The Grand Rapids Board of Education is embarking on a national search for a new superintendent to succeed Teresa Weatherall Neal, who retires effective July 1. The board voted Monday, Jan. 14 to conduct the search nationwide, assisted by the Michigan Association of School Boards, which will be paid $9,000 plus expenses for its services.
The board plans to post the position after its Jan. 22 meeting, with the aim of doing two rounds of public interviews and hiring someone by late April or early May, giving the new executive plenty of time to consult with Neal before taking over the job.
Board President Kristian Grant said it’s important the board be transparent while “bringing the community along” in choosing the best candidate.
“We want Grand Rapids to be one of the top and premier school districts in the country,” Grant said. “So it only makes sense that following such amazing leadership with Superintendent Weatherall Neal, that we do a wide search to find some talent that can get us to that point.
“We may well have that talent here in the district, or it may be someone else that we can bring in,” she added. “But I think it’s really important that we do a wide search to discover that.”
The board had debated whether to initially confine its search to candidates already working for GRPS, or go nationwide. Feedback from community input sessions and an online survey did not provide a “definitive” preference, said MASB consultant Jay Bennett, who recommended a national search. Board members said the wider search would assure the public that, if they did choose an internal candidate, that person stacked up well against others nationally.
“I think the internal candidates that we do have would probably stand up just fine against a local or national search,” said board member Katherine Downes Lewis. “I don’t think there’s any reason not to have the national search.” If a GRPS person applied and were chosen, she added, they would know “it wasn’t handed to them because they were next in line.”
The board voted 8-1 to go the national route, with Treasurer Raynard Ross voting no. He declined to comment on his vote.
Bennett said he would have a job description and salary range ready for the board’s meeting next week. Once that’s approved by the board he said he will promptly post the opening on several websites, including those serving primarily African-American and Latino educators.