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Archive | March, 2016

School board bits

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education met again on Monday, March 28. The meeting started with the board adding an agenda item to read a board statement, which was passed. Trustee Michelle Bayink asked to add an agenda item for discussion on comments from the last meeting, but it was not seconded, and died for lack of support.
Several people read letters or made comments to the board.
Bruce Marvel, an educator in another district, whose children attend Cedar Springs, asked the board, What are you? He noted Board president Eary’s statement about them only having one employee, and then asked why the contracts begin with the words “The Board of Education of Cedar Springs Public Schools and ____ enter into a contract”? He also asked if the board only has one employee, why did they tell the staff in the October 12 meeting, “if you don’t like it, you can take you services elsewhere”? (See an edited version of his letter on page 5)
Jan Wallace, a former member of the Board of Ed for 12 years, and said they were always transparent and accountable to the community. She noted the difficulties they overcame (a failed BOE recall, teacher’s strike, major budget issues) and how they healed with the support of the entire community and staff. She questioned Board president Patricia Eary’s statement about them only having one employee—the superintendent; and took issue with her previous statement about it not being an “open, public meeting…we are here to do the work of the board.” Wallace said the pubic is an important part of that work and has a right to speak. (See an edited version of her letter on page 5)
Tammie Drake, a school of choice mom, also spoke about communication has dissipated in the district. She said the board and superintendent are expected to listen, be curious, and act when needed. She said that we once were leaders and now people are asking what’s going on in Cedar Springs. (See her edited letter on page 6)
Teacher Libby Metiva also spoke. She asked that the board honor the request by trustee Michelle Bayink to address concerns by the community. She also asked who are the good ol’ boys? She said that term has been used in conversations in the community, and she wondered if the board might be allowing personal feelings or prejudices regarding good ol’ boys to influence their decisions as a governing body. She also tried to explain that the issue they are currently facing is not about the inability to embrace change. She listed several ways that the staff has changed over the last several  years. Metiva noted teachers with 30-plus years experience speaking out because they are concerned. “Clearly our community is dysfunctional and divided,” she said. “What is stopping you from digging deeper? Aren’t our children worth it?”
Jamie Zywycki spoke and asked the board members to remember that they are trustees for the students.
First grade teacher Karen Gebhardt, who is in her 30th year of teaching, also spoke. She talked about the anti-bullying program “be nice” and importance of treating people with respect. “While we’ve expected our students to abide by this, with the administration and teachers it’s been harder,” she said. “The days of intimidation are over. It used to be that way at Cedar Trails but it’s not anymore.”
Many have questioned Board president Eary’s statement that they only have one employee—the superintendent. And while they may give the Superintendent the authority to hire and fire, according to the Michigan Association of School Boards website, under powers and duties of the local school board, it says that specific provisions in the revised school code assigns the board responsibilities such as employing a superintendent, other administrators, teachers, and support staff personnel. That job is seen each meeting when the board votes on the consent agenda to approve new hires or release employees.
For more on school board responsibility visit https://www.masb.org/your-local-school-board.aspx.

Cedar Springs Board meeting statement

The board read a statement during the meeting. “Let me first begin by thanking all of you for being present this evening as a part of this school board meeting. We recognize the interest in education by our community members, and value the opportunity to gather, listen to one another and consider the affirmations, questions and concerns of the community as part of our service as the Cedar Springs Public Schools board members.
As we have encountered change during the course of the year, we have heard affirmations, questions and concerns. We are proud that our community cares a great deal about the quality of education available for all our children. The Cedar Springs Board of Education cares a great deal as well. We are committed to proved an education of excellence for the children in the community.
The board is working with the Superintendent to ensure that wwe are in line with educational best practices and operations across our district. We are committed to being data driven in our decision making, as we continually serve our students and inform our community. We are committed to civility and respect, especially when there is a difference of opinion. These are the values we must uphold and model for all in our district, including our students.
We also stand committed to holding individuals accountable to work with integrity in their positions. Whether an individual is the Superintendent, a teacher in the classroom, a coach or a support staff member, we have high expectations and we expect excellence in all that we do. Valuing high expectations for ourselves sets the foundation for the best educational programs for children in our district.
The Cedar Springs Board of Education is listening to the community and is responsive to your concerns. We will continue to be in communication regarding a range of issues in the days ahead. We believe the leadership team shares our commitment and together we are confident that the children of Cedar Springs are going to continue to receive a great education.
The board and district leadership team appreciate the hard work done on a daily basis by staff and teachers in the classroom and on the grounds of the district. Effective teaching and learning is happening, and here are some examples:
*Long time teachers like Larry Reyburn at Cedar Springs High School who has always wanted to teach since his days as an FFA student at CSHS in the late 1960s.
*Becky Powell, who over the past 20 years has provided many hours of college preparation volunteer time with our CSHS students.
*The teachers at Cedar Trails who were recently commended for their implementation of Responsive Classrooms by a national trainer.
*Staff at our Cedar Springs Community Health Center, who support the physical and mental health needs of all students.
*The many other stories of exceptional adacemic success by our students such as Madison Skelonc, a 6th grader honored for scoring in the top 20 percent of the ACT of all college-bound high school students.
*Many excellent contributions in our various co-curricular programs.
*Our many volunteers who continue to partner with Cedar Springs, including parents and grandparents.
We live in a community where our students are learning and accomplishing great things. We live in a community that cares about education and our students. As a board, we are committed to continue this tradition of excellence going forward. Our community partnerships make a difference in our shared commitment to provide a high quality, world class education that ensures success for every child through exemplary teaching and learning.

