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Stateside: Grand Rapids restructures its districts to save money, improve education

Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio

On Monday, The Grand Rapids School Board unanimously approved a district restructuring plan. Recommended by Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal, the plan aims to both improve student achievement and save money.

The “Transformation Plan” attempts to reinvent the school district by closing ten buildings, reopening one elementary and reforming other programs. The plan will save more than $22.4 million over five years, with at least half being re-invested in replicating and expanding effective school programs.

Superintendent Weatherall Neal acknowledged the great number of students this reform will affect.

“For our ten schools, that will be about 3,000 students. We are going to merge a few of the programs,” said Neal.

She also said she will try to keep staff layoffs at a minimum; however, a certain number are inevitable.

“I am a public administrator by trade and I do believe in choice…we really need to focus on great opportunities for students,” said Neal.

Neal feels she has received a wave of encouragement from the Grand Rapids community.

“I have received a lot of support from this community. The goal is to stabilize this district for the next few years.”

Neal has been listening to the community to better communicate with the city.

“I am a product of this community. I came in saying that I don’t own the school district. You have to keep a process that’s open enough that you allow people to have a voice.”

Neal feels she, and all those in the community, should remain positive about the changes at hand.

“I would like for everyone to know that I believe in their students…in this district. I want to partner with them. We need to be positive and held accountable for our role.”

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