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Police seek suspects in break-in

By Judy Reed

Do you recognize the people in these surveillance photos? They are suspects in a break-in that occurred at Boomer Park in Nelson Township, about 11 p.m. Monday evening. The field is located at 13440 Ritchie Avenue, just south of Becker, and is home to AYSO Soccer Region 902.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, this is the fourth break-in in the last nine months.  They said the target appears to be the same as previous break-ins, however some vandalism occurred this time, which didn’t happen before.

According to an AYSO spokesperson, they may now need to use the money they had put aside for scholarships to repair the vandalism. The scholarships are used to help players from lower income families with registration fees.

If you have any information, please call Silent Observer at 616-774-2345. 

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Second crash victim passes away

The father of a young Marine who died earlier this month in a crash on 14 Mile Road has died of injuries he sustained in the crash.

 Jerry Kinsey, 48, of Sand Lake, died on Friday, January 19 at Spectrum Butterworth Hospital. He was injured in a crash on Thursday, January 4, on 14 Mile Rd, west of Wabasis Ave. According to the Michigan State Police Rockford Post, the investigation showed that an eastbound vehicle driven by Joseph Hanna, 39, of Sparta, tried to pass a vehicle driven by Kinsey, and the two vehicles collided. The collision resulted in both vehicles losing control and Kinsey’s vehicle spinning into the westbound lane, where it was struck by a van driven by Gail Gansmiller, 48, of Sheridan. 

The passenger in Kinsey’s vehicle, his 20-year-old son, Joel Kinsey, of Sand Lake, was killed, and Jerry Kinsey was transported to Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids in critical condition.  

Hanna was arrested the same day on an unrelated charge. He was charged with violating the controlled substance act, and as a habitual offender. He bonded out the next day.

No charges have been brought yet related to the crash.

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Rare super blue blood moon

Astrophotographer James Jordan captured this view of the Super Blue Blood Moon at totality from Oakland, California, in the early morning hours of January 31. From space.com.

It was too cloudy here in Michigan to see it, but a rare phenomenon occurred early Wednesday morning, when a super moon, blue moon, and total lunar eclipse all appeared at the same time.

Here is a photo of the super moon rising behind @LickObservatory in California on January 30, 2018. Photo credit: Eam K Lo (via Facebook).

According to space.com, the lunar eclipse was the first to coincide with a Blue Moon—a second full moon in one month—in North America in over 150 years. It was also the second “supermoon” of 2018, with the moon appearing slightly bigger and brighter than usual due to its closeness to Earth. And to top it off, the supermoon passed through Earth’s shadow, casting a reddish hue on the lunar surface for more than 4 hours.

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Winter fun

Amy Hofstra, of Ensley Township, sent us this photo of her children, Claira and Titus, enjoying sledding in their backyard. It looks like fun!

Do you have a winter fun photo you’d like to share? Send it to news@cedarspringspost.com, with some information about the photo. We will run photos as space allows.

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CTA closes due to illness


Creative Technologies Academy, on Pine Street, closed last Friday, January 26, due to illness, but it wasn’t specifically for influenza or a stomach bug.

“It was largely a precautionary measure to close school on Friday because we had seen a sharp increase in illness among staff and students last week,” said Sara Middlebrook, Student Information Data Coordinator at CTA. 

She said they diligently sanitized the entire campus over the weekend, and also sent home reminders about when to keep a child home per the recommendations of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and Divisions of Communicable Disease Control and Vaccinations, in hopes of maintaining a more germ-free environment for students and staff.

More than 300 students attend the charter school.


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Missing teen found murdered


Mujey Dumbuya, an East Kentwood High School student, was last seen January 24 in Grand Rapids. Photo from Silent Observer.

Did you see this girl?

The body of a 16-year-old East Kentwood High School girl was found in Kalamazoo. On Sunday, January 28, 2018, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety found the body of Mujey Dumbuya, in the 800 block of N. Prairie Ave in a wooded area. Mujey was reported as a runaway on January 25 in Grand Rapids, and was last seen in the early morning hours of January 24. 

