The Rapidian

Community forum discussed future of GRPS

GR V.O.I.C.E. hosted a community forum to discuss the future of GRPS, including the upcoming Nov. 8 millage proposal. Panelists and audience members weighed in on what's working and what isn't.
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On Tuesday, November 1, GR V.O.I.C.E. (Volunteer Opportunities and Involvement with Community Education)  hosted a community forum at Gerald R. Ford Middle School to discuss the future of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including the upcoming millage proposal on the November 8 ballot.

A small but enthusiastic crowd gathered to listen to panelists discuss their goals for the district and the challenges inherent to the process. One challenge the panelists agreed upon was community involvement. Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor applauded the work of the Board and community members on the district’s five-year strategic plan (available on the
Grand Rapids Public Schools website), “We have excellent leadership, they can get it done, but the resolve has to come to you that are sitting here.”

Board President Senita Lenear pointed out “the faces that I’m seeing are the same faces I always see,” and challenged the audience to engage other residents to take an active role in the city’s public schools. As part of the strategic planning process, two Visioning Conferences and eight staff dialogue sessions were held, as well as four community dialogue sessions. They also received nearly 1,000 responses to surveys sent to students, parents, and teachers.

“You can bring in all the consultants you want,” added panelist Ana Doonan, Director of Neighborhood Services for LINC Community Revitalization Inc., “but ultimately we want to rely on the wisdom of the community.” Lenear agreed, “We want the community to challenge us, to ask us why we’re doing the things we’re doing.”

Jonathan Jelks moderated the discussion, which also featured Revs. Nathaniel Moody and Jerry Bishop, Chana Edmond-Verley, Senior Program Officer for
Believe 2 Become,  and John Helmholdt, Director of Communications and External Relations.

Voters in the community will have the chance to vote on a millage proposal to fund upgrades and repairs to the schools on November 8 (see full list of proposed projects
here). Superintendent Taylor described the millage as way for the community to “support the district in a tangible way.”

Taylor, who has served as Superintendent since 2006 and will resign at the end of the year, said that although he still views the disconnect in relationships between schools, parents, and teachers as a main challenge to the district, he sees the initiatives in place as a great opportunity.

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