GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (March 15, 2014) – Grand Rapids Public Schools are making progress, including higher graduation rates district-wide, according to this year’s State of Our Schools Address. Graduation rates for non-alternative schools in the district are up to 78.57 percent, which is the highest it’s been in more than a decade, said Teresa Weatherall Neal, Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent.
“I love this district, I believe in my heart we’re going to do this and it’s getting other people now starting to say, ‘You know what? You guys are doing the right work,’ and our survey shows it,” said Weatherall Neal.
Weatherall Neal said the district’s Transformation Plan is working. After a lot of changes in the past two years she says now it’s time to maintain and be consistent, or in her words, “stop the churn.”
“People want their children to be successful. So we need a strong academic plan, we need principals that are willing to serve, ready, knowledgeable people, and now we just need to work the plan,” added Weatherall Neal.
Other positive district changes are 27 of 41 schools improved their ranking on the state’s top to bottom list; district preschool expanded by more than 500 seats; and school security has improved, all thanks in part to partnerships between the City and schools.
“What’s clear is you don’t do this alone. This superintendent understands that so very well: that you grow through, and you make great accomplishments, not as a lone ranger, but in partnership with others; and they’re a very good partner to work with,” explained George Heartwell, Grand Rapids Mayor.
The District closed 10 schools with less than 200 students, but sold the buildings and helped raise $1.5 million to support the transformation plan and budget, said Weatherall Neal. Mayor Heartwell said this is an example of the District facing its challenges head-on while giving students in those areas new opportunities. For instance, coming in the Fall of 2015, the Grand Rapids School of the Arts and the Grand Rapids Public Museum School will both open.
“We’re working to moving in the future to do more of what this community is asking for: they want us to do more themed schools, neighborhood schools, and they want us to continue to focus on academic achievement and attendance, so we’re going to continue to push it fast,” said Weatherall Neal.
Meanwhile, Weatherall Neal said the District is tackling major issues like poor attendance rates and balancing the budget; but new opportunities are here for our students because that is what this change is all about.