contracts, and dealing with an expected shortage of 1,000 teachers.

Vol. 18, Issue 36, Page 10

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Web Resources
  • Read a short biography of David Adamany's time as president of Wayne State University.
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