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Beat the Boredom

Playing at an area park is just one of the ways for kids and parents to beat the boredom of long summer days until school starts again.

Playing at an area park is just one of the ways for kids and parents to beat the boredom of long summer days until school starts again.

By Judy Reed

When you’re a kid, the long, hot days of summer seem to go on forever. It’s not long before kids exhaust their ideas of what to do and moms hear the familiar refrain, “There’s nothing to do! I’m bored!” Well, don’t you believe it. With a little searching, you’ll find hundreds of activities taking place in West Michigan where families can have fun and spend some quality time together. In this week’s special pullout section of “Beat the Boredom,” you’ll find just a fraction of the many things going on this summer—festivals, summer enrichment programs, camps, plays, and more! Click below to download and see what’s on tap for you this summer!


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Man dies while caring for toddler

Ron Finkler is shown here with the little girl he was caring for, in a photo taken a little over a year ago. The photo is from his Facebook page.

Ron Finkler is shown here with the little girl he was caring for, in a photo taken a little over a year ago. The photo is from his Facebook page.

A 49-year-old man was found dead inside his home Tuesday in Tyrone Township, while a 2-1/2-year old girl he had been caring for appeared to be in good health.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, they were dispatched to the home at 15175 Peach Ridge, between 18 and 19 Mile Roads in Tyrone Township, near Kent City, on Tuesday, May 10, 2016, at approximately 9:40 a.m. Family members called police to check on his well-being because they had not heard from him for several days. Upon arrival, police found the man deceased from unknown causes. They said there is no immediate indication of foul play.

Deputies also found the 2-½ year old girl inside the home. The victim was reportedly caring for his friend’s child.

Police said that the child is unharmed and was transported to Helen DeVos Childen’s Hospital for evaluation. She was turned over to Child Protective Services.

Detectives and the Medical Examiners’ Office are continuing their investigation into the cause of death.

Police have not yet released the name of the deceased, pending notification of relatives.

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CTA selects new dean of students/athletic director

Cutline: Autumn Mattson will become the new dean of students/athletic director at Creative Technologies Academy. She is shown here with her husband, Scott, and their two sons.

Autumn Mattson will become the new dean of students/athletic director at Creative Technologies Academy. She is shown here with her husband, Scott, and their two sons.

Autumn Mattson, the former athletic director and dean of students at Cedar Springs High School, has been selected to fill that same position at Creative Technologies Academy at the end of this school year.

Creative Technologies Academy, a Ferris State University-authorized public school academy located on Pine Street in Cedar Springs, made the announcement Monday, May 9, after a five-week search.

Mattson will assume her new position in June. She succeeds the school’s current and outgoing dean of students/athletic director, David Oldebekking, who will remain in the position until the end of the school year to ensure a seamless transition.

CTA School Leader/Superintendent, Dan George believes Mattson is the right person for this position.

“Autumn knows the Cedar Springs community well and has a passion for helping kids. We are excited to have her fill the position of Dean of Students at CTA,” he stated. “My goal for CTA since I came here over six years ago was for us to be a valued, and viewed as, a partner, not a competitor, with the other exceptional school districts that surround us in doing what is best for kids. I believe Autumn will help us in that endeavor,” George continued.

Mattson served as athletic director at Cedar Springs for almost 10 years and was both dean of students and athletic director for almost 3 years. She also held several other positions within the school district prior to that. She resigned in February 2016.

Mattson holds her Masters of Education and Leadership and Elementary Teaching Certification from Aquinas College and her Bachelor of Arts from Lake Superior State University. Mattson has received many honors, including the 2014 Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association Regional Athletic Director of the Year, and the 2014 West Michigan Officials Association Athletic Director of the Year recognitions.

“I am so honored to have this opportunity to work with the staff, families and students of CTA,” shared Mattson. “From the minute I stepped on the campus I knew this was the place for me. The love and care this staff shows towards their students is inspiring. I am looking forward to getting to know the entire CTA family and working with our community to help each student dream big, reach their goals and experience success.”

