The Grand Rapids Promise Zone represents the first city-wide partnership between public, public charter, and private schools in Grand Rapids’ history. Today, the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority has one goal: To sustainably remove financial barriers to higher education for ALL Grand Rapids students.
On January 16, 2018, the Grand Rapids Public Schools. (GRPS) Board of Education adopted a resolution declaring its intention to establish a Promise Zone throughout the geographic boundary of GRPS pursuant to Michigan Promise Zone Authority Act (Act 549 of 2008). The adopted resolution and corresponding affidavits of proper notices and publications were submitted to the Michigan Department of Treasury on February 15, 2018. On July 9, 2018, the Michigan Department of Treasury confirmed Grand Rapids’ designation as a Michigan Promise Zone.
In taking the next step toward establishing a Promise Zone Authority, the GRPS Board of Education appointed 9 members to the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority Board. Two additional members were appointed by Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives and the Majority Leader of the Michigan Senate. On September 11, 2019, the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority Board held its first meeting, during which board members took the constitutional oath of office, elected a chairperson, and established the expiration dates for each member’s term.
Meet the Board
Teresa Weatherall Neal
Leadriane Roby, Ph.D.
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss became the City of Grand Rapids’ first female Mayor when she took office on January 1, 2016. She was re-elected for a second term in November 2019. She previously served as a Second Ward City Commissioner for 10 years.
Mayor Bliss also serves as the Frederik Meijer Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Grand Valley's Frederik Meijer Honors College, where she teaches a junior seminar. She earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of South Alabama and a master’s in social work from Michigan State University.
Mayor Bliss is an active member of the community. She is Past President of the Michigan Municipal League and in addition to the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority currently serves on the boards of the Downtown Development Authority, Experience Grand Rapids, Convention Arena Authority, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, National League of Cities Council on Youth, Education, and Families, Urban Core Mayors, The Economic Club of Grand Rapids and the Interurban Transit Partnership.
Mayor Bliss has been recognized and honored locally as well as statewide for her commitment, dedication and work in the field of child abuse and neglect and for her leadership in the community. Recognitions include:
- Sault Area High School Distinguished Alumnus Award
- National Forum for Black Public Administrators Leadership Excellence Award
- US Conference of Mayors Small Business Advocate Award
- Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan Peacemaker Award
- WMCAT’s Award for Innovation
- Kathryn Timmer Literacy Award
- Crain’s 100 Most Influential Women
- Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan
- Five-time recipient of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty distinction
- West Michigan Public Relations Society of America’s Communicator of the Year Award
- ATHENA Young Professional Award
- Tim Pope Memorial Award for Outstanding Young Governmental Leader
- Christine Nelson Professional Award for Service to Children
- Michigan Professional Society on the Abuse of Children Special Recognition Award
As Mayor, she is committed to supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs, working to create a cleaner, healthier and safer community and has a commitment to addressing disparities in our community to make sure that Grand Rapids is a great place for everyone.
Mr. Cuevas is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. He oversees all revenue generation activities, member experience and marketing efforts to help move business forward and create an environment where all businesses can thrive.
Thomas DeJonge serves as Superintendent of Grand Rapids Christian Schools, a private, faith-based school system that enrolls 2,350 students in Preschool – 12th Grade on five (5) campuses located throughout the Grand Rapids community. He has held that position since 2004. Prior to serving as GRCS’ Superintendent, Mr. DeJonge served for 25 years in building-level and central administrative and teaching positions in public schools located throughout West Michigan, including serving two years as Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, three years as Director of Community and Human Relations, 13 years as an elementary principal, and seven years as an elementary special education and early childhood classroom teacher.
Under his leadership as superintendent, Grand Rapids Christian Schools has:
- raised and invested more than $70 million in new capital construction and facility renovations at each of Grand Rapids Christian Schools’ five campuses in order to ensure facilities align with and support its broad range of educational programs and instructional priorities;
- increased the Grand Rapids Christian School Foundation from $4 million to nearly $23 million;
- doubled the Schools’ annual fund, which provides resources for financial aid and educational programs, to $1.7 million per year; and
- aligned Grand Rapids Christian Schools’ Articles of Incorporation, governing bylaws, governance structures, and policy handbook in order to strengthen its strategic position within the community.
Mr. DeJonge resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan with his wife, Jacquie, a School Psychologist. He has two adult children: Leah DeJonge Rinker, a teacher at Wheaton Academy, a faith-based high school located in suburban Chicago; and Austin DeJonge, Associate Creative Director, at The&Partnership, an advertising and marketing agency located in New York City.
