Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal

It’s back to school time! We have so many great things to celebrate as we approach the start of the 2016-2017 school year. In less than five years, we have implemented the GRPS Transformation Plan with great success. We have strengthened, improved, and expanded our portfolio of school choices; we have significantly improved our talent recruitment, retention, and development efforts; and we have strategically invested the tax dollars entrusted to us to restore stability and trust in the district.

I am pleased to report that it’s working!

- Graduation rates are up. Overall graduation rates increased by 12% over the last 4 years. Notably, graduation rates increased by 21% for African American students, 15% for Hispanic/Latino, 22% for English Language Learners, and 15% for economically disadvantaged students over the same four year period.

- Test scores are up. We continue to see improvements in student growth and, once again, our high schools were among the top composite score gains in the county.

- Dual enrollment is up. Dual enrollment increased by 52% over the last two years. For students of color, dual enrollment increased by 70% in the last two years.

- Student attendance is up. We have cut chronic absenteeism by 36% in the last two years.

- Suspensions are down. We have reduced suspensions by more than 5%, including a 26% reduction in lost instructional time due to suspensions. This is due in large part to our expanded use of restorative practices. More than 5,200 students participated in restorative practices in 31 schools with more than 450 trained district staff members.

- School safety is up. Security incidents are down 15%. Major incidents are down 26%.

- Parent engagement is up. The number of parents signed up for classes at Parent University is up 37% over last year. There were four times more course offerings available than the previous year with 13,323 course attendees – up 65% over last year.

- Enrollment is stabilizing. We posted the best Count Days in two decades – back to back. We are now poised for enrollment growth!

I am so proud of what we have accomplished. GRPS is blessed to have truly the most dynamic teachers, school leaders, and support staff in the region. These talented, dedicated, passionate educators are united and working together like never before to improve student outcomes and advance the vision of the GRPS Transformation Plan.

Coming this fall, we have several exciting developments that I believe exemplify the vision and direction of Grand Rapids Public Schools.

- New/Expanded C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy. Thanks to the voters and taxpayers of Grand Rapids, we have renovated the former Covell Elementary facility to accommodate the expansion of C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy from a K-8 to a PK-12. This is so symbolic because Covell was one of ten schools closed five years ago and it represents our intentional strategy to invest in and expand quality school choices that are working.

- New Grand Rapids Public Museum School. The students at the new Grand Rapids Public Museum School will start school in brand new, cutting edge classrooms following more than $4 million in renovations to the 4th floor of the Van Andel Museum Center. Grades 6-8 will be housed at the Van Andel Museum Center and grades 9-12 will be at the former Museum site at 54 Jefferson. Special thanks to our friends at City Hall, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, and the Grand Rapids City Commission for working with us on this historic opportunity.

- Demolition of 111 College NE. There were only two non-negotiables in the GRPS Transformation Plan: school uniforms and tearing down 111 College NE. This summer, we made history by demolishing 111 College and righting a wrong that has been a longstanding rub and eye sore. As a result of the demolition, there will be significantly improved safety and traffic flow along with new and enhanced parkland and green space. Thanks to former Mayor John Logie and our friends in the Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association for being there to celebrate with us.

This is just the beginning. Coming fall 2018, we will be re-opening Ridgemoor Park Elementary as the new Ridgemoor Montessori Academy and opening the new Middle College program at Ottawa Hills High School where students will graduate with a high school diploma and Associates Degree at GRCC.

It has truly been my honor to serve as your superintendent during these exciting times. I encourage you to sign up for our We Are GR Enews and/or social media to learn more about all the great things happening at GRPS!

 

By Teresa Weatherall Neal, M.Ed., Superintendent of Schools