Mattson is married to Scott Mattson, and they have two children.

Oldebekking, who was appointed in 2012 after spending six years teaching at CTA, led the school during a period of growth and also oversaw student athletic programs.

“My time at CTA has been great. I started as a teacher and the relationships with the students, staff and families are irreplaceable,” said David Oldebekking, current dean of students. “There are so many great people that make up this school family and I am going to miss them all.”

“Dave Oldebekking has exceptionally served CTA for 10 years,” shared Dan George, School Leader/Superintendent. “I am sad to see him leave education because he has been an outstanding teacher, administrator, coach, mentor, and role model for kids and staff. I am also excited for him and his family for the opportunity that awaits him in his new position.”

When Oldebekking’s new opportunity arose, he hoped that CTA would find someone who loved the school and wanted to see it flourish and believes that Mattson fits the bill. “I am confident that she will do great things and I cannot wait to see what she does,” he commented.


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Congressional Medal of Merit recipients recognized

Rep. Justin Amash and Alyssa Bonk, of Algoma Christian School.

Rep. Justin Amash and Alyssa Bonk, of Algoma Christian School.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) recognized the 2016 service academy appointees and student Congressional Medal of Merit recipients from Michigan’s Third District at the Grand Rapids Art Museum on Saturday, April 30.

“I am honored to recognize these deserving students for their outstanding achievements. I wish them great success in their future endeavors,” said Amash.

Applicants to the service academies require a nomination from an authorized nominating source, which includes members of Congress. To assist with the nominating process, Amash assembled a committee of military and civic leaders who reviewed applications, interviewed potential nominees, and made recommendations.

In addition to the nine service academy appointees recognized, Amash honored 39 students with the Congressional Medal of Merit. The Congressional Medal of Merit recognizes high school seniors who have demonstrated exemplary citizenship and academic excellence. Recipients were nominated by their principals or guidance counselors.

In our coverage area, there were two students recognized as Congressional Medal of Merit recipients: Alyssa Bonk, of Algoma Christian School; and Kyle Ross Spahr, of Cedar Springs High School. Spahr was unable to attend the ceremony.

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All aboard!


N-RFF-theme-LogoThe Red Flannel Express Steams into Red Flannel Town for the 2016 Festival 

The all-volunteer Red Flannel Festival Board of Directors has worked hard to provide fresh new events for the 77th “All Aboard the Red Flannel Express” Festival celebration, on Saturday, October 1, 2016. They recently released their new theme’s logo, which was designed by local artist, Lloyd VanDuyn, father of Festival First Vice President Randy VanDuyn. “We’re so grateful to have this beautiful logo,” said Randy.

“This board is extremely dedicated to ensuring the Red Flannel Festival is the biggest and best ever,” said Festival President Michele Tracy. “The comments about the old fashioned steam engine train theme have been very positive.”

In keeping with the theme, the Festival will debut a large model train show in Red Hawk Elementary Gymnasium this year. Also, the Grand Lodge will be hosting live music for two weekends, with Tribute bands the first weekend. The Firefighter Memorial Parade will return this year after a few years hiatus.

Returning this year is the Red Flannel Open Golf Tournament, hosted by Whitefish Lake Golf and Grill. The Red Flannel Art Review, Red Flannel Town House Decorating Contest, Trolley to provide transportation, and the Giant Arts and Craft Fair, Carnival and Marketplace will also return.

“Of course, the traditional events are still in place,” said Tracy. “The Car & Tractor Shows, Museum Open House, Rotary Chicken BBQ, Lion’s Lumberjack Supper, Queen Scholarship Pageant, Bed Races and Grand Parade are wonderful traditions.”

