Bernard Taylor

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Bernard Taylor Jr. ran what’s now the state’s fifth-largest K-12 district for five years.

Eventually, Taylor and some members of the school board did not get along very well. By in the spring of 2011, it became clear Taylor was looking for a new job. He agreed to resign that summer and ended up signing a severance package.

But last month Taylor sued, claiming the district never paid him.  He calculated GRPS owed him $330,000 including lawyer’s fees.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Former Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor is suing the district for $330,600. Read the full complaint here.

Grand Rapids Attorney Katherine Kennedy filed the lawsuit in federal court Thursday afternoon on Taylor's behalf.

She says the school board has refused to pay Taylor the money he’s owed, citing claims of mismanagement and misconduct. She says those allegations include expenses for car washes and cell phone stipends.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The interim superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools will get rid of some controversial initiatives put in place by the former district leader. The state’s third largest school district has been through a lot of turmoil over the last year.

Former Grand Rapids schools superintendent Bernard Taylor made academic improvements during his five years serving the district. But he was divisive at least and a pariah to some. He resigned abruptly in January. His replacement Teresa Weatherall Neal has worked for Grand Rapids schools for 35 years.

“I am truly, truly, one of you. This is my district and this is my city,” Neal said in her ‘state of our schools address’ Saturday.  

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The school board of Michigan’s third largest public school district voted unanimously Monday night to extend interim Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal’s contract for 18 months and suspend the superintendent search.

Neal replaces former superintendent Bernard Taylor. Taylor had agreed to resign from Grand Rapids schools at the end of this school year after he was a finalist for other jobs beginning last spring. But he departed abruptly earlier this month.

In a written statement school board president Senita Lenear said:

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Former superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor had planned to resign by the end of the school year. But Tuesday night the school board of Michigan’s third largest public school district voted unanimously to grant Taylor an immediate leave of absence.

In June 2011, Taylor agreed to resign from Grand Rapids schools by June 2012. That agreement came after he was a finalist for other jobs beginning last spring. It’s unclear why Taylor asked to leave now. The request came in an official letter dated December 27th. He’ll use all of his vacation and sick days left. The district would have had to pay him for those anyway.

 GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt says Taylor is deferring all comments to the school board president.

“I don’t know if relief is the is the word,” Grand Rapids school board president Senita Lenear responded to reporters after the meeting, “but we definitely are looking at this as an opportunity.”

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The tally of students who show up at each school district is a major factor in how much money a district gets from the state.

There are two count days each year; one in the spring and one in the fall. This year state lawmakers changed the formula so that the fall count day is even more important. The number of students a district has is determined by a blend of the two count days. The fall day makes up 90-percent of that blend, the spring only 10-percent.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The search for the next superintendent of Grand Rapids schools is underway. The school board voted unanimously to work with the Kent Intermediate School District and the Michigan Association of School Boards to develop traits the district needs in a new leader; a “superintendent profile”.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Broward County Public Schools selected Robert Runcie, not Bernard Taylor, as their next superintendent.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Bernard Taylor agreed to resign from Grand Rapids schools at the end of this school year. That agreement came after he was a finalist for other jobs beginning last spring. He didn’t get any of those jobs.

Now he’s looking to head Broward County Public Schools – the sixth biggest district in the U.S.

Taylor will attend a public forum in Broward County Tuesday evening. The school board is likely to make its choice Wednesday morning. He’s one of five finalists for the position.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

More than a thousand children and their parents are expected to mark the start of the school year at a park in Grand Rapids Tuesday afternoon. Hundreds of kids swarmed Clemente Park Monday evening; jumping in a bounce house, getting their faces painted, eating hot dogs, and signing up for afterschool programs.

Grand Rapids Public Schools is hosting the parties to get parents information and kids excited about the new school year. For four year-round schools in Grand Rapids, classes start this Thursday.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Superintendent resigned yesterday, but today he hinted that he may not want to leave.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor has been lobbying state lawmakers to pass teacher tenure reform. Yesterday, lawmakers did that. 

