Remove Teresa Neal as GRPS Superintendent for Failure to Dismiss Director Laura LaMore

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In February, 847 teachers and staff at Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) cast their VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE by signing the Michigan Education Association (MEA) petition to remove Laura LaMore as the Special Education Director. Complaints included the toxic atmosphere for teachers and staff along with the health and safety risks to the 4000 Special Education students. This represents an unprecedented level of educational complaints in GRPS history. “These 4000 special education kids are being betrayed, neglected, and being abused, in the sense of the lack of a proper education they should get,” said Mike Stephens, the MEA Uni-Serv Director (Scott, 2018).

During her February 28, 2018 press conference, GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall admitted, “we have not been able to fully staff Emotional Impairment (EI) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) programming this year.” Despite mounting tensions, Neal persistently expresses full confidence and support for Laura LaMore, impeding majority teacher and staff requests for LaMore’s removal. Among numerous cuts to GRPS’ Special Education Programming, LaMore closed a fully functional vocational school (KVO), relocating young adult students with disabilities to a previously vacant elementary school which lacks both adult facilities and a safe environment for adults with special needs.

For five years running, GRPS has had the highest administrative salaries in Kent County. Teresa Neal and her four assistant superintendents made a combined taxpayer funded salary of nearly one million dollars (see KISD records from 2011-2016). Considering the excessive administrative salaries, it is difficult to imagine how Neal can justify cutting essential special needs facilities and programming. Meanwhile, GRPS teacher salaries remain among the lowest in Kent County.

Teresa Weatherall Neal and Betsy DeVos have long supported each other.  At the beginning of Neal’s appointment as GRPS Superintendent, more than 5 years ago, Betsy and her husband, Dick DeVos, gave Neal $67,000 for a management coach.  In Donald Trump’s decision to appoint Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education, Neal stated that DeVos “is knowledgeable about education; she is concerned about children. She’s been a great supporter of mine and the Grand Rapids Public Schools (VanGilder, 2017).”

Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal’s dismissal of the vote of no confidence by the 847 GRPS teachers and staff in the Special Education Director Laura LaMore makes it necessary to demand her removal as superintendent from GRPS. Neal's refusal acts as a statement that she does not care about the overwhelming no confidence vote, the low staff morale, the toxic work environment, the culture of fear and retaliation, and the dismantling of Special Education under Director Laura LaMore. If Neal's defense is that LaMore is only doing what she (Neal) asks her to do, then the problems of the toxic work atmosphere and the dismantling of Special Education are caused by Neal.   

 

References:

GRPS supported agreed to all-expense-paid trip to support Devos. http://www.woodtv.com/eightwest/grps-supt-agreed-to-all-expenses-paid-trip-to-support-devos/1003266252 Rachel VanGilder. January 26, 2017.

KISD records from 2011-2016.

Teresa Weatherall Neal’s press conference about the MEA petition to remove Laura LaMore. February 28, 2018.

Unions, parents try to force removal of GRPS special education director.

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2018/02/unions_parents_try_to_force_re.html Monica Scott. March 01, 2018.



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