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Board sets calendar for Superintendent search

 

Residents urged to take web survey, attend community meetings Thursday or Friday

By Judy Reed

If you live or work in Cedar Springs and would like a voice in what qualities the Cedar Springs Board of Education should look for in a new Superintendent, you will have the opportunity to do that through Saturday, April 28.

The board held a special meeting Thursday evening, April 19, where they met with search consultant Gary Rider, of the Michigan Leadership Institute (MLI) and set a tentative timeline for the search.

Rider and the board discussed the importance of feedback from parents, students, staff, and the community throughout the process. “Mr. Rider will be facilitating focus group meetings and a community forum to explain the search process, and a survey to gather data regarding what people would like to see in their next superintendent will be posted on the district web site.  This data will be compiled and given to the Board to consider when developing a profile for the ideal candidate,” said Board President Heidi Reed.

The short three question survey can be found on their website at http://www.csredhawks.org/. Just scroll down to where it says, “Take the Superintendent Search Survey.” It is available through noon on Saturday, April 28.

Rider will also be holding focus group meetings and community forums this week. The community forums will be held in the Hilltop 3rd floor boardroom on Thursday, April 26 at 7:30 a.m. and again at 6:30 p.m., and then on Friday, April 27, at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon. The public is invited to attend any of these.

A preliminary job posting was put up online last Friday, April 20, just putting the position out there. After the board gets feedback from the survey and the focus groups and community forums, they will put together the candidate profile, which will be posted by May 4. 

Rider stressed to the board the importance of listening to the feedback they get from the community, staff and students. “If you don’t take that feedback and include it in the profile, they should call you out on it,” remarked Rider. “You need to be accountable to them. You are looking for credibility. This is a great opportunity to show it.”

The application deadline for the position will be May 16. Rider expects a good pool of qualified candidates to apply for the position. “I anticipate the district will attract quality applicants both close to Cedar Springs and from outside the area,” said Rider.

The board will meet on May 18 to review the applications in closed session, and then will announce in open session which candidates will be interviewed. The first round of interviews will take place on June 7 and 8, with second round interviews on June 26 and 27. Rider said the community would be involved in those interviews by giving written feedback and questions to the board.

July 10 and 11 have been blocked out for possible site visits.

Rider noted that the community and staff don’t want this to be rushed. He said he would do a thorough job regardless of the time frame.

During the public comment time, both teacher Jen Kahler and community resident Sue Wolfe said they felt like the search was being rushed. Wolfe noted that not only are they are down a board member, but she asked what happens if Matt McConnon decides he can’t serve if the decision comes back from the prosecutor’s office that he can’t serve on both the school board and Courtland Township? And what happens when Brook Nichols leaves? (She is selling her house but will probably still be on board through early July.) She also noted that many people would be busy during this time.

The board met again on Monday, April 23, for a regular business meeting. Remarks during public comment time centered around asking the board to slow down the process. Teacher Virginia Valentine asked them to put the search on hold until they could get a new board. (Three are up for potential recall, and others will need to run for their seat again in the fall.) 

Teacher Libby Metiva told them there is a high level of fear regarding the Superintendent search and said that it might be time to share their thinking. “How flexible is your timeline if you don’t find the right candidate?” she asked.

Resident Todd Norman asked them to “pump the brakes, halt what you are doing. Bring in an interim and let the people decide.” He noted he didn’t want the same thing to happen that happened in March.

Resident Sally Smith said she thought it’s tragic what has happened in the district. She said she was confident Gary Rider was the best person for the job and would do his best. She also noted that having a Superintendent before the beginning of the year was the best thing for our district.

At the end of the meeting, during BOE comment time, Brook Nichols gave an emotional statement to the audience regarding the resignation of the former Superintendent and the search for a new one. She apologized to the crowd and urged them to come together and put aside their differences.

“Everyone makes mistakes. I made a mistake. I was thrilled with the last person until I realized what was happening. And her not being here is best for our whole district…The board that was there and continued to be there for part of that time is very different than the board that’s up here now…Of course we want what’s best for our district. Our kids go here, or have gone here or have graduated and we’re proud of that. We don’t want someone that does a terrible job, of course. I know it’s frustrating; I’m not going to ask you all to just trust something that you haven’t trusted and haven’t felt heard for a long time, I get it. I do. But reach out to a few of us and not just the ones you think will listen. Let us know how you feel. I understand you’ve spoken up here, but it’s different. Meet for coffee. I’ll meet anybody. Be a part of the process. There is a lot in place for feedback. 

“To me, when I heard slow down, to be honest with you, I thought that meant take your time, not wait for everybody to get recalled or changed and then start next year…now I understand what you meant. But, there could be a great candidate out there. And there might not be…And if we all work together and listen to each other, I promise I’ll listen to the feedback…This is what we’ve got going. There are rules in place for people that have retired. How long they can work, how much they can collect in salary, so there are other pieces to it.

“I can’t discuss what happened in closed session so I’m not going to do that…We did not sit down and have a happy conversation…It was not a happy ‘Hey let’s sit down and do this together.’ It was horrible. It was horrible for all of you and it was also horrible for all of us. I guess with that in mind, I’m sorry for what happened. I’ll take any responsibility that is my own. Maybe at times I should’ve done or voted something differently. I apologize if I offended anyone personally. Let me know and I’ll try to make it right.

“We are not going to vote tonight on stopping a process because that’s not how this normally works. Not that we can’t have that conversation, and not that it can’t continue and still at some point say we don’t have any good candidates…
“But that can’t happen if there’s all this conflict. So I’m asking anyone that’s willing to take a little step forward, all together, and let’s follow the process. Let’s get your input, have the meetings, see what we get, and if we don’t get somebody that’s right, we can start back over. And that’s ok…

“I do care. We all deserve to be heard and we all deserve to be cared about. And we all deserve to come to a district where we can help our kids be the best they can be. I’m asking everyone to put aside their hate or upset feelings or whatever it is and please come together.”

To reach the members of the Board of Education, you can find their email addresses at http://www.csredhawks.org/District/Board-of-Education/Meet-our-Board/index.html.

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