Our Leadership

Teresa Weatherall Neal, Superintendent of Schools

Teresa Weatherall Neal has worked for GRPS for 35 years. She started out as a student worker as a teenager. She has worked in numerous capacities throughout the district including as an Administrative Assistant, Coordinator of Compliance, and Co-Director of Community and Student Service. Just prior to her appointment to Superintendent, she worked as the Assistant Superintendent of Community and Student Affairs for seven years.

She has a love for both the students of Grand Rapids and the city itself. She, herself, is a product of Grand Rapids. She comes from a large family with deep roots in the City. She is proud of her education in GRPS and will brag to anyone that she attended South Middle School and graduated from Creston High School.

After starting a family, she continued her education and earned an Associate’s in Arts degree from Grand Rapids Community College, a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Public Administration from Grand Valley State University and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University. She is also a graduate of the Michigan Leadership Institute’s Superintendent Leadership Academy. Superintendent Neal continuously grows her knowledge by seeking out, and encouraging her staff to seek out, the latest research in education and education reform. She truly believes that education is the greatest key to any success.

In her non-stop quest to help children and remove barriers to learning, she has been instrumental in developing and implementing some of the programs and support services we still utilize. For example, she created The Wheel of Support, the Youth Advocate Program, the Family Support Specialist Program, and many other programs and initiatives that wrap support around students in need.

In her State of the Schools Address, Superintendent Neal made a statement that seemed to resonate with many people in the District and in the community. She stated, “These are our students, our schools, and this is our City.” She truly believes this and is working, and has charged her staff to work, with that statement in mind.

Larry Johnson, Assistant Superintendent Executive Director of Public Safety & Security

Larry received his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI and his Masters Degree in Police Administration, from Ferris State University. Currently, he is pursing a doctorial degree in Educational Leadership.

Larry is a former Benton Harbor MI., Lansing MI, and Retired Grand Rapids MI., Police Officer. He was also a police Sergeant with the Grand Rapids Police Department. While working for the Grand Rapids Police Department, Larry worked in the Departments Vice Unit, Recruiting and Training Unit, and was the supervisor of the Gang Intelligence and Special Response Team (SWAT). Throughout his professional career, Larry has received many awards for his actions, including the Grand Rapids Police most prestigious award, the Meritorious Service Award, for his actions in December of 1995, while involved in an undercover drug operation.

Larry Johnson was appointed Executive Director of Public Safety & School Security of the Grand Rapids Public Schools on August 15, 1997. Larry is responsible for a department that consists of 15 special (sworn) police officers and 25 security officers. Larry attended the United States Secret Services, National Threat Assessment Program. Larry was one of twenty-four individuals in the nation to attend the program, which is aimed at reducing the amount of targeted school violence in our nation schools. He is also a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, National Academy 218th Session in Quantico, VA.

Larry has written several articles that have been published nationally, on the issue of school safety and security and spends hundreds of hours studying and researching the causes of violence in schools. He is a sought after expert in the area of school safety and security. He has traveled throughout the nation to participate in national training conferences as well as speak on school safety issues. He has also served as a consultant to a number of school districts on school safety issues. He is very highly knowledgeable as it relates to school culture, climate and creating and maintaining a safe school environment.

In support of Superintendent Neal’s academic plan he is currently overseeing school safety and security issues, including emergency response and crisis management, bomb threats and safety and security training for teachers, administrators and support staff. Recently, he was given additional responsibilities in managing the districts Management Information systems (MIS), Risk management, EEOC, FERPA, Freedom of Information, and Internal investigations divisions. Mr. Johnson is working with his teams to provide excellent customer service, provide updated and quality technology for all students and to be responsive to the needs of the community and district by being transparent in all of the departments in which he manages by eliminating barriers that impact learning.

Larry is Married and is the father of three children.

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Carolyn J. Evans, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum

Carolyn J. Evans is the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum. She has served in Grand Rapids Public Schools as a teacher, reading teacher, principal of a highly successful central city school, Director of Elementary Literacy, Director of the Reading First Grant, Executive Director of the School Leadership in the Elementary Division, Chief Academic Officer including Curriculum.

Currently, Mrs. Evans is responsible for K-12 curriculum as well as school and district common assessments, foreign language and fine arts, libraries, GRASP, and is the district Education Committee representative.

Mrs. Evans has studied with the Harvard Change Group, holds an Associate’s Degree from Grand Rapids Community College, Bachelor of Arts Degree from Michigan State University, and a Masters of Arts Degree from Grand Valley State University.

She supports the superintendents’ Academic Plan by developing long term strategies addressing transition to Common Core Standards, the inclusion of technology, effective use of libraries, and the reinstatement of fine arts.

