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District developing action steps for new strategic plan

Public provides input on six themes for improvement

Grand Rapids — Taking the next steps in developing a framework for a new comprehensive plan for the district, Grand Rapids Public Schools has created six themes for the community to provide their feedback on how to put it into action. 

Goals for the GRPS Strategic Plan’s six initiatives include achieving sustainable changes in practices and approaches, and targeting tangible changes in behavior among students, staff and schools.  

With the new plan, in development since last spring, GRPS is building on the 2012 Transformation Plan to “chart a new course” and address the growing changes in the community, officials say. The district held meetings last fall for public input on the themes, took more in-person and online comment this month, and is now wrapping up the strategy development phase of their timeline. 

The action planning phase, estimated to occur between February and April of this year, will identify initiative sponsors and owners, create action plans for initiatives and develop a monitoring process. 

‘We’ve been doing education the same way for so long; now it’s not just about sitting at the table but allowing students to feel like they can share their identity and culture.’

– Maleika Joubert Brown, GRPS director of equity and inclusion 
At the GRPS stakeholder input open house on the 2021 Strategic Plan, community members could provide their feedback for the six themes on color-coded sticky notes

Six Themes for Improvement  
Strategic Theme 1: Meet holistic scholar needs
Strategic Theme 2: Optimize and value all school options
Strategic Theme 3: Ensure equitable access and outcomes
Strategic Theme 4: Enhance curriculum and program opportunities
Strategic Theme 5: Cultivate an engaged, impactful and more diverse workforce 
Strategic Theme 6: Create a culture of trust, collaboration and stewardship

The plan’s highly detailed themes were crafted by committees that include GRPS educators as well as representatives of community organizations such as the Urban League, The Right Place and The Diatribe. 

At a recent open house to gather input on the plan, Enrollment Equity Coordinator Megan Persons sat at the table representing Strategic Theme 2, to “optimize and value all school options.” She helped answer the community’s questions and clarify the process by which her team of nine GRPS staff members came to formulate their theme. 

“This team worked on telling our story so that our district can show all success stories and ensure all GRPS schools are valued options for families,” Persons said. “There is a perception of GRPS in the community, whether or not it’s accurate or true, so if there is a gap, how can we close it?” 

A GRPS alumni and parent to a student, Persons also expressed her excitement about the “momentum of the process.”

“What’s good for my kid is good for all kids,” she added. 

Continuing Efforts for Equity   

At the next table, GRPS Director of Equity and Inclusion Maleika Joubert Brown explained Strategic Theme 3’s objective of creating equitable systems to distribute resources to schools based on students’ needs.

“We’re taking baby steps towards anti-racist and inclusive practices in our district,” Brown said. “We’ve been doing education the same way for so long; now it’s not just about sitting at the table but allowing students to feel like they can share their identity and culture.”

Each theme is detailed on the district’s website for those interested in learning more and providing feedback on potential plans for taking action on the areas the community has identified as most important for improving our district.

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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