The first few days of school this week have went great, according to Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Ron McDermed. “It’s been the smoothest start to the school year I’ve ever had, and I’ve been around a long time,” he said. McDermed gave credit to the school staff for the smooth opening. “Everyone was ready, everyone was prepared. I’ve been walking around and seeing it. People that care make a huge difference.”
One thing that helped this year was at the kindergarten level at Cedar Trails. Colored t-shirts were passed out to kindergarten students and all students in a particular class were given the same color. One teacher might be red, another blue, another green, etc. Students will wear the shirt for the first week to identify what class they are in.
“It’s been very helpful in helping students find the right teacher,” noted McDermed. “I spoke to one little girl who didn’t even know her last name, but I was able to help her find her teacher because of her shirt.”
Another change this year occurred at both Cedar Trails and Cedar View. Mike Duffy, longtime principal at Cedar View, is now a co-principal at Cedar Trails with Jennifer Harper. Andy Secor, formerly assistant principal at Cedar Trails, is now principal at Cedar View.
“Mike had been principal at Cedar View a long time, and we thought this would give him a fresh start, something different,” explained McDermed. “And Andy is newer to the administrative team. We try to build leadership in all of our administrators, and this was an opportunity for Andy to have a building. We want to have skilled leaders for when other changes occur down the road, which they will.”
Also new this year is the 24th Century classrooms. There is a test program going on in several classrooms—one kindergarten, one first grade, and two classes in each second, third, fourth and fifth grades—where the students are exploring whether iPads make a difference in learning in the classroom. The study was funded by a federal grant under Title IID. Each student will be given an iPad, and the teachers will work together to see if it makes a difference. “We want to be careful and thoughtful about this,” explained McDermed. “Some schools are doing it because it’s the cool thing to do. But we don’t want to do it for that. “ He said that the study will last two years, and they will make a decision after that.
A change at the high school level this year will help students with online classes. A fulltime staff person will be in the media center during the school day and after school to supply online class work for students taking extra classes or those making up credits they missed. Kent Intermediate School District is providing the courses.
McDermed said the sinking fund money is now starting to come in, and the committee has narrowed down to areas with immediate needs: the traffic drop offs and roads at Cedar Trails and the High School. “By Christmas we should have a plan,” said McDermed. “Next summer we’ll start on one of them, and for the next five or six years, the fund will be used for infrastructure (like roads).”