Patricia Perry, the principal of Madison High School, has been appointed to the role of interim superintendent of the Madison District Public Schools.

Patricia Perry, the principal of Madison High School, has been appointed to the role of interim superintendent of the Madison District Public Schools.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Perry begins role as interim superintendent at Madison Schools

School board plans to conduct thorough search for permanent superintendent

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published August 5, 2022


MADISON HEIGHTS — The principal of Madison High School is now handling double duty as the interim superintendent of the Madison District Public Schools, splitting her time between the roles.

A narrowly divided MDPS Board of Education appointed Patricia Perry to the role at its meeting July 25, for a term ending Jan. 15, 2023. The vote was 4-3, with Cindy Holder, Rebecca Chambliss, Gloria Thompson and Crystal Beaver voting yes, and Debra Ott, Mark Holcomb and Barbara Kastle voting no. Perry has served as the principal of Madison High School since August 2021, and for three years prior she was the assistant principal at Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

Earlier this summer, Angel Abdulahad, who had served as the Madison District Public Schools superintendent since early 2019, left to serve as the superintendent of Oak Park Public Schools. Following Abdulahad’s departure, the acting superintendent had been Edwina Hill, the district’s chief finance officer. Abdulahad did not return a request for comment by press time.

In a phone interview following her appointment, Perry said she wanted to thank all of the people who have been committed to the district over the years.

“Our teachers, administrative staff, district office staff, clerical staff, food service staff and the custodial staff — they are the heart of this district,” Perry said. “They’ve been holding it down for so long, through the good times and the bad times. I’m so thankful for their dedication to the district.”

Perry said that she wants to start by talking to board members, staff and community members, learning what they want from the district so that she can help create a common goal.

“This district is just too small for us to not be together,” Perry said. “(At Cass), we had like 2,500 kids and around 100 staff members. That school was a large school, almost twice the size of this district. But under my old principal, Lisa Phillips, she brought us together, and I learned how to build a family in the workplace. We spend so much of the week together, so let’s make it fun!

“And when I say everyone, I mean everyone — not just our students and not just our staff, but all our stakeholders, to help our kids succeed academically, socially and emotionally. Once we create happiness in the workplace, then we can come together and work toward that common goal of educating our kids and helping them succeed.”

One of her immediate priorities, as outlined in her 30-day plan, will be to boost enrollment. Perry said the district has many marketable qualities, such as opportunities to help kids recover credit when they’ve fallen behind, as well as opportunities to get ahead with courses offered through the Oakland Schools Technical Campuses, focused on specialized trades such as nursing, automotive technology and collision repair, and advanced placement courses through the Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts, where students can earn college credit during normal school hours.

“So a kid may take their morning classes at the high school, and then we can bus them to CASA in the afternoon to take their advanced placement courses,” Perry said.

She also highlighted collaborative efforts between the district’s schools, where arrangements are often made for classes from one school to visit the next, helping them to prepare for the next step. Similarly, the district’s early childhood program helps kids starting at age 3 to start learning the basic skills that will help them thrive as a kindergartner and first grader.

Outside of school, Perry said she is a full-time mom with a 9-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.

“My free time is spent being a mom, and making memories with my daughter,” Perry said.


A divided board
Following the vote, the board members were contacted for comment. Several responded.

Kastle said in an email that there are several reasons why she did not vote for Perry, one of which was Perry’s limited experience with the Madison District Public Schools.

“I am typically a proponent of promoting within the district — it has always made sense to me to invest in your current team and make sure they are given opportunities to grow. Although Ms. Perry has a lot of great attributes, in this case, I thought it best for the district to appoint a person that already had superintendent experience. So, I planned to vote for such a candidate — an outside applicant,” Kastle said.

“As we worked through the selection process, it began to make more sense to leave (Hill) in place as interim, and focus on searching for our permanent superintendent. Dr. Hill has worked closely with our prior superintendent and knows the district well. She has been with the district for over three years. Additionally, she has 18 years total experience working in various complex administrative areas of numerous school districts,” Kastle said. “After thinking things through, Dr. Hill became my clear choice to serve as interim superintendent.”

Ott said in an email that she voted “no” because she felt the district should simply move forward with a full-time superintendent search and forgo an interim.

“Why go through this again four to six months down the road? By doing this, Dr. Hill would remain as acting superintendent, with her vast knowledge of finances, budgets, grant writing, and day-to-day operations of the district, and of course reaching out to Oakland Schools for help in the finance department for her,” Ott said. “We were outvoted. The majority of the board chose Ms. Perry as interim.”

Holder, the board president, was in favor of Perry.

“It was a spirited debate, but in the end, the board supported a relative newcomer that has shined as the high school principal, and who was the only candidate that presented a 30-, 60- and 90-day plan for the district to move forward,” Holder said via email. “Her goal included actively looking for more students.

“This is a temporary position,” she added. “The board has already made immediate plans for a thorough search for our next permanent superintendent.”