GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - It's one for the books for the Grand Rapids Public School District. For the first time in 20 years, the school system has seen an increase in enrollment.
During Count Day on Wednesday, the district announced it's 160 student increase from last year, which makes the total number of full time equivalency or FTE,16,840.
"This is a really big day for Grand Rapid's Public Schools," Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal said. "I know it's a great district, I've loved it every single day. I've been here since I was four years old and so for 53 years I've loved this district and I want people to love it as much as I do."
Weatherall's transformation plan for GRPS began five years ago.
"I was going to have to close schools, I knew I was going to have to stop the churn, decrease absenteeism, increase graduation rates, do some back of the house sort of things," Weatherall Neal said.
This is the second phase of the district's transformation and superceded the expectation.
"We keep reading about school system's nationwide in the state that are losing students and the fact that Grand Rapids Public Schools is bringing students back is remarkable," GRPS board president Tony Baker said.
The increase in students means an increase in funding.
"It's almost a million dollar increase for the district--much needed for our staff members and students and families," Weatherall Neal said.
The rise is all thanks to the community and the comraderie.
"We are the district of choice, we have so many choices and parents do have a voice here and that's what we want. We've asked them what type of school do you want, where do you want--they want place based, they want neighborhoods, they want themes--so we said okay let's do this together," Weatherall Neal said.
That's also including school staff.
"We restored trust and dignity and respect to all the people working here, you know, years ago there was a sense that the staff was at odds with each other but now we're at a place where the community and teachers work together," Baker said.
"It's a cliche, it takes a village, but this is a clear example of it does take a village, it does take a village and this village said yes to our children," Weatherall Neal said.
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