The Festival will partner with 95.7 FM in Grand Rapids, for radio commercials; and an expanded number of television commercials will begin on Charter Cable Channels in September. The 36-page full color “Official Red Flannel Press” will be distributed after Labor Day, thanks to Festival Business Patron Sponsors and “Friends of the Festival,” a donor program designed exclusively for individuals.

For a full schedule of events, or to download all event applications, visit www.redflannelfestival.org, visit the Red Flannel Festival, Inc. Facebook page or email president@redflannelfestival.org

The Festival was granted 501c3 non-profit status and all donations are tax deductible. The Festival is an independent, all volunteer organization with volunteer openings for individuals, families and groups to be involved. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. For more information on how to donate, volunteer or get involved with the Red Flannel Festival, call 616-696-2662 or visit www.redflannelfestival.org.

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Cedar Springs Schools renews accreditation


Cedar Springs announced last week that they had earned their North Central Accreditation through AdvanceEd, a global leader in providing continuous improvement and accreditation to over 32,000 institutions worldwide.

The district went through a rigorous and detailed review this school year that culminated with an external review team conducting a 3-day on site visit last week, after which they awarded the district the distinction of this national accreditation.

“We are thrilled, of course,” said Cedar Springs Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn. “We have such a great district. The process really goes on all year. But this visit is where the rubber meets the road. It’s when they see the things that they’ve heard about all year long.”

On Wednesday, May 4, Cedar Springs Public Schools held a special meeting, where AdvanceEd presented results of their accreditation review to staff and the community.

“It is so evident that you really care about your students and should be proud of your district, from the top all the way down,” said presenter Vicki DeMao.

The five-person team from AdvanceEd interviewed 120 stakeholders in the district, consisting of the superintendent, board members, administrators, teachers, support staff, parents/community members, and students. They also visited 32 classrooms in all seven buildings and observed students.

The report showed what powerful practices (or strengths) that the district had in various areas, and what ways they could improve.

Under “leadership,” there were two powerful practices and one improvement priority.

Powerful practice #1 was that “Cedar Springs Schools has created multiple partnerships in collaboration with community organizations, area educational institutions, agencies, and local businesses resulting in expanded learning opportunities for all students.” They mentioned the Cherry Street Health Center, DHS, KSSN, Rotary, Parks and Rec, En Gedi, PTO, and more.

Powerful practice #2 was that “the school board has developed new NEOLA policy documents and its members are committed to implementing the policies with an understanding of their roles and responsibilities as school board members.”

Improvement priority #1 was that they need to “create a conduit for two-way communication between Central Office staff and building level personnel that is collaborative, transparent, and open which leads to a culture of trust that is system-wide.”

When rating the seven classroom environments on a scale from 1 to 4, Cedar Springs consistently scored above the average—earning a 3+ in 5 areas, and a 2.74 in another. There was only one area where they fell beneath the average, and that was in digital learning.

Powerful practices under teaching and learning included teachers using instructional strategies that improve students’ critical thinking skills, collaboration and self reflection, and the practice of using professional learning communities (PLCs). “I think you are well on your way to improving test scores,” remarked the presenter.

Under Resource utilization, there were two improvement priorities.

Improvement priority #2 was that they “deploy a broad based planning committee to research and make recommendations to the superintendent concerning the safety and security of the school buildings to ensure that students and parents are free from fear or harm.” She noted the need for more secure entryways and playground areas.

Improvement priority #3 was that they “include wide representation on a system technology planning committee leading to recommendations which ensure that all students have equitable access to an effective technology infrastructure with modern digital tools that support student research, problem solving, and the creation of original works to prepare them for college and careers.”

She said that many of the computers are outdated, or only available for the teachers.

“If you don’t do this, students will be left behind,” noted the presenter. “It is a big ticket item. But those using them will be better qualified for a 21st century career.”

When points were tallied, Cedar Springs’ score in teaching and learning impact was well above average—284.76 to AdvanceEd’s average district at 268.94; Leadership at 293.33 to the average of 292.64; and resource utilization was lower at 250.00 to 283.86. That left them with an overall score of 280.49, which is above the average AdvanceEd district’s score of 278.34.