David Faber is the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Grand Rapids, where he has served for the past 11 years. As superintendent, he has led the 31 schools within the 11-county diocese in building new governance models and creating a strong alliance among the schools. The plan "Catholic Schools: Bridging Faith and Future" has brought about a network of shared services, greater collaboration and training at all levels of leadership. Following decades of declining enrollment, these efforts have led to steady enrollment across the Diocese over the last seven years and record preschool, kindergarten, and early elementary enrollments as a strategy for long-term growth. He previously served as principal of St. Thomas the Apostle School in Grand Rapids for 17 years, the last 10 of which saw capacity enrollment and waiting lists. He also taught in the Zeeland Public Schools, where he began his educational career.
Mr. Faber holds his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Grand Valley State University and his B.S. in Elementary Education from Franciscan University. He has served on the board and education advisory committee of Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes. He serves on the boards of Harmel Academy of the Trades and the Michigan Association of Non-public Schools. He is chair of the education committee of the Michigan Catholic Conference and is a member of the National Catholic Education Association’s National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools (NSBECS) Council.
Mr. Faber is energized by creating educational opportunities that help young people seek and fulfill God’s plan for learning and life. He resides in the City of Grand Rapids with his wife, Sarah. They have five adult children and ten grandchildren, eight of which are being raised right here in Grand Rapids.
J.C. Huizenga is an entrepreneur, education reformer, and business leader. He is the chairman and founder of Huizenga Group which operates seven diverse manufacturing companies, a commercial contracting firm, and a consumer products packaging company. Mr. Huizenga also began National Heritage Academies, now serving over 54,000 students and launched a high school initiative, PrepNet, which serves over 2,000 students in Michigan. Both companies have been listed in Inc. Magazine’s “500 Fastest Growing Private Companies.”
Mr. Huizenga serves on various boards: Mackinac Center, Acton Institute, Seidman School of Business, Grand Valley State University Foundation and Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. Mr. Huizenga has also chaired the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Huizenga earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and his MBA from Michigan State University. J.C. and his wife, Tammy, live in the Grand Rapids area.
Holly Johnson was named President of the Frey Foundation in August 2018. Holly leads the Frey team and directs a grantmaking program awarding over $6 million annually to non-profit organizations throughout West and Northern Michigan. Based in Grand Rapids, the Frey Foundation is one of West Michigan’s largest family foundations.
Holly has spent her career in community based philanthropy. She has previously led campaign efforts at Greater Ottawa County United Way and, most recently, has had leadership roles at the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation serving as Vice President of Development for five years and President for six.
Holly has been actively involved in many community organizations: Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance, Council of Michigan Foundations, Council on Foundations, Association of Fundraising Professionals, West Michigan Planned Giving Group, Lake Michigan Estate Planning Council, and Lakeshore ATHENA. Currently, she is a Trustee on the Grand Valley State University Foundation Board, serves on the Board of Lakeshore Advantage and is a member of the Spectrum Health Finance Advisory Committee.
Holly has been named to the top 200 list of the most powerful business leaders in Grand Rapids as well as the top 50 list of the most influential women in Grand Rapids.
Holly splits her time living between Grand Rapids and Spring Lake with her husband, Erick, and they have two adult children – Madelynn and Ian.
Holly earned a BA in English from Hillsdale College and an MPA from Grand Valley State University.
Jerry McComb served as a classroom teacher for ten years and a principal for twenty years with the Grand Rapids Public Schools, retiring in the spring of 2019.
During his career received numerous awards, including the Outstanding Educator Award from the Grand Rapids Foundation, Leadership from Grand Rapids Public Schools, and Leadership 1, 2, and 3 from the National Association of Secondary School Principals. These honors acknowledged Mr. McComb’s positive impact on the future of his community and his unwavering commitment to the pursuit of excellence.
Mr. McComb holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Rust College (HBCU) in Holly Springs, Mississippi and a Master of Education from Grand Valley University in Allendale, Michigan.