The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety is investigating her death as a homicide.

Mujey Dumbuya had on pink tennis shoes like this one, but one of them was missing.

Mujey was wearing a black Columbia jacket, white and pink T-shirt with a print of Cinderella’s face on the front, blue jeans, and pink Nike tennis shoes. Her right shoe was missing when she was found. 

If you have any information as to how Mujey got to Kalamazoo, who she was with, saw her between January 24-28, located her other shoe, or if you have any other information that can help police figure out the details of this very tragic homicide, call Grand Rapids Police at 616-456-3400, Kalamazoo Dept. of Public Safety at 517-337-8994,or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345 or go to silentobserver.org and submit a crime tip. You can also download the Silent Observer app to your cell phone.


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School board gets a glimpse at citizen survey data


By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education got its first look at the results of the citizen survey it distributed to parents, students, and staff last fall. A snapshot of the results were shown in a power point presentation at a special board meeting Monday evening, by Jeff Gartner, a marketing researcher who works with the Kent Intermediate School District and other area schools.

According to Gartner, the survey was similar to one he has done for Rockford Public Schools for several years. 

For the Cedar Springs survey, about 577 parents answered the survey, along with 240 staff, and 296 students. Some of the things that came out are that the majority of students trust their teachers and other staff; that there is a high level of satisfaction by graduates of CSPS; that parents feel more connected and know teachers better in elementary school; that many staff commented that there is too much divisiveness, too much us vs. them; concerns about security; classroom sizes are too large; that staff would like more support and intervention to help resolve problems with students with behavioral and emotional issues; students would like content to be more relevant to them; and that parents and community are not as involved as  in other districts. Detailed results have not yet been distributed to board members and staff.

Security concerns have already been addressed with the buildings’ new secure entries. This happened after the survey was distributed. 

Gartner elaborated on the students wanting relevant content. “Training works if it’s relevant to you,” he explained. “You don’t necessarily have to change what’s taught, just make it relevant to them.”

Community involvement appeared to be a big challenge. 

“People, not just parents, are way more involved in other districts,” noted Gartner. He specifically mentioned Lowell and Rockford as having 70-80 percent involvement by the community. “How do you get people to be more involved with your school?” he asked the board. He talked about it being a place where people come to do things, and gave examples such as in an area district that is putting in a KDL library, or Forest Hills’ Aquatic Center, where people swim. 

“We can see there’s a disconnect there,” said Board Vice President Matt Shoffner at the end of the presentation. “This is the first step. Now we know where to go.”

So where do they go from here?  

“Now our Board of Education work begins in that we will analyze this data as a board, in conjunction with our district’s established Culture and Climate Committee of over 30 people from all positions in the district, with Dr. VanDuyn,” said Board President Heidi Reed. “We will be using multiple lenses and viewpoints to look at the data with Mr. David Hulings, from Hulings and Associates facilitating this process.  

“This is a collaborative process looking at the greater understanding of how we handle change in our educational world. By using different viewpoints, personality traits, historical issues and progressive forethought, Mr. Huling’s established work process will ensure measurable results. 

“It is exciting next step work for the community and school district as Dr. VanDuyn ties this data into our CSPS Mission/Vision statements and Goals for the CSPS district. We thank Dr. VanDuyn for coordinating this effort, as we all continue to work together towards the CSPS brand promise of Purpose, Potential and Pride.” 


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Rehab doctor charged with criminal sexual conduct


Dr. Steven Scranton

A doctor at Westbrook Recovery Center, in Grand Rapids Township, was arraigned on January 31 on three charges of criminal sexual conduct.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, they began the investigation on November 29, 2017, when they received information from Westbrook staff regarding inappropriate conduct on the part of Dr. Steven Scranton, 64. 

Westbrook Recovery Center treats professionals for drug addiction and mental health issues. As the investigation proceeded, patients of Dr. Scranton reported to investigators several allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct. 

