GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal delivered her second State of Our Schools address Saturday morning.
After closing schools as part of a district transformation plan, she says it's now "go time", and she's ready to move the district forward.
Weatherall Neal spent more than half of her time thanking the various community and business partners actively working with the district, including the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation, Peter Secchia and the Michigan State University Alumni Club of West Michigan, the Challenge Scholars initiative with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
"The White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives touted the City of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Public Schools as a model for public/private partnerships," Weatherall Neal proclaimed.
She touched on high marks for school security but improving student behavior. Restrictive Justice is a new program aimed at reducing the number of Special Education and African American students suspended from school.
"We need to make some changes, we know that and we're ready," the district superintendent said.
As for the recently adopted transformation plan, Weatherall Neal says the toughest part -- closing schools -- is behind them.
"I knew it was going to be painful, so I listened," she said, adding that know that the listening phase is over and the district is now in "go mode."
"We are going to make this happen in the district. All hands on deck. This is a bold, comprehensive and innovative plan that will change the lives of children," she continued.
In "The New GRPS," Weatherall Neal is stepping up recruitment of staff from outside the city and state to bring the best and brightest into the district.
District officials hope to do that by improving technology, and adding more emphasis on kindergarten through eighth grade.
Weatherall Neal said the emphasis is shown through reopening Stocking Elementary School as a neighborhood school, and Ford Middle School becoming the Gerald R. Ford Academic Center.
The district is also working to provide high school students, like Kyren Garel from Ottawa Hills, with a chance at higher education through partnerships with historically black colleges and universities.
"We will not allow a zip code to determine the outcome of the education of a child," she said.
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