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Mel Atkins II, Executive Director of Community & Student Affairs

Mel Atkins II is the Executive Director of Community & Student Affairs. He has served the Grand Rapids Public Schools as a teacher, principal, School Reform Facilitator, and Executive Director of Secondary Schools for the previous twelve years.

Currently, Mr. Atkins oversees the state and federal programs including Title I & 31a, Extending Learning (LOOP/LOFT), Counseling, Community and Student Affairs, Homeless Services, Assessment & Evaluation (A & E), and Student Information Systems (SIS).

Mr. Atkins holds of Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University with an early childhood endorsement (ZA) and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University.

In support of Superintendent Neal’s Academic Plan, Mr. Atkins and his support team are working to develop both a short and long term plan that will focus on Community & Student affairs to directly support the Academic Plan.

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Ronald Gorman, Executive Director of High Schools and Alternative Education

Ronald Gorman is the Executive Director of High Schools and Alternative Education. During the last fifteen years, he has served the Grand Rapids Public Schools as an elementary and a secondary teacher, a high school assistant principal, a high school athletic director, a K-8 principal, and a high school principal.

Mr. Gorman holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Aquinas College, a Master of Educational Leadership degree from Michigan State University, and he is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University. Mr. Gorman holds Michigan Educator Certifications in English, Reading, and Elementary and Secondary Administration. In addition to his educational accomplishments, Mr. Gorman also served eight years in the United States Army Reserves.

In support of Superintendent Neal’s Academic Plan, Mr. Gorman is working with high school principals, teachers, coaches, and curriculum coordinators to create a Vision of Quality Teaching and Learning for GRPS High Schools. This plan will provide a targeted instructional focus to all Grand Rapids Public Schools stakeholders and prepare students for college and career readiness.

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Ken Klomparens, Executive Director of Facilities & Operations

Ken Klomparens, P.E., is the Executive Director of Facilities & Operations, and has served in this position since 2008. Prior to his role with GRPS, Mr. Klomparens served for nearly 18 years as the Facilities Engineer for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and for 14 years with a major engineering consultant

Mr. Klomparens holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University in Civil Engineering, and has been licensed as a Professional Engineer in the state of Michigan since 1981.

In support of Superintendent Neal’s Academic Plan, Mr. Klomparens is working with facilities team members to develop both a short term and long range Facilities Plans that will focus facilities and facility management to directly support the Academic Plan.

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John Helmholdt, Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs

John Helmholdt serves as the Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs for the Grand Rapids Public Schools, the fifth largest public school district in Michigan serving nearly 19,000 students with 3,300+ employees. He is responsible for the district’s internal and external communications, media relations, marketing and advertising, legislative affairs, community relations, and special projects. Prior to his service with GRPS, Helmholdt was partner and co-owner of Strategic Communications Group LLC, a Grand Rapids-based public relations firm and one of the leading political consulting firms in Michigan. His major clients included the Van Andel Institute, John McCain 2008, The Rapid-ITP, Saginaw Transit Authority, Woodrow Wilson Center of the Smithsonian Institute, State Senator Bill Hardiman, State Senator Michelle McManus, Judge Bill Schuette, Attorney General Mike Cox, and many others.

Helmholdt also served as a lobbyist and political affairs manager for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, legislative aide for State Representatives Scott Shackleton and Michelle McManus, and finance director for the McManus for Congress Committee. While in college, he worked as an administrative assistant for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan and interned for Senate Majority Leader Dick Posthumus. He attended James Madison College at Michigan State University, majoring in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy with a minor in Political Science/Public Administration. In addition to his work with GRPS, Helmholdt is vice president and co-owner of The Political Winery LLC, a Michigan-based wine business.

In November 2007 and again in November 2009 and November 2010, Helmholdt was named among the “Top 40 Under Forty Business Leaders” by the Grand Rapids Business Journal. In November 2008, the Grand Rapids Magazine listed him among the 20 young leaders of “The Creative Class” who are “shaping the future of Grand Rapids – and beyond.”

He is a member of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, the Friends of West Michigan Business Political Action Committee, and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Policy and Education/Workforce Development Committees and was recently appointed to the Kent County Zoo Transition Committee.

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Mayda Bahamonde-Gunnell, Executive Director of K-8/Middle Schools and English Language Learners

Mayda Bahamonde-Gunnell is the Executive Director of K-8 and Middle Schools and the English Language Learner Program. During the past 22 years, she has served the Grand Rapids Public Schools as an elementary teacher, elementary principal and the Executive Director of Elementary Schools.

Dr. Gunnell holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Peter’s College, a Master of Education degree from Kean University and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University.

In support of Superintendent Neal’s academic plan, Dr. Gunnell is working with K-8 and middle school principals, teachers, coaches and curriculum coordinators to create a Vision of Quality Teaching and Learning for GRPS K-8 and Middle Schools. This plan will provide a targeted instructional focus to all Grand Rapids Public Schools’ stakeholders and prepare students for college and career readiness.

