GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal has announced her retirement.
In an emotional press conference held Monday, Sept. 17, Weatherall Neal said she plans to retire after the 2018-19 school year. She has been superintendent at GRPS since 2012.
"I've spent 55 years with GRPS. That wasn't by accident, that was by design," she said. "My heart will always hold a special place not only for GRPS, but for the staff, the children, the families that we serve and this community."
Weatherall Neal created a district transformation plan in 2012, which was approved by the board. She touted the successes at the conference, noting increased graduation rates, newly created and reopened schools and decreased absenteeism.
"Some superintendents may come, and they'll do a good job. But they're just a blip on the radar," said Third Ward City Commissioner Senita Lenear. "But Teresa Weatherall Neal has made a splash, and we'll be forever impacted because of it."
Lenear said her ability create lasting relationships with community stakeholders pushed the transformation plan forward.
Although she didn't plan on remaining superintendent, Weatherall Neal's leadership capacity was evident when she took the interim job in 2012 and created the plan, said GRPS School Board President Wendy Falb.
"It takes a very, very unusual leader that can bring people together that quickly and form a vision," Falb said. "Her depth of care for this community is grounded...So she always found that ground and that why. And that was about helping children transform their lives through a great education."
Weatherall Neal said the district consistently and effectively implemented the plan and thereby accomplished great things.
Her last day will be June 30, 2019, but she said she has plenty of work to do before she leaves.
"One of the things that I am working on is the renovations at Ottawa Hills High School," Weatherall Neal said. "Our Promise Zone, I will continue that...There's so many things. I'm not a very good lame duck superintendent, so I'll be working up until the bitter end."
Falb said the board of education will not make any decisions about a replacement for Weatherall Neal until after new board members are elected in November,
"It's very important that the board that will be hiring Teresa's successor also set the plan," she said. "So, right away, January, that will be the task of the board."
Here is the official statement from Weatherall Neal:
Dear Grand Rapids Board of Education Members, Staff, Parents, Students, Volunteers, Partners, and Community Stakeholders,
Grand Rapids Public Schools has been a part of my life for more than 55 years, beginning as a student and now ending as the superintendent. It has truly been a remarkable story that I could not have imagined when I stepped into the kindergarten classroom at Madison Park Elementary in 1963. However, as a bookend to my time with GRPS, effective June 30, 2019, I will be retiring as your Superintendent of Schools.
When I accepted this position, it was only supposed to be for six months as the interim superintendent.
Seven years later, I can say that it has been my honor to be your superintendent and to serve you and this great Grand Rapids community. I appreciate the unwavering support that enabled us to accomplish what we as a district and community have done in these short years.
From the beginning, I realized there were many areas where our district needed to transform. After spending countless hours leading strategic planning meetings and listening to our stakeholders, we developed, and the Grand Rapids Board of Education unanimously approved, the GRPS Transformation Plan. The core of this plan was investing in what is working, investing in our talent recruitment, retention, and development, and investing for stability and growth. We consistently and effectively implemented this plan, and as a result, I am proud to say we have accomplished great things. GRPS is now gaining state and national attention for our success story. These accomplishments include, but are not limited to the following:
• Increased graduation rates
• Increased student learning
• Stabilized enrollment
• Decreased suspensions
• Decreased number of safety and security incidents
• Cut chronic absenteeism
• Increased dual enrollment and Advanced Placement offerings
• Re-opened and invested in neighborhood schools
• Created new and expanded existing theme schools
• Received the highly competitive XQ Super School award to reimagine high school
• Partnered in the creation and launch of Challenge Scholars
• Purchased new books and curricula
• Rebuilt our fine arts program
• Reinvested in our athletic programs
• Reached multiple-year collective bargaining agreements
• Secured a voter-approved $175 million bond
• Invested in new technology and security systems
• Opened our GRPS University professional development and conference center
• Built strong community partnerships with our colleges and universities
• Further strengthened our bond with the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation
• Launched Parent University
• New student information system
• New district financial system
• Launched Early Middle College at Ottawa Hills High School
• Reinvested in our academies at Innovation Central
• Increased Montessori options
• Began renovation to our Ottawa Hills academies and small schools
• Collaboratively began Plaza Roosevelt development
• Increased International Baccalaureate schools
• Strengthened community and stakeholder relationships
• Deepened our partnerships with foundations and secured millions of dollars in support for teaching, learning, professional development, schools, programs, and students
• Secured a Promise Zone designation for Grand Rapids
• And so much more!
None of this could have happened without the hard work, passion, commitment, and dedication of every individual and organization working with and for our students, teachers, parents, schools, and the district as a whole.
Having spent most of my life with GRPS, it has become like family to me. It is family to me! I have a special place in my heart for the GRPS children, families, staff, and community and I always will.
I want the staff and community to celebrate what we have accomplished so we can continue to grow stronger for our children and ensure their success. That is important to me as I make this transition. When I became your superintendent, you supported me and amazed me with your strength and courage. I ask that you continue to show this same spirit as a new superintendent takes the helm, so we can continue our legacy of commitment to a stable, strong, vibrant urban school district and community.
I also want to assure you that I am staying in our community and remain committed to education, making systems better for our children, and working with the Grand Rapids Board of Education to ensure there is a stable and smooth transition -- one that honors and builds on the success of the GRPS Transformation Plan.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you for the past 44 years as an employee of the Grand Rapids Public Schools.
Teresa Lynn Weatherall Neal,
Superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools
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