GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor, who has led the district since 2006, is one of two finalists for school chief in Syracuse, N.Y.
The Syracuse City School District and a local foundation are hosting a public reception for Taylor on Tuesday evening.
His GRPS contract, which was approved in January 2010, runs through 2014. It contains a provision that would allow the superintendent to leave, the Grand Rapids school board president told 24 Hour News 8.
In a statement, board president Senita Lenear congratulated Taylor and said that, "while the announcement does come as a surprise, we recognize that Dr. Taylor was approached about this opportunity, one that not only provides professional advancement and growth potential, but also would allow him to be much closer to his parents and family."
Asked whether the Grand Rapids school board will be speaking to any consultants, search firms or candidates, district spokesman John Helmholdt said the board isn't taking any action until the Syracuse process is completed.
And there is no set timeframe for that process, Syracuse district spokesman Michael Henesey told 24 Hour News 8.
But the Syracuse spokesman said he expected a decision to be made before the current superintendent's contract ends in June.
During Taylor's time at GRPS, the number of district schools meeting federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards has jumped from 26 to 49, and the district has slowed the loss of student population.
But some of Taylor's policies drew strong criticism, including the "H" grade policy, which allows students who fail a course to retake it, and more recently, the plan to "blend" online learning into many high school courses.
Taylor came to Grand Rapids after serving as superintendent of schools in Kansas City, Mo.
If he leaves, the replacement process would be complex for a district as large as GRPS, according to former interim superintendent Kevin O'Neill. "They want to make sure they're thorough and that they don't leave any stone unturned."
O'Neill was GRPS interim superintendent during the 1996-97 school year and was a candidate to continue on the job, but was not picked.
Although the process would be complex, it would not be overwhelmingly different from the process in other school systems, he said. O'Neill is now the superintendent of Coopersville Area Public Schools and once served on the Northview Public Schools board, where he said he was involved in the hiring of two superintendents.
"They work with the community, they work with staff to develop a profile, they put the word out and advertise for candidates. They screen candidates," O'Neill said.
GRPS has brought in outside help for a search before, and if it does again, O'Neill said finding a firm could take two to four months. Once one is found, the window to select a superintendent could take another two to four months, he said, or perhaps longer.
Beginning the search process this time of year would not be unusual for a school district, the Coopersville superintendent said.
But there is an additional challenge that comes with this moment in history, he said, especially for large city superintendents "across the country but particularly in Michigan." The issue is the financial problems districts are facing for 2011-12. GRPS is forecasting a $25 million budget shortfall if Gov. Rick Snyder's budget is approved as is.
And O'Neill said he fully expects that if Taylor were to leave, he would stay to finish the budget.
"But the challenge is living with those decisions and going out the next couple of years -- it's going to be a challenge," he said.
The extravaganza was Dec. 11, 2013 in downtown Grand Rapids.
Gary Rolls Jr. has announced he'll resign from the Kent County Board of Commissioners, effective Jan. 1, 2014.
A fire damaged three garages and some homes in a Grand Haven neighborhood early Thursday morning.