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Rick Noel, Executive Director of Elementary Schools and Early Childhood Education

Rick Noel is the Executive Director of Elementary Schools and Early Childhood Education. For the past 25 years, Mr. Noel has proudly served the Grand Rapids Public Schools as a teacher, Assistant Principal and Principal.

A product of the Grand Rapids Public Schools, Mr. Noel is a 1983 graduate of City High School, received his Bachelor’s Degree from Aquinas College and holds a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Grand Valley State University. Currently, he is pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership.

In support of Superintendent Neal’s academic plan, Mr. Noel is working with elementary school principals, teachers, coaches and curriculum coordinators to create a Vision of Quality Teaching and Learning for GRPS Elementary Schools. This plan will provide a targeted instructional focus to all Grand Rapids Public Schools’ stakeholders and prepare students for college and career readiness.

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Mary Jo Kuhlman, Assistant Superintendent of Organizational Learning

Mary Jo Kuhlman is currently an administrator with Grand Rapids Public Schools as an Assistant Superintendent, Organizational Learning. She has worked with the school district for the past ten years. GRPS is the 5th largest urban district in Michigan.

Mary Jo Kuhlman holds a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Michigan State University. In addition, she has furthered her studies with organizational development at Aquinas College and professional organizations of Dialogos, Prescening Institute, Fifth Discipline – Learning Organization, Harvard’s Change Leadership Group and Cambridge Leadership Associates on adaptive leadership.

Mary Jo Kuhlman’s career experiences with organizational development include foundations, non-profit, business community, higher education and PreK-12 public schools. Mary Jo has been an administrator and teacher in K-12 education for over 30 years.

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Kurt D. Johnson, Executive Director of K-12 Athletics, K-12 Physical Education Supervisor, K-12 Student Activities and Dual Enrollment

Kurt D. Johnson has served the district for 18 years. In his time here, he has spent multiple years in each division as an administrator (6 years as assistant administrator elementary, 3 years as assistant principal middle school, 4 years as high school principal and 5 years in central office administration). He is a product of the Grand Rapids Public Schools attending all GRPS schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. He graduated from Ottawa Hills High School where he was an All-State athlete in Track and Field and participated in a record-breaking performance in that sport.

Kurt attended Los Angeles Southwest College (Los Angeles, CA), Howard University (Washington, DC) and Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI). He holds an Associates of Arts Degree, Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Master of Arts Degree. Kurt completed training for school reform under the Comer Model at Yale University (New Haven, CT). He plans to continue his studies and attain a terminal degree, Doctorate of Education Leadership.

Kurt currently serves as Executive Director of K-12 Athletics, K-12 Physical Education Supervisor, K-12 Student Activities and Dual Enrollment.

In support of Superintendent Teresa Weatherall-Neal’s Academic Plan, Kurt is placing a focus on ensuring that extra-curricular staff has more than a working knowledge of academic achievement thereby supporting the whole student. He will also continue to work to expand and bring new opportunities and activities for students in physical education and dual enrollment/early college.

Born a musician, Kurt enjoys performing, spending time with family and publically speaking about contemporary educational issues.

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Teresita Cárdenas Long, Executive Director of Special Education

Teresita Cárdenas Long has been the Executive Director of Special Education since July 2012. She worked for the Michigan Department of Education Office of Special Education for six years as the supervisor of the Continuous Improvement and Compliance unit of the. In this role, she oversaw the design and implementation of the special education monitoring system for all public school districts in the state. Prior to that, Ms. Long was assistant superintendent for special programs for the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Her career includes experiences as a general education teacher, bilingual teacher, special education teacher and consultant, supervisor, and elementary principal in various districts in western Michigan and in the Chicago area.

Ms. Long holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan, a Master of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and special education director’s approval from Grand Valley State University. In 2010, Ms. Long was a fellow in the Education Policy Fellowship Program, a national program of the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL). She is a member of the Michigan Association of Administrators for Special Education.

Teresita works with all staff to meet the unique needs of students with individualized education programs (IEPs) and enable them to meet the district’s rigorous academic plan. She is originally from Havana, Cuba.

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Sharron M. Pitts, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources & General Counsel

Sharron leads the GRPS Human Resources & Legal Services Department.  Sharron has over 17 years of experience working in a K-12 environment, having served as the General Counsel and Chief of Staff in a large urban school system prior to joining the GRPS team.  Sharron has been a lawyer for 35 years specializing in the areas of employment law and litigation.   Sharron also has extensive experience in strategic planning, organizational development and process improvement. Sharron has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor degree from Wayne State University School of Law.  Sharron is an active member of the Michigan, Georgia, and Florida Bar Associations, a member of the Floyd Skinner Bar Association, the Michigan Bar Association, the National and Michigan Council of School Attorneys and a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

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