Posted in Cedar Springs Public Schools, NewsComments (0)

From the Pulpit: Finding Peace

By Pastor Ryan Black

There aren’t enough hours in the day to worry about all that is wrong. Whether it is world events, work, school, family or just life in general, there is always something to cause our fretfulness. Life creates many anxious moments. But when the pressures of life continually increase, you may feel anxious all of the time. The pressure can be so great that you wonder if you will be able to carry the load of anxiety even one step further. Fortunately, we have the anti-worry, anti-anxiety antidote: Jesus!

Anxiety is a mind thing. Jesus understands this issue and is with you when facing it as he can put your mind to rest. Christ himself suffered anxiety to the point of sweating blood. Whether you’re a Christian or non-Christian, stress is something we all face and agonize. For this reason, we need to recognize that Jesus is there for each and every one of us in our times of uneasiness. John 14:1 says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” Why do we go through stressful moments and phases in our lives? Scripture tells us it’s to build up our perseverance, endurance and faith (Romans 5:3-5). Typically, when we go through traumatic times, we come out of it stronger and more well-rounded as a person.

We are all afraid of something. And whether our fear is real or irrational, if we let ourselves get caught up in a sea of worry, we run the risk of drowning in it. While we can never be completely free from worry, Jesus gives us a sense of peace and comfort as we deal with it. John 14:27 reads, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Cedar Springs Christian Church, 340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

Posted in Church Connection, From the PulpitComments (0)

GORDY MAY

13C-mem-MayWebNovember 24, 1933 – April 6, 2006

Gone yet not forgotten,

Forever in our hearts.

We love and miss you,

The May Family

Posted in Church Connection, MemorialComments (0)

Board of education works for the community

I am a past member of the Cedar Springs Board of Education (BOE) serving for 12 years as a trustee, VP and President.

When elected to the BOE, we had just experienced some very difficult times in the district, including a split BOE with a fractured agenda, a failed BOE recall election, major budget issues and a teacher strike. We began to heal with a devoted BOE and Superintendent whose first concern was the students and the quality of their education. Over time mutual trust was restored and we moved the district forward, including the construction of new buildings to accommodate our growing enrollment. None of this would have been possible without the support and cooperation of the entire community and staff. Our school district was respected in the community as a place where people wanted to raise their kids. It is heartbreaking to me and many of those who did the hard work, to watch the effects of a divisive climate in our community, and to know ultimately the ones who will suffer will be the students.

Comments by the board president like, “we only have one employee,” are shocking! Who is the employer of all the other employees? The Superintendent is only one of the many employees the BOE is responsible for. Comments like this do nothing to build trust and community.

When high paid consultants present at a BOE meeting, no one asks a question? No discussion? Shouldn’t our district employees be able to prepare reports/presentations like the “Budget Projections” presented at the March 14th BOE meeting?

Why do three District Office Administrators live outside of the Cedar Springs school district? What a message that sends to the very people who pay taxes and their salaries! While we may not be able to require that the Superintendent live in the district, it is the right thing to do. Our administrators who live in other school districts pay taxes that benefit the school where they live not the district that pays their salary.

