The Grand Rapids Public School Board has decided to suspend its superintendent search for at least another 18 months.

Following a groundswell of support and positive feedback from students, parents, staff members, and the community for Interim Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal, the Grand Rapids Board of Education voted Monday night to suspend its superintendent search and extend the interim superintendent contract with Weatherall Neal for 18 months pending the board's superintendent evaluation process.

The decision comes nearly three weeks to the day after Weatherall Neal was appointed interim superintendent, shortly after the board accepted a study leave request from then-Superintendent Bernard Taylor Jr. Since then, Weatherall Neal has engaged in an all-out "listening tour" to gather feedback from internal and external stakeholders about what is working, what is not working, what are barriers and what are solutions.

The "listening tour" included more than 60 different small and large group meetings with students, parents, GRPS employees, community partners, elected officials and more. She also conducted an anonymous survey of all GRPS staff members with more than 500 responses received to date.

The "listening tour" will continue in the coming months, but the initial feedback received was used by Weatherall Neal to provide the Board of Education with suggestions on how to reorganize the district for the next six months.

The board unanimously offered its support for Weatherall Neal serving as interim for the next 18 months.

"We certainly knew that Ms. Weatherall Neal was the right person, at the right time, when we appointed her interim superintendent. Now, based on the overwhelming response and feedback the board has received, as well as Ms. Weatherall Neal's leadership and approach to problem solving, it was clear that she is the right person for the long run and deserves the time necessary to achieve her strategic goals," said Senita Lenear, president of the Grand Rapids Board of Education.

Weatherall Neal is a 35-year GRPS veteran and Creston High School graduate who has extensive experience within the district and community. She served as Assistant Superintendent of Community and Student Affairs for the last nine years. Prior to that, she served in numerous capacities including Co-Director of Community and Student Services, Coordinator of Compliance, Administrative Assistant and Student Worker.

Weatherall Neal earned an associate's degree in Liberal Arts from Grand Rapids Community College, earned a bachelor of science in Public Administration at Grand Valley State University and earned a master of arts in Education Leadership at Western Michigan University.

She is also a graduate of the Michigan Leadership Institute Superintendent's Leadership Academy.

Weatherall Neal has been married for 35 years and has two children and two grandchildren.

"As I said then and I will say again today, I plan to spend even more time meeting with and learning from our stakeholders. I want students, parents, teachers, principals, support staff, volunteers, alumni, and community leaders to know they have a voice that will be heard, respected and acted upon. I particularly want input on how we can collectively work to strengthen and improve academic achievement; leadership and instructional development; customer service and school culture; internal and external relationships; student attendance and behavior; retention and recruitment of talented staff; and overall accountability. We have great students, great staff, great partners, great supporters and a well developed strategic plan to keep GRPS moving in the right direction," said Weatherall Neal.

She will be releasing details on a new organizational structure first to staff members and then to the broader community in the coming days.