Is Grand Rapids Public Schools district is a place to learn, to dream, and to feel safe and accomplished? Is it a place where employees love to come to work, and where students want to go to school? Is it a place where parents and students can celebrate agents of change? With Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal, it will be. A once frail school district will be mighty again because of the lifelong passion and indestructible determination of Teresa and her purpose-driven dream.
Teresa is intentional. The goals she sets and the way she goes about achieving them are carefully mapped out to capture as much success as possible along their way to fruition: “We’re changing the culture in our district to one of greatness … We are a great district and we have to behave as such … We will not settle.”
Teresa is fortifying Grand Rapids Public Schools with stringent policies and deliberate procedures. She runs the district like a business and knows that in order to do what is right, cuts need to be made; since she was hired, she’s made nearly one thousand cuts, including closing her alma mater. Although Teresa describes herself as more of a “behind the scenes” person—she had to be pushed, and hard, to throw her name into the hat for the position—she knows she is the right person to do the job that needs to be done. Beneath the bureaucracy is her tenderness for the district. Among the curriculums, budgets, board meetings, and paperwork, the children’s faces are what inspire Teresa to close achievement gaps and fight for a better district—the best district. “I really do believe that all children can learn. I believe in and love this district. I’m the person to do it, because I can do it with love.”
Success for Teresa is ending each day knowing her work is changing lives. “I’m building a team and a culture in this district, so that people can see what I see: I see the magic in these children.”
Photo by: Kelly Braman Photography
Hair: Joanne Riley of Joanne's Creative Boutique 3
Location: Administration Building of Grand Rapids Public Schools