Michigan State Superintendent Brian Whiston, the state's top education leader who was diagnosed with cancer last year, is taking a medical leave to tend to his health.
"As many of you know. I’ve been battling cancer," Whiston said Wednesday during a meeting of the State Board of Education. "That challenge has been very difficult. My plan is to continue to work the next 30 to 60 days to get some things done that are on the plate that need to get done.
"We will pray for a miracle to happen during that time."
He told board members he would take a long-term disability leave. The statement came after he had been given an "outstanding" rating, and a contract extension, from the board during his evaluation.
Casandra Ulbrich, cochair of the board, said that in the board's evaluation, Whiston was praised for the work he has done to bring the State School Reform Office back to the Michigan Department of Education, his vision for the MDE and the goals he has set, particularly the broad effort to transform Michigan into a top 10 performing state academically.
"We particularly commended Brian for the fact that in a relatively short amount of time, he's been able to move the culture in a large institution, which we acknowledge isn't an easy thing to do," Ulbrich said.
Whiston, during a break in the State Board meeting Feb. 13, said he would make a decision about his future with the department after having some medical tests completed later that month. He said he'd had kidney and liver failure, as well as a heart attack, in the previous two months.
Martin Ackley, spokesman for the MDE, said the board will appoint an acting superintendent when Whiston goes on leave.
Whiston said he always has a right to return from leave, "particularly if that miracle happens."
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