GRPS board to further review superintendent candidates after second interviews

GRPS superintendent finalists Dr. Adrian Talley, left, and Dr. Devon Horton

Grand Rapids Public Schools board members will meet again to consider two finalists for their next superintendent, allowing them time to collect more information and reflect further on their qualifications and community feedback.

The GRPS Board of Education decided to reconvene Saturday, April 13, following second interviews Monday evening with candidates Devon Horton and Adrian Talley. Members said the interviews, plus feedback from school and community focus groups held Monday afternoon, still left them with unanswered questions about the best choice to replace Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal, who retires June 30.

“I want no one to feel rushed or pressured to make a decision,” said board President Kristian Grant, following 80-minute interviews with Horton and Talley. “We should be taking our time and being thoughtful. We should be at a point where we feel we need to make an offer because we don’t want to lose this person.”

Grant urged taking “due diligence” in the decision, saying the board needs to verify positive information the candidates gave about their districts. While praising the expertise and experience of both candidates, board members said they had reservations in certain areas and needed more time to sift through comments from the day’s focus groups and school visits with close to 200 staff, students, parents and community members.

Board member Tony Baker said it’s imperative the board feel certain it’s found the right candidate, noting some former board members “reluctantly voted” for Neal’s predecessor, Bernard Taylor, who proved to be widely unpopular.

“I want to hand over the keys to this district to somebody we think is the perfect candidate for this district,” Baker said. “I’m not saying that we don’t have that person in these two candidates,” he added, but “we need to be really sure.”

“The consequence is pretty great if we make a mistake on that,” he said. “The future of this city’s at stake.”

Horton is chief of schools for the 101,000-student Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky, and Talley is director of community schools for the 132,000-student Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland. A video of Monday night’s interviews can be seen here.

Grant encouraged the board to submit questions for more information to the Michigan Association of School Board search consultants. The board will meet at 8 a.m. Saturday at the GRPS Franklin Campus, and again for its regular meeting Monday night, April 15.

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles's full bio.

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