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Don’t forget to vote for school board May 4

By Judy Reed

Residents of the Cedar Springs Public Schools District will head to the polls on Tuesday, May 4, to vote on who will fill several open seats. Four candidates are running for two four-year terms and a one-year partial term. The two four-year seats currently belong to long-time trustees Carolee Cole and Norton Johnson, who will not be running again. The one-year seat is currently held by Jeff Gust, who was appointed when Pamela Conley resigned earlier this year. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Jeff Gust

Jeff Gust, 42, is running for the one year term. He was born and raised in Cedar Springs, and he and his wife, Barb, have three children: Jason, 18, Brooke, 17, and Jacob, 14. All attend Cedar Springs Public Schools. He is president and owner of Gust Construction in Cedar Springs. He has a degree in Construction Mgt. from Ferris State University. He has been athletics booster treasurer for the last three years, and served on the board of education for the last three months.

Why are you running for school board?

“Since being appointed to the vacant seat in March, I have enjoyed and learned so much. I would like to continue to serve on the board and see some of the tough issues we have been dealing with completed,” he said.

What is the main strength you bring to the board of education?

Jeff said he thinks the main strength he brings to the board would be his strong background in business dealing with many of the same issues facing the school district.

What do you see as the major challenge facing education in Cedar Springs and how would you address this challenge?

Jeff said the major challenge is working with the state to provide a better way of funding public schools, and balancing their budget in a way that is  in the best interest of the students.

Donna Cotton

Donna Cotton, 41, is running for one of the four-year terms. She has been married to Rick Cotton since 1988, and has five children and one grandchild. She graduated from Cedar Springs in 1987, and her two oldest children graduated in 2008 and 2009. After being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, she attended Davenport University and graduated in 2003 with an accounting degree. She currently works for Michigan Family Resources (Head Start), and with her husband owns Stripe It Parking Lot Line Striping & Seal Coating.

Why are you running for school board?

“I have always tried to volunteer for the school district when possible. I am running for school board because I am interested in helping the community. This community helps make me the person I am today, and I feel this is a great opportunity for me to give back to them.”

What is the main strength you bring to the board of education?

“I feel being a mother and small business owner I have to juggle a lot of different responsibilities, and I feel that the experience I have received from this would be a strength I could bring with me to problem solving,” she said.

What do you see as the major challenge facing education in Cedar Springs and how would you address this challenge?

“The thing that comes to mind is budget cuts that we’ve had to deal with,” said Cotton. “Times are hard on everyone right now in one way or another. I feel we need to sit back and look at the picture as if it’s not the big problems, but maybe if a lot of little things could change it would help the big problems work out.”

Shannon Vanderhyde

Shannon Vanderhyde, 32, is running for one of the four-year seats. She grew up in the Rockford area, and says she has always loved this area. She substitute taught in Cedar Springs schools many times and was impressed with the school district. “My husband and I bought our house here one week before we were married. We have been living here for 7 years now, and we still love it,” she said. Vanderhyde worked as a teacher for 3 years before deciding to stay at home with her three children. She currently has a daughter in Kindergarten and a daughter in 4 year old preschool at Cedar Trails, and has worked with the Cedar Trails PTO. She works at the Cedar Springs Public Library and likes working with the public. She is the Youth Services Coordinator there, and is responsible for the storytimes.

Why are you running for school board?

“My primary reason for running for the Cedar Springs Board of Education is that I want to be involved in the distribution of the little money we are getting from the state. It is very easy for me to sit at home and complain about the way things are run and decisions that are made, but I think it is important to act, rather than complain.  It’s time for me to start being involved,” she said.

What is the main strength you bring to the board of education?

“I think that the main strength I bring to the board would be my open mind and varied background,” said Vanderhyde. “I have been a teacher, my parents are teachers, and my husband is a teacher. I have relatives who are on school boards. We have family friends who are in administration. I can see problems and issues from most perspectives and am able to think logically about things.”

What do you see as the major challenge facing education in Cedar Springs and how would you address this challenge?

“I think it is obvious that the main challenge of the Cedar Springs district is the lack of funding coming in from Lansing. We can ask for more, go to Lansing and argue for more, form committees to solve the problem, but we need to focus our efforts here and try to work with the money we have.” She also thinks they need to refocus on early childhood programs. “We have wonderful teachers, support staff, and administration at Cedar Trails; however, from year to year the program changes. This is frustrating not only to the parents who have had children in the program, but also the teachers..I would like to focus on creating an early education program that is not only wonderful, but also consistent.”

Matthew Shoffner of Rockford, is running for one of the four-year seats, but did not respond to our questions.

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