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Board requests feedback from residents on term lengths

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education would like to hear from residents whether they think six years is too long of a commitment to serve on the board. They began their discussion on Monday evening, July 11, on whether to transition to four-year terms or stay with six.

The board heard a presentation from interim Superintendent Mark Dobias on the issue, who said some people have said six years is too long of a commitment. “I think it’s a good move (to transition to four years). Then they won’t have to be on the board for more than half a decade,” he said.

Treasurer Shannon Vanderhyde explained that when she first came on the board, they did four years at that time. It was because of Michigan law changing regarding when they needed to do elections that they transitioned to six years. Schools used to be able to run elections every year, in either May or November. In February of 2012, the board voted to switch to six-year-terms after the state passed legislation mandating that school elections be held every two years during the general election in November. They made the switch at the time to avoid there being a 4-3 rotation: 4 members up for election, then the other three in two more years. Instead, with a six-year-term, it’s a 2-3-2 rotation.

“That’s why we went to six years, so we wouldn’t have four new members at a time,” she said. “So far it hasn’t been a deterrent.”

Vice President Matt Shoffner said he would be in favor of the switch. “It does seem like a long time. But that’s a good thought—four could go out or come in at a time,” he said.

Currently, the seats held by McConnon and Nichols expire this year, and whoever wins them would serve until 2024 under the current system. Shoffner’s and Vanderhyde’s seats expire in 2020, as does Rivard’s. However, since Rivard was appointed, he has to run in November and be elected to finish out the term. The seats held by Reed and Slager expire in 2022, but Slager must also run in November and be elected to finish out the term. 

If the board switched to four-year terms, there would be three seats up for election in 2020 and the other four seats in 2022. 

Dobias is asking the public to give their input before the June 25 board meeting. “The rationale behind choosing 6-year terms involved providing more stability over a longer period of time as well as the belief that an entire Board would not turn over as quickly.

“However, there is now a feeling that six years is an awfully long time for people to commit to the Board of Education. Also, a shorter term of office could entice more individuals to seek office and ultimately lead to a Board with greater diversity of opinions, which could yield more rich discussion,” he explained.

The board would like to know what residents and staff think before making a decision at the June 25 meeting. You can email your thoughts to mark.dobias@csredhawks.org.

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