Asked to name what he is most proud of as Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent, Michael Rice says “I don’t know that I have a most proud, I have a lot of prouds.” Rice will soon become the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Rice says a mentoring program launched four years ago is one source of pride. He says it was started to increase graduation rates, especially among African-American males. Rice says he has enjoyed working with the school board, he says the district has made progress on all of the long-term goals set by the board in 2009.
The Kalamazoo Promise was announced in 2005, two years before Rice came to Kalamazoo. Rice, who was Superintendent in Clifton, New Jersey at the time says he was intrigued by the Promise. “I thought ‘what are the conversations you could have with children and adults?’” about the Promise.
The state Superintendent’s job came open in 2015, Rice says he was recruited then, but didn’t feel that the issues most important to him were “ripe.” But Rice says when the state was again seeking a Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2019, “It felt different.” He says now there seems to be more interest in addressing issues such as funding for public education, improving early childhood education, literacy, career and technical education and a shortage of teachers.
As he takes the job, Rice says he is under no illusion about the authority that the state Superintendent holds, but he says the job does have influence. “It’s a generational moment in our state’s history.” Rice says the job brings the opportunity to influence certain debates.