A Michigan school board has offered a job to Kansas City schools superintendent John Covington after he described his excitement about tackling the challenges in Detroit.
Covington was described as "the best" by a board member for the newly formed Education Achievement Authority. As chancellor, Covington will oversee the 38 lowest performing schools in Michigan.
Earlier, Kansas City school board member Arthur Benson said Covington abruptly resigned this week because of the job in Michigan. He said Covington manufactured a dispute with board president Airick West to be able to renege on his contract.
Covington interviewed with the school board there Friday afternoon. The board said they want Covington to start on Sept. 23 or whenever he is done with Kansas City. Covington had said his resignation in Kansas City would be effective Sept. 23.
"I'm extremely excited," Covington told the Michigan board. He said he plans to hit the ground running and get a team in place.
He touted his record in Kansas City during his interview broadcast live from Detroit.
Benson said the job had been long in the works. Covington used a dispute with board president Airick West over a contract for his own purposes, the board member said.
"He used a disagreement with West to manufacture an excuse to break his contract," Benson said Friday morning in an email to KCTV5.com.
Benson put his arm around West's shoulders during an impromptu news conference Friday afternoon. An existing member of Covington's staff was named acting superintendent with Covington in Michigan.
West said the board has complete trust that Covington's senior staff will be good leaders for Kansas City children and moving the district ahead without Covington.
Benson had submitted his resignation three minutes after Covington's abrupt announcement on Wednesday. He did so to show his solidarity with Covington.
But Benson rescinded his resignation in wake of Friday's developments. He stopped short of calling Covington a liar but said Covington had denied that he was actively seeking another job.
"I think it's fair to say this board, this district, this community and I especially feel pained by being ill used by John Covington," Benson said.
In a statement, Covington apologized "for the untimely submission of my resignation."
"It was never my intent to cause confusion or alarm," he said. "I take full responsibility for the difficulties for which my resignation created."
He said he planned to serve the next four weeks as superintendent and help with the transition if his services are still wanted. He said the needs in Michigan are greater than those in Kansas City.
"The need there is overwhelming and I think that much of the work we did in Kansas City will help to inform efforts to assist many more thousand of students," Covington said. "I am confident that the KCMSD will move forward on the right path, and I remain eternally grateful for the opportunity to have served Kansas City."
Kelly said the district can't sue Covington because he gave 30 days notice, but said Covington has betrayed Kansas City.
"People in Kansas City are going to be hugely ticked off," Kelly said. "Kansas City people are going to be so mad that they can't see straight. People are going to bite nails in two."
Kelly said Covington's departure is important but he said ultimately, "Teachers make it happen."
Covington's chief of staff, Chase Ramey, has been named as acting superintendent with Covington in Michigan. However, that appointment ends on Monday with Covington's return.
Covington is expected to meet with his Kansas City leadership team on Saturday.
Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said Friday that the state will work with Kansas City School District staff and community leaders to ensure "careful planning and deliberate action in developing both a short- and long-term strategy for ensuring the success of the Kansas City School District."
After its vote, the Michigan board issued a news release hailing Covington as "an education innovator and creative problem solver with a track record of success in urban school districts." The board said Covington has one of the nation's best track records for leading reforms that allow students and teachers to succeed.
Covington hailed the opportunity in a statement.
"There may be no greater opportunity to make a dramatic shift in the lives of many, many deserving young people through this new system," Covington said in a statement. "We know what we need to do to produce far better opportunities and outcomes for students. . . . We are talking about academic change the likes of which Detroit and Michigan has never seen."
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder praised Covington's "record of achievement."
The Detroit Free-Press reported that Covington's salary in Michigan will be $225,000 annually with a $175,000 signing bonus.
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