AdvanceEd recommended that the improvement priorities be addressed within the next two years.

VanDuyn was pleased with the results. “There were no surprises,” she noted. “The things they mentioned (for improvement) are what we’ve been working on—things like security, technology, and having more time to dedicate to spending in various buildings.”

The school district must go through this process every five years. They were last accredited in 2011, and it was good through June 2016.

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Bear that mauled teen in 2013 killed in Wexford County

Black bear attacks on humans are highly unusual, according to the Michigan DNR, but can occur if a sow is protecting her cubs.

Black bear attacks on humans are highly unusual, according to the Michigan DNR, but can occur if a sow is protecting her cubs.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday, May 11,  that a black bear recently shot and killed in Haring Township, north of Cadillac in Wexford County, is the same bear that mauled a teenage girl, Abby Wetherell, in that same township in 2013.

The DNR confirms a 9-year-old female black bear was killed April 30 by an individual, who wishes to remain anonymous, acting in self-defense. The individual let out a dog, which then immediately ran after what appeared to be a bear cub. The dog was stopped at the end of the tree line barking when the owner saw a bear appear and attack the dog. The individual went to assist the dog and the bear ran off. As the owner attempted to render aid to the injured dog, the bear retuned to the scene and approached the resident, who then shot the bear. The situation was reported to the DNR and investigated. It was determined to be a justifiable killing of the bear.

The bear carcass was sent to the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory in Lansing for pathology review. DNA samples were sent to Michigan State University for genetic testing. MSU’s Jeannette Kanefsky of the Molecular Ecology Laboratory did the genotyping.

“The results of the genetic testing are consistent between the sample from the 2016 shot black bear and the evidence at the 2013 black bear mauling scene,” said Kanefsky. “The genotypes obtained from the samples are a match.”

The Wetherells were informed late Tuesday of the findings.

Through a process called “cementum annuli analysis,” DNR wildlife biologists examined the bear’s teeth to assess her age and number of litters. They determined this bear had three litters throughout her lifetime, including in 2013 when the mauling took place. It remains uncertain whether cubs were in the vicinity when the attack on Abby occurred.

After the attack on Abby, the DNR put extensive effort into setting traps and responding to bear activity in the area.

“DNR staff is relieved to have this matter resolved for both the Wetherells and the community,” said Keith Kintigh, field operations manager for the DNR’s Northern Lower Region. “Over the last three years, we have been highly responsive to multiple bear issues in the hopes of catching this animal.”

Michigan has an estimated black bear population of approximately 11,000 bears, with roughly 80 percent of the population in the Upper Peninsula. There is an established bear population in the area of Wexford County. The DNR reminds the public that black bears generally are fearful of humans and usually will leave if they become aware that people are present. Bear attacks on human beings are highly unusual and in most cases occur because a sow is protecting her cubs.

Here are some important facts to remember when in an area where bears may be present:

• To avoid surprising bears, travel in small groups and make noise.

• If you encounter a bear, stand your ground and then slowly back away. Do not turn away. Do not show fear and run. Do not play dead.

• Make yourself look bigger and talk to the bear in a stern voice.

• If actually attacked, fight back with a backpack, stick or bare hands.

For additional information on living with bears, visit the DNR website atwww.michigan.gov/bear.

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Crash injures three; child critical

Kent County Sheriff Dept

A 5-year-old girl is in critical condition and two others suffered minor injuries after a Hummer ran a stop sign Friday and collided with another vehicle in Sparta Township.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, the crash occurred about 11:45 a.m. on Friday, May 6, at the intersection of Peach Ridge Avenue and 13 Mile Road.

Police said that Bailey James Scheib, 20, of Kent City, was driving a 2007 Hummer H2 southbound on Peach Ridge Ave and failed to stop for the stop sign at 13 Mile Rd. The Hummer struck a 2005 Ford Taurus that was traveling eastbound on 13 Mile Rd and both vehicles overturned after impact.

