GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal announced Monday she will be retiring.
After seven years leading the district, she will step down June 30, 2019, she said during a morning news conference at the Gerald R. Ford Academic Center in Grand Rapids.
The announcement came despite a contract extension signed in May that would have kept Weatherall Neal in the superintendent’s office through at least 2021.
Weatherall Neal told 24 Hour News 8 the decision to retire was very personal.
“I lost a sister this summer and just decided that, you know what, I need to spend time with my family,” she said. “I’ve worked seven days a week for seven years and you know what, with her untimely death, it sort of nudged me to begin praying about it.”
>>App users: Watch Weatherall Neal announce retirement
Weatherall Neal took on the role of superintendent on an interim basis in early 2012 after the departure of Bernard Taylor. The school board was impressed and signed her to the job full-time.
Since then, Weatherall Neal was able to get community buy-in for a transformation plan that, among other things, helped increase graduation rates, cut down on absenteeism and stop the student drain by stabilizing enrollment. Along the way, district voters also approved a $175 million bond proposal.
“I don’t think we’ve done everything right, but I do think that our heart is in the right place. I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Weatherall Neal said.
School leaders praised her efforts.
“She’s been a tremendous leader and it’s been an extraordinary seven years,” Board of Education President Dr. Wendy Verhage Falb said.
Five school board seats will be up for grabs in the fall and Falb, who is not running for re-election, says the current board will leave it up to new members to figure out the process for finding a new superintendent.
While she won’t be part of the hiring, Falb credited Weatherall Neal for developing bench strength at GRPS headquarters. She hopes the board looks within for a replacement.
“We have a lot of momentum. I think stability and continuity is what’s valued,” Falb said. “So I would expect the next board in January to look at those leaders from within that have been part of this work.”
Weatherall Neal released the following statement about her retirement:
“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”