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Grand Rapids schools sends out first round of pink slips in “transformation plan”

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

About 200 administrators at Grand Rapids Public Schools are getting notice that they could potentially be laid off this summer. The school board voted Monday night to send out the notices, as part of a “transformation plan” it adopted in December.

“The reality is that we’re closing 10 schools and that we’re making adjustments across the district,” GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt said. “We’re also reopening a school and expanding and changing other schools so there is going to be a shifting in personnel.”

Helmholdt says the notices are just a part of the process. He couldn’t say how many administrators would actually get laid off. Upcoming evaluations will help determine that.

“An across the board layoff of all administrators allows for maximum flexibility to ensure that we have the top talent and the most effective talent where they’re needed most,” Helmholdt said.

The plan could also affect support personnel,  but it’s less likely to impact teachers since the Grand Rapids district will still teach roughly the same number of students next year.

The “transformation plan” is a response to rising costs and declining student enrollment. 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.

GRPS has been cutting its budget for about a decade. It’s now the state’s fifth largest K-12 district, with a little more than 17,000 students. It employs around 3,000.

“It would be premature for me to speculate that there’s going to be other employee groups getting these layoff notices. I think that’s to be determined and that’s something we’ll bring to the board when we’re ready,” Helmholdt said.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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