I understand that the BOE has been told, in a statement, not to talk to community and staff. They should be reminded that the BOE actually works for the community! When there is avoidance, people will think you have something to hide. Please do not let anyone silence you! Please have open discussion at the BOE table—yes, in open meetings. Ask questions, ask the hard questions—show leadership to the people who elected you!

Jan Wallace, Solon Township

Posted in Post Scripts, Voices and ViewsComments (0)

Don’t get down on teachers

Thank you for your paper. I enjoy it. I’m sorry to hear you’re all having problems with staff at school.

You know I would have stayed in school if it was not for rumors about me. I feel students are harder to teach now days because some people do not get after their children enough. One of the reasons I left Cedar Springs is people coming up to our trailer in Cedar Springs Mobile Estates. They threatened my life and my children’s. Then they used the C.B. radio to say terrible things.

There is something definitely going on in Cedar Springs. I hope our teachers and school staff does not have problems that they have to be ashamed about. Our schools there in Cedar Springs had good teachers when I went there. I wished I would have stayed in just for them working so hard trying to help me.

Just remember some kids are mean and say things that hurt sometimes.

I wish you would not get down too hard on our teachers. They have a hard enough time with students.

I hope in some way I can help because I love Cedar Springs but just cannot live there.

Darlene Kay Rhineberger Fuller, Big Rapids

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A House divided against itself will not stand

Due to recent events in our school district, many friends now stand divided. Our family relied on many of these past administrators, teachers, and community members as we faced a horrific event that almost took my life. They rallied beside me and my family as I recovered from a massive stroke. Prayers went up on my behalf, a refrigerator full of food was delivered to our home, gift cards filled our mailbox, our driveway was plowed, our laundry was done, and volunteers took me back and forth to therapy. Even my children’s teachers stayed after school to offer an encouraging word or a shoulder to cry on. The list goes on and on. I couldn’t even begin to thank everyone for their support! The Cedar Springs School and community were there for me and my family. They did this because they cared.
Years later, there are new people that have moved into our community. Some of them have had to face unbelievable heartache and circumstances much greater than mine. They have experienced a new set of administrators and teachers that have shown their family the same remarkable love and support that we were shown.
Being a school employee, my heart is torn. Why are there so many harsh words being said towards our school board, a group of volunteers that is working for our school district and our Superintendent? Hearing of their credentials, the school board has hired some highly qualified individuals. Recently, they have completed a Strategic Plan to offer a new vision and mission. I was excited to be on that committee and am looking forward to what the final decision will be. I have not experienced the hostile environment people are talking about.
Are we going to be a community divided or united? We can’t expect the students we work with to get along with each other and show respect if we don’t show respect toward one another ourselves. How about that Habit Of Mind that says “Be thoughtful and considerate of others” that we teach our students? It’s okay to disagree. My concern is the manner in which we are modeling our disagreements to the students we work with. Let’s be a school and community that’s united in a common cause greater than ourselves; the well-being of our students!

Shelley Bauer, Parent As Teachers/New Beginnings Alternative Ed.

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What are you?

I would like to begin by saying thank you to each board member for your willingness to be on the board. It is often a thankless job that requires much of your energy and time. With that said, I ask the Board of Education, “What are you?”

During the Public Comments portion of the Board of Education meeting held on March 14, 2016, Lee Mora asked the board in his comments why Autumn Matteson had not been granted an exit interview. After he finished, board president Patricia Eary made a comment that the board did not grant the exit interview because “they had been advised by the board’s attorney to not grant the interview.” Patricia Eary then went on to say that the board did not give exit interviews to people who were not their employee. Patricia Eary ended her comment by saying, “The only employee of the Board is the superintendent.”

If that is true, then why do all the contracts begin with a line such as “The Board of Education of

Cedar Springs Public Schools and _____ enter . . .?” In other words, the Board of Education is the employer.

In the same meeting on March 14, when the school’s attorney was discussing moving some of the debt from one area to another to gain a better interest rate, a question was asked at the end of his presentation by Patricia Eary wondering what the Board needed to do to move in that direction. Dr. Van Duyn made a comment that “I already signed.” This amazed me! Not one board member questioned the fact that Dr. Van Duyn was making financial decisions for the

district. Although I agree 100 percent that the district needed to change the funding, I am appalled that the Board would so easily let others make decisions and fulfill their responsibilities for them.