Bailey Scheib was wearing a seat belt and was not injured. The driver of the Taurus, Cassandra Kuznicki, 25, of Sparta Township, was wearing a seat belt and suffered minor injuries. A front seat passenger in the Taurus, Stephen Kuznicki, 51, of Kent City, was wearing a seat belt and suffered minor injuries. Both were transported to Spectrum Butterworth Hospital.

Five-year-old Brianna Troutman and 17-month-old Brayden Murrell, Cassandra Kuznicki’s children, were rear seat passengers in the Ford Taurus. Brianna suffered significant injuries and was transported to DeVos Children’s Hospital. She remains in critical condition. Brianna was restrained in a seat belt and child booster seat. Brayden was not injured and was restrained in a child car seat.

Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the crash. The crash remains under investigation.

Assisting at the scene was Sparta Fire Department and Rockford Ambulance.

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Two die in traffic crash


An elderly Grand Rapids couple was killed in this traffic crash in Montcalm County Sunday.

An elderly couple from Grand Rapids was killed Sunday evening, May 1, when another vehicle tried to pass several cars and hit their vehicle head-on in Montcalm County.

According to the Montcalm County Sheriff Department, the crash occurred on M-66, near Schmeid Road, in Belvidere Township, about 7:18 p.m. Police said that a red 1999 Buick LeSabre was traveling south on M-66, as a northbound black 2012 Audi S4 was attempting to pass multiple vehicles. The Audi was not able to complete the pass, and took evasive action to avoid a collision with the Buick. The driver of the Buick tried to avoid a collision as well. Both vehicles swerved to the west shoulder of M-66 and collided head-on.

The driver of the Buick, Raymond J. Wrona, 88, of Grand Rapids, was injured and transported to Kelsey Hospital in Lakeview, where he later died. His wife, Mary Wrona, 88, the only passenger in the vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the Audi, Joel Ibarra, 26, of Wyoming, and his passenger, Maria Mancha, 28, from Comstock Park, were both transported to Kelsey Hospital and treated for their injuries.

Drivers and passengers all wore seatbelts and there are no other known factors that contributed to the crash.

The crash remains under investigation.

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Middle school teacher receives Cool Teacher award

Middle school teacher Tim Relich receives Cool Teacher award at middle school.

Middle school teacher Tim Relich receives Cool Teacher award at middle school.

N-Cool-Teacher-award-Mr-Relich-cmykTim Relich, 8th Grade teacher at Cedar Springs Middle School in Cedar Springs, is the latest teacher to receive the WGVU Cool Teacher Award. WGVU honored Tim and his class with a pizza party on April 18.

Kristen Lubben nominated Tim Relich for the award because he makes everyday fun and doesn’t hesitate to admit his mistakes.

Each month WGVU judges all new entries and selects the best letters based on the students’ evidence of learning. WGVU hosts a pizza party for the winning teachers and their classes, and videotapes the celebration to promote the winning teachers and the Cool Teacher program on the airwaves of the local public broadcast station. Each winning teacher and their nominating student will receive vouchers for the USS Silversides Museum in Muskegon, Michigan. On May 4, 2016, WGVU hosted a year-end awards celebration at Eberhard Center Conference center on the downtown campus of GVSU to honor all of this year’s winning teachers.

Students from kindergarten through eighth grade can nominate their teacher by writing a letter describing why they think their teacher is cool. Included should be the student’s name, address and phone number, the teacher’s name and grade, and the school name, address and phone number. Entries should be sent to: WGVU Cool Teacher, 301 Fulton St. W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504-6492. Students can also nominate their teachers and see winning teachers online at wgvu.org.

Cool Teacher is an example of WGVU’s mission to provide educational, informational, and entertaining programs and events to the West Michigan community as a service of Grand Valley State University.

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