Every year a new cohort for Leadership Grand Rapids is picked to represent a variety of backgrounds and industries. The Class of 2022 includes five members with connections to K-12 education:
- Maleika Brown, director of equity and inclusion, Grand Rapids Public Schools
- Elizabeth Cotter, deputy superintendent, Northview Public Schools
- Brooke Davis, director of diversity, equity, and mental health services, Kenowa Hills Public Schools
- Sunil Joy, data scientist, Kent ISD
- Mary Kay Murphy, senior director, Leading Educators
Joy said that when he scanned the list of classmates recently, he was thrilled to see the representation from the education sector.
“When you look at something like that, your first instinct is always to look for the people you know,” he said with a chuckle. But, he added, the reason he applied for Leadership Grand Rapids in the first place was to broaden his network of who he knows and what sectors they represent, so he also was happy to see the many from outside education.
“When I interviewed with the (Leadership Grand Rapids) team, I remember talking about the pandemic and how it showed how interconnected our society truly is. We often only interact with people in our fields, and Leadership Grand Rapids becomes an opportunity to build relationships and networks across different sectors. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Brown echoed her fellow honoree.
“I am over the moon excited about being chosen,” she said. “I look forward to growing alongside the brilliant community-minded citizens that make up this class.”
Schoolhouse as Community Centerpiece
Participants are selected based on leadership in their organization and/or community, and their interest in learning, self-discovery, community engagement and networking. They also are picked each year to represent a cross-section of business, non-profits and units of government as well as ages, cultural perspectives and ethnic backgrounds.
“I am convinced that our community can do more to center education, combat age-old systems, policies and practices that negatively impact our students and families, and utilize educators’ and students’ strengths to benefit our broader community.”
— Maleika Brown, director of equity and inclusion, Grand Rapids Public Schools
That’s appealing to Murphy, who said that for a quarter century now she has worked to build an extensive professional network in the Kent County educational community.
“I have experienced first-hand the impact that educators with a shared commitment and goal can have on students,” she said. “I also know that the impact could be greater with collaboration from other industries and systems, and this is what led me to apply. I want to better understand the shared and different spaces that different sectors hold so that I can start to better see ways we can identify a shared vision and collaborate around shared goals.”
GRPS’ Brown heartily agreed.
“I believe the schoolhouse and those it serves to be the centerpiece of every community,” she said. “This means that we are very much a part of and are impacted by the complex issues faced by our city. I am convinced that our community can do more to center education, combat age-old systems, policies and practices that negatively impact our students and families, and utilize educators’ and students’ strengths to benefit our broader community.”