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Muskegon Heights Public School Academy's superintendent reflects on accomplishments, looks forward to new challenge

The Michigan Department of Education selected Rané Garcia as first director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — A West Michigan school superintendent has been selected as the first director of diversity, equity and inclusion in the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). The announcement by State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice was made last week. 

Rané Garcia, currently the superintendent of the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System, will leave that position after four years and begin her new role with the state on Aug. 23.

“We are continuing our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion with this new position at the Michigan Department of Education,” Dr. Rice said. “Rané Garcia brings the personal and professional experience to help strengthen our efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion, both within the department and within the state. We are very pleased to have her join our team.”

Garcia spent a year as the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System's assistant superintendent prior to being named superintendent. Her 31-year career in public education includes experience as a teacher, principal and district administrator.

As director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Garcia will be responsible for developing and supporting internal and external efforts and strategies that foster greater fairness and inclusion in the state’s public schools.

Garcia says her 31 years as an educator, and five years in Muskegon Heights, has prepared her to work with 894 districts and the Michigan Department of Education on behalf of all students. She's a first-generation college student and math major at the University of Michigan, who held positions in Michigan, Texas and Illinois. 

As a principal, she led her school to a National Blue Ribbon Award by closing achievement gaps. As a superintendent, she has worked to strengthen her school district by improving student achievement, partnering with higher education, substantially improving the teacher retention rate and stabilizing enrollment.

"I feel as though I am leaving a part of my heart in Muskegon Heights; however, I have been told ‘once a tiger, always a tiger’ and in that I find comfort," Garcia wrote in a letter to community members and MHPSAS board members. "I will never be too far away to champion for Muskegon Heights. This move is important because to achieve true equity, the work must happen in all settings. I have learned from you and been inspired by you. I am ready, being a Tiger has helped me discover my voice, and for that I will be forever grateful."

The MHPSAS board will interview an internal candidate for the superintendent position on Tuesday, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Community members and school stakeholders can view the interview using a link on mhtigers.org.

"It's exciting for me to be able to learn more about our entire state and the educational system," said Garcia. "We know that our black and brown communities and schools have less opportunity, there's unequal funding, there are some big fixes that need to happen."

Under Garcia's leadership, the district's long-closed pool has reopened and a school that didn't have a playground when she started with the academy now has a playground and playground equipment for students. 

"Our children have to have the same opportunities," said Garcia.

According to Garcia, teacher turnover has been reduced from 50% to just 5%.

"We've been very successful with that," said Garcia. "I'm super proud of that."

MHPSAS enrollment is up 14% to 683 students.

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