Teresa Weatherall Neal
President and CEO
4766 Chalet Lane S.W.
Wyoming, MI 49519
Teresa Weatherall Neal serves as the President and CEO of LEAD 616, a leadership development company. She provides professional development, leadership coaching, group facilitation, strategic planning, organization audits, and community networking sessions. She serves as an instructor and coach for the Michigan Superintendent’s Leadership Academy. Teresa Weatherall Neal recently retired as the Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent (January 2012 – June 30, 2019). Teresa served the GRPS district for 43 years, in a variety of positions. Prior to becoming the Superintendent of GRPS, she served as a member of the Superintendent’s Cabinet for 12 years. She is dedicated to enhancing and empowering members of the educational communities and its stakeholders.
Teresa has received two Honorary Doctoral Degrees for her leadership in education, one from Grand Valley State University and one from Ferris State University. In addition, she holds a Master of Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University, a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from Grand Valley State University, and an Associate Degree from Grand Rapids Community College. She has a certification in Superintendent’s Leadership Academy, extensive course work and educational sessions with Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, Adaptive Leadership with Cambridge Leadership Development, and Institute for Learning through the University of Pittsburg. Her professional training includes 20 years of grant and compliance development with state and federal programs, community and family engagement training, organization analysis, strategic planning, and leadership development.
Teresa is very active in her community and has been instrumental in establishing the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority, serving as the chairperson for two years. She is currently a very active member of the GRPZA and serves on numerous additional boards, including Helen Children DeVos Hospital, President Gerald R. Ford Foundation (national), KConnect Community Board of Trustees, Kent Count Opportunity for All, and the Van Andel Education Institute. Formally, she has served on the State of Michigan Governor’s Educational Committee. She has received recognition and awards by local, state, and national organizations for her leadership accomplishments.
Prior to retirement, Teresa served as the Superintendent of the Grand Rapids Public Schools for over seven years. She specializes in organizational growth, leadership development, and system-wide transformational change. During her tenure, Grand Rapids Public Schools served 18,000 public, private, and charter students and managed over 3,000 employees and an annual budget of over 300 million dollars. During her tenure she:
- advanced private/public partnerships
- stabilized and grew an urban school system
- decreased chronic absenteeism
- increased community engagement and involvement
- increased academic achievement
- instituted a district wide school uniform policy for students
- increased dual enrollment
- increased the graduation rate,
- opened new schools
- passed a $175 million dollar bond, A+ bond rating
- was instrumental in creating the Grand Rapids Promise Zone
In addition to overhauling GRPS’ performance metrics, Teresa and her team worked to change the culture of the district. Her leadership style focused on the system and all of its stakeholders—staff, community, family, and children.
Leadriane Roby, Ph.D.
Dr. Leadriane Roby (pronounced Lee-dree-in), the superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools since July 2020, is an experienced and reflective educator with a 27-year history in public education. She began her career as an elementary classroom teacher, advancing to other roles including instructional leader, mentor, elementary and secondary principal and district leader in school districts in Michigan and Minnesota.
Leadriane has always been determined to make a difference in the lives of students. She deeply believes quality teacher preparation shapes the academic experiences and students benefit by having caring, strong and engaged adults who believe in them. She continues to be a strong advocate for educational equity, access, and excellence for all learners and has facilitated initiatives to positively transform preK-12+ education systems.
Dr. Roby and her husband, Steven, are excited to be active members in the Grand Rapids Community and to call Michigan home once again.
Diana R. Sieger is the President of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, a position she has held for 34 years. Under her leadership, assets have grown from $35M to $425M. She is an effective community, statewide, and national leader.
Some of her professional and community activities include:
- Board of the Office of Foundation Liaison, Governor’s Office
- Board, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority
- Council on Foundations, Board of Directors and Executive Committee –from 2010 to 2016
- Council of Michigan Foundations, Past Board member and Chair
- Kent County Family and Children’s Coordinating Council
- Board of Directors, KConnect
- Board of Directors, Kent Schools Services Network
- Numerous committees with the City of Grand Rapids, County of Kent, State of Michigan and across the country
In her career, which has spanned more than 48 years, Diana has been honored for the breadth of her leadership and the depth of her expertise in the Grand Rapids community and beyond. She has two honorary degrees—Doctorates of Humane Letters from Aquinas College and Grand Valley State University. Other honors include being named one of the “50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan” six times by the Grand Rapids Business Journal; being named one of Crain’s Detroit 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan in 2016; receiving Western Michigan University’s Distinguished Alumni award in 2021; and being inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame through Michigan Women Forward.
She earned a Masters of Social Work degree from Western Michigan University with a concentration on Policy, Planning, and Administration and has continued with Executive Education courses at Stanford University and Harvard University.