Taylor says the reform means everyone’s focus has to be on student achievement.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor is resigning. The school board accepted his resignation this afternoon by a unanimous vote.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor was a recent finalist for two open positions at other school districts. He says he wants to lead a school district that’s more prepared for aggressive reform to improve student achievement.

Taylors resignation is not effective until one year from now.

Taylor was not at the meeting. In a written statement, Taylor says he appreciated the time and 'careful deliberations' of the board of education.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A decision on the future of Grand Rapids Public Schools’ superintendent has been delayed again.

Despite no comments from the school board, several residents and parents talked about Taylor’s future. Tyrone Bynum admits he has not always gotten along with Taylor.

“My focus is what’s good for the kids. And I think we’ve got a winning team. And we can’t afford right now a new superintendent with paying that one and him too…this brother is expensive,” Bynum chuckled.

If they chose the option - it would cost Grand Rapids schools around $1 million dollars to buy out the remaining four year of Taylor’s contract.

The school board met twice Monday, once in a private morning meeting and a public one later in the evening. They did not approve Taylor’s evaluation for last school year or discuss the fact that’s he’s applied for jobs at other school districts.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Members of the Grand Rapids School board discussed their superintendent’s future with the district for more than 8 hours Monday night. The discussions were not open to the public.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor was a recent finalist for two open positions at other school districts. He says he wants to lead a school district that’s more prepared for aggressive reform to improve student achievement.

Grand Rapids resident Fred Dryg says he’d like Taylor to stay, despite the tension.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids public school board will consider whether their superintendent should continue with the district. Superintendent Bernard Taylor was passed up for job at another school district today. This is the second time this year Taylor was considered as a finalist for another job.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Cleveland Metropolitan school district selected an internal candidate to be the next CEO at a special meeting this morning. Grand Rapids Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor was a finalist for the opening.

It was the second time this year Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor became a finalist for a job opening at another school district.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In Grand Rapids, school administrators are marking the 6th straight year students have done better on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program. But Superintendent Bernard Taylor says that will probably not be the case next year.

“Many of the students who are proficient this year, will not be proficient next year.”

That’s because next year the state will raise the standard for what is considered a passing score on the test. State leaders say raising the scores will make sure students are prepared for college or job training after high school. Taylor is not against the change. But he says it will impact every district in Michigan, even those who haven’t really had problems meeting academic standards in the past.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s third largest school district estimates it would face a $25 million deficit if lawmakers pass Governor Rick Snyder’s budget. In an annual address to the community Saturday, Superintendent Bernard Taylor outlined how that could impact next school year

Financial challenges

The district has trimmed around to $70 million from its budget in the last decade. Taylor says to cut $25 million in one year would be difficult.

“But we can’t be afraid. We can’t show any trepidation about what our situation is because in the end, whether we have a billion dollars or we have one dollar children have to be educated.”

He proposed a pay freeze for all administrative staff, and that they pay 20% of their health care premiums. But even with those and a number of other cuts, Taylor warned the district still may have to lay off more than 180 employees.

Academic challenges

Next year, the state will raise cut off scores for what’s considered "proficient" on the standardized MEAP test. Taylor says that will have a negative impact their academic achievement. But he stressed raising standards for a high school diploma isn’t a bad thing.

“It is not a precursor of anything if you are not college ready or workforce ready, meaning you have to have pronounced academics skills in the areas of literacy, mathematics, problem solving and being able to work cooperatively with others.”

Taylor wants to do a better job determining if students are really prepared to study beyond high school.

He’s asking the state allow the district to keep those students who aren’t ready in high school longer. Taylor wants to do that in cooperation with Grand Rapids Community College.

Grand Rapids Public Schools

Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor is one of two finalists for an opening at a school district in New York.