So I ask the question again, “What are you?” Are you the board member that swore an oath to fulfill all the duties and responsibilities of the office? Think long and hard before answering as your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear a thing you say.

Bruce Marvel, Nelson Township

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Community encouragement

In a world of terrorist attacks, diseases, life threatening illnesses, devastating earthquakes and tornados….what if every day WE EACH strive to become a better person.  Having had a student in CSPS since kindergarten, students have been taught Habits of the Mind and Be Nice. On April 14, high schoolers will be taught about OK2SAY, a comprehensive communication system that empowers students, parents, school personnel, community mental health services  programs, and law enforcement officials to share and respond to student safety and school violence threats. I pray that our community will soon move forward with each of us focusing on being the best person we can be and think about the type of influence we are being.  I am proud to be a part of CSPS as an employee, parent and community member. I believe there are great things happening in our district and am blessed to be a part of it. 

Kathy Sue Corwin, Solon Township, Proud to be a Red Hawk

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What is communication?

Communication is a two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, where participants exchange information, news, ideas and feelings. Communication is a means of connecting people or places. It is the backbone of any high-performing team. Trust is linked to transparency and two-way communication. This has dissipated from our district and community.

We all have passion and dreams for our children and their education. People want their concerns and opinions heard and respected, not ignored. We expect that our Board of Education and our Superintendent are going to listen, be objective, be curious, act, and adjust when needed. How we provide the foundation for our children’s education is critical and that is where the debate begins.

As a district we have been through ups and downs. Think back to the various millages (bond, operational, renewals, and sinking funds) needed over the years. Difficult times made us stronger. For the last 10 years, we have built our reputation to be leaders in education in West Michigan in progressive strategies for children’s learning. People were benchmarking us. Now they ask “What is going on up there in Cedar Springs?” and “How have you lost your way?” We need to get back to what is important, our children’s education. We achieve that through respect, teamwork, communication and trust. Vision can change, and if communicated clearly, people can understand and align.

We need to understand where we have been to understand where we need to go. This district was stellar and we were proud to be a part of it. Today we are lost, more focused on gossip, rumors, and attacking individuals rather than on what is best for our children. Our leaders need to lead; you need to choose to move this district forward in a way that respects the value of those that are here and move together into the future.

Board Members , we need you to step up, be brave, and courageous. Please seek out all the facts and documentation from all possible resources. Discussing all the information brought before you—the good and bad—must occur in order for our district to move forward. Hold each other accountable and make the tough choices and decisions that protect a quality education for our children. Each of our board members has an equal voice.

Tammie Drake, Cedar Springs School District

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Before you reject the system, understand it

Lee Hamilton

Lee Hamilton

By Lee H. Hamilton

If there’s a theme that sets this political season apart, it’s the voters’ utter disdain for most of the people who practice politics. They’re fed up with politicians, they’ve lost faith and confidence in the political elite, and they don’t believe that the realm where politicians ply their craft—government—works.

There are many legitimate reasons for these people to be turned off by the way politics has been practiced and to be discouraged by the way the political system appears to work. But I’d argue that if you’re hell-bent on shaking up the system, you also need to understand it—and understand that certain features are likely to persist no matter how hard you try to change them.

The first is that it is very hard to make our representative democracy work. We make progress incrementally, over years if not generations. So you have to approach politics with great patience. Our system discourages the rush to judgment; it puts a premium on including as many voices as possible, which takes time in a complicated country.

Many people are also turned off by what lies at the center of our system: deal-making. This involves a clash of ideas in the public arena, compromise, and negotiation, which make many Americans uneasy. Yet, it’s how we resolve our differences, and has been since the first day of the United States’ existence.

So politicians who insist on purity impede solutions. There ought to be a healthy tension between idealism and realism, but we have to find a pragmatic way to combine them. This makes it challenging to come to an agreement on complicated issues, but it’s necessary to keep the country from coming apart.

We cannot look to government to solve all our problems. Indeed, we live in an era in which government faces more and more problems it cannot effectively deal with. Increasingly, citizens have to step forward and fill the void that government leaves. We may well be moving into the century of the citizen. Our communities and lives are better because of citizen action. Indeed, unless citizens boost their involvement and contributions, many of our problems will not be solved.

Lee Hamilton is a Senior Advisor for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government; a Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and a Professor of Practice, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

 

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