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Published in Print: February 9, 2005, as Mich. Chief Steps Down, Looks Ahead

Mich. Chief Steps Down, Looks Ahead

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Under pressure from Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Thomas D. Watkins Jr. has agreed to step down.

His Jan. 29 resignation letter came the same day that a special meeting of the eight-member state board of education had been scheduled to discuss his contract. The meeting was canceled after Mr. Watkins’ announcement.

“I very reluctantly tender my resignation as state superintendent of public instruction,” Mr. Watkins wrote in the two-page letter.

His resignation is to take effect early next month, though no specific date has been set.

Mr. Watkins, who had held the job since April 2001, added in his letter that he is likely to take a position at Wayne State University in Detroit to work on school reform and urban education issues. As the special assistant to the president for public school initiatives at Wayne State in the early 1990s, he helped start Michigan’s first charter school.

Acting Chief Named

The latest development ends what had become a highly public battle of wills. The Democratic governor wanted the superintendent to resign; Mr. Watkins had refused to leave; and the elected state board, which hires the schools chief, had been deadlocked over Mr. Watkins’ future. ("Pressure Mounts on Michigan Chief to Step Down," Feb. 2, 2005.)

Mr. Watkins’ announcement seemed to help temper the rhetoric around his standing.

Liz Boyd, the governor’s spokeswoman, who had echoed some of her boss’s concerns about Mr. Watkins’ leadership, praised him in an interview last week as “an outstanding spokesman for public education.”

She added that while the governor has some possible replacements in mind, she was not aware that Ms. Granholm had offered the names of the potential candidates to the board. “She looks forward to working with the board to empower a results-oriented leader,” Ms. Boyd said of the governor’s plans.

Meanwhile, Kathleen N. Straus, the president of the state board, announced last week that Jeremy Hughes, a deputy superintendent for the state education department and its chief academic officer, will be the acting state superintendent until the effective date of Mr. Watkins’ resignation.

“If by that time a new superintendent has not been named, the state board will appoint an interim superintendent,” a news release from the state board said.

Vol. 24, Issue 22, Page 19

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