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First Black woman sworn in as president of the Michigan State Board of Education

Dr. Pamela Pugh
Posted at 2:56 PM, Jan 13, 2023

LANSING, Mich. — On Tuesday, Jan. 10, Dr. Pamela Pugh was sworn in as the new president of the Michigan State Board of Education. Pugh, who previously served as the vice president of the board, is the first Black woman to hold this position.

Pugh's election comes in tandem with many other historic appointments that happened during this past election cycle in Michigan, including the appointment of Kyra Harris Bolden who is the first Black woman to serve as a justice on Michigan's Supreme Court. Joseph Tate was also elected as the first Black speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives.

Pugh was first elected to the state Board of Education in 2014. In 2022, Michigan voters elected Pugh to a second, eight-year term with over 2 million votes, making her the most highly-voted candidate on the ballot for Board of Education.

The board is responsible for appointing the state's superintendent of public instruction, a position which oversees the leadership and supervision on the Michigan K-12 public education system.

According to a press release, Pugh comes from a long line of Mississippians, who recognized education as a necessary sacrifice. Her great-grandfather, alongside the community and local church, started the one-room Pugh Elementary to ensure Black children had educational opportunities denied to them because of their skin color. Pugh's paternal grandmother was one of the first Head Start teachers in Clarke County, Mississippi, and her father, John Pugh was a civil rights activist and taught for over 32 years at a local college as an administrator.

Pugh’s late mother, Carolyn Pugh, was a paraprofessional for Saginaw Public School District, the school system that she attended.

During Pugh's previous term as vice president, she was a defendant in the Detroit Right to Literacy case, where she supported the seven minority plaintiffs' claims that Detroit students were denied the right to literacy. Pugh was also tenured as Flint's chief public health advisor during the Flint water crisis.

"In addition to Michigan being victim to the politicization of education as seen across the country, the state has long been ranked at the bottom of all 50 states in terms of equitable funding, impacting children most in need and their educators. We are grateful for Gov. Whitmer’s historical budget passed just in July but there is still much work to do to close the learning gaps caused by the decades of dismantling of our public education system," Pugh said in the release. "Now, we have before us a great opportunity to adequately fund our schools, repeal harmful policies especially those shown to most impact Black children, and ensure that teachers have the freedom to teach, and to make sure that all children regardless of race, religion, or gender identity have safe and welcoming learning environments. This is a new day and I look forward to working with our governor and Democratically led legislature."

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