GRPS

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan school districts are gearing up for the beginning of the school year.

Many school districts are holding kickoff events, including Grand Rapids Public Schools which drew hundreds of grade-school students and parents today.

Teresa Weatherall-Neal is Grand Rapids' school superintendent. She says it’s important for parents and children to realize summer is almost over.

"We need people to now switch gears. Summer is over. We need you to start thinking about school,” says Weatherall-Neal. “It’s time to come back.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The head of Michigan’s fifth-largest school district is launching a “listening tour” this week.

Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal says the Grand Rapids school district needs to succeed in order for the city to succeed, and because that impacts the entire region, she wants to hear from everybody.

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 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

A group of parents and school leaders in Grand Rapids is kicking off a campaign to pass a property tax increase to pay for improvements at more than 30 school buildings.

The proposed increase would cost an owner of a home worth $100,000, $54.20 a year. It would pay to replace worn-out roofs, heating systems, and windows. It would also pay to get rid of asbestos and replace old fire alarms.

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.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new program launching this fall in Grand Rapids will try to help high school dropouts earn both their high school diplomas and some college credit.  The program is a joint effort of Grand Rapids Public Schools and Grand Rapids Community College. 

College president Steven Ender says they’re reaching out to 16 to 19 year olds who otherwise would have a hard time finding a future in Michigan’s economy.  

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

The Grand Rapids Public School Board has a unique policy. People who want to talk about something that’s not already on the agenda must sign up 5 days ahead of time, and explain to officials what they want to discuss.

Opponents of the policy say it intimidates people from expressing their concerns.

A special committee recommended the board get rid of the advance sign up requirement. But the comments will not be televised.

This fall Grand Rapids Public Schools will be able to avoid cuts to transportation, art and music. But Michigan’s third largest school district will eliminate close to 140 positions as part of a plan to deal with a projected $22 million dollar budget shortfall.

The vote for the budget was unanimous, in sharp contrast to last year. That was a huge relief for Superintendent Bernard Taylor, for a moment anyway.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Health clinics based inside 3 Grand Rapids high schools will get $2.6 million over the next five years. Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids Schools, and the Michigan Department of Community Health pay for the program. The state is expected to announce grants for other school clinic programs soon.

Lisa Lowery is a primary care doctor at Spectrum Health. She shows off the health clinic’s laboratory, patient rooms, and the dental clinic. A high school senior getting his teeth cleaned gives us a thumbs up.

“It’s just not ‘oh here’s an ice pack’ cause you hurt your knee.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools is facing a $22 million dollar budget deficit for next school year. That’s the largest shortfall Michigan’s third biggest school district has faced.

The plan to close the gap includes eliminating close to 140 positions and use $5 million in savings. Despite that, no one showed up to speak at a public hearing on the school budget Thursday night.

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.

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.

pawpaw67 / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids city and school district officials have met regularly for more than a decade to come up with ways to share services and facilities to benefit one another. Now, state budget concerns are pressuring them to look even harder for those cost-saving solutions.

(sha3teely.com)

The Grand Rapids Public Schools is teaming up with First Steps and Great Start Collaborative to launch what they are calling  "Early Learning Communities". 

  Early Learning Communities are focused on enriching the early learning experiences of young children by strengthening the skills of early childhood caregivers and educators.  The program is intended to improve readiness for school success by:

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools is revising how it lets people comment at school board meetings. The district has a unique policy (see page 51-54). A Grand Rapids school board member says he couldn’t find any other district in Michigan with a similar provision.