School board to launch second superintendent search, appoint internal interim

National search firm sought to reach wider pool of candidates

The school board is launching a second national search for a new superintendent

The GRPS Board of Education hopes to have hired an interim superintendent from within the school district by as early as mid-May, before launching a second national search to replace retiring Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal.

The board voted 8-1 on Monday, April 22 to seek applications from internal candidates to guide the district until a permanent new superintendent is hired. That followed a decision on April 13 to hire neither Devon Horton nor Adrian Talley, the two finalists the board interviewed from among 30 applicants.

Board members also voted Monday to invite proposals from national firms to conduct the new search, rather than stay with the Michigan Association of School Boards consultants who guided the first search.

Hiring an interim leader already employed by GRPS will help ensure someone at the helm who is familiar with the specific needs and attributes of the school system, said board President Kristian Grant.

“In order to keep this ship going in the right direction until we have a permanent person, it’s much easier for the staff and students if we have someone who has an in-depth view (of GPRS ), … who already knows how the programs are running and knows the staff,” Grant said in an interview.

Board member Jose Flores voted against seeking internal candidates only, and was joined by Treasurer Raynard Ross in voting to seek both internal and external candidates. Flores said past interims with suitable skills have been hired from outside the district, according to an MLive report.

Kristian Grant

Looking for Wider Pool

The position will be posted following the board’s May 6 work session. Grant said it’s possible the interim could be hired at the May 13 regularly scheduled meeting, noting the board wants someone in place well before Neal’s June 30 retirement date. The interim should serve “at least six months,” Grant said, adding the optimum time to post superintendent openings is between November and January.

By hiring a national search firm the board hopes to solicit a wider range of candidates from districts similar to GRPS, rather than tapping the “same pool we’ve worked with” in the MASB search, Grant said.

She expressed confidence the second search can find someone who meets the specific needs of GRPS, and whom the board will support unanimously or nearly so. The April 13 vote to reopen the search was approved 6-3, with board members Flores, Ross and Kimberley Williams strongly supporting Horton.

“While both (Horton and Talley) were wonderful, I didn’t think they were the best we could find for GRPS specifically,” Grant said. Now that they’ve had their first experience with a superintendent search – Neal was hired as an interim in 2012 before becoming permanent – board members are “in a better place to find that exact person,” she said.

“One thing the board is unified on is what’s best for the kids,” she added. “When we do find what’s right for us, I think we’ll be unified on that.”

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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