A search warrant was executed at his Rockford area home on January 29, and then Scranton was arrested and lodged in the Kent County jail. He was arraigned on one count of CSC 2nd degree (multiple variables); and two counts of CSC 4th degree. Bail was set at $15,000, 10 percent. Scranton later bonded out.

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A movie inspires a dream

Maximus De Back finished 8th out of 170 in a fencing competition earlier this month in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Teen finishes in top 8 in fencing competition

By Judy Reed

Maximus De Back, 16, of Solon Township, is working hard to realize a dream—to become part of the USA Olympic fencing team. 

Earlier this month, Maximus was part of the Team USA at the Bratislava Men’s Foil Cadet European Cup in Slovakia. Team USA won gold, silver and bronze, with five of the team in the top eight—including Maximus. He finished 8th out of 170 in the international tournament. 

Maximus, who is the son of William P. and Rachel De Back, has been fencing since he was six years old. “I watched the movie The Princess Bride and told my mom and dad I wanted to try it,” he said with a smile. “So I took fencing lessons at a club in Grand Rapids.”

He trained for about a year, then participated in his first tournament at about age 7 or 8.

His sister, Greta, 13, also fences. But she is currently healing from an injury.

According to his dad, Maximus practices two hours a night, 4-5 days a week, all year long. He trains at the Grand Rapids Fencing Academy, and competes in various tournaments, both domestic and international. In Budapest, he placed in the top 32.

All of his training and traveling doesn’t give him much time to attend school, so he takes virtual classes online, through Cedar Springs Public Schools, so that he will be able to earn his diploma.

What is it that Maximus likes about fencing? “It’s not just who is bigger or stronger; you have to think about what you are going to do,” he said. “If you lose, it’s your fault.”

He said he will sometimes study his opponent to see what they like to do, then shut that down. 

While his goal is to join the Olympic team at some point, he said his immediate goal is to just get better each time he competes.

Maximus will complete next in the Jr. Olympics in February in Memphis. 

You can keep track of many of the fencing tournaments here and abroad on the USA Fencing facebook page.

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School board selects new trustee


Matt McConnon was appointed on Tuesday, January 23, to fill a vacant seat on the Cedar Springs Board of Education. Courtesy photo.

But question arises on whether he can serve

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education held a special meeting Tuesday evening, January 23, to fill the board seat vacated by Patricia Eary last week when she resigned. The board interviewed six candidates, and voted 6-0 to appoint Matt McConnon, of Courtland Township, to fill the seat until January. He was sworn in at the end of the meeting by School Resource Officer Deputy McCutcheon.

Several of the board members felt McConnon’s 10 years of experience in policy making and budgeting on the Courtland Township board would be beneficial to the school board. It remains to be seen, however, whether they will get to use his expertise.

“After we appointed Matt McConnon to the BOE, it came to light that there could be an outside concern with the incompatible office law as Matt is a trustee on the Courtland Township Board,” said Board President Heidi Reed.

“With the first look, the two positions (Township Trustee and BOE) appeared to only have a ‘potential of incompatibility,’ which meant the law did not apply. Matt’s longstanding board service to Courtland Township is to be admired. We have been in contact with Matt and we will amicably resolve this situation after we have gathered the facts,” she said. 

The concern arose because at the end of the meeting, the Post found, after speaking with Mr. McConnon, that he was still serving on the Courtland Township board. He explained that Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn had checked into it, and told him that there should be no conflict of interest since Courtland Township doesn’t do much voting on school issues.

However, the Post remembered that there was a similar case eight years ago, involving our own school board and the Cedar Springs City Council, and that the Kent County Prosecutor had deemed the two offices incompatible.

In that case, Pamela Conley, who was a Board of Education trustee, ran for Cedar Springs City Council in 2009 and won a seat. Both lawyers for the city and the school eventually agreed that the offices would be in conflict, and decided to send it to then Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth for a final opinion. He sent back his decision, explaining why the offices were incompatible. He also told Conley she needed to resign one of the offices by a certain date or he would file charges in Circuit Court. She decided to resign her BOE seat and still serves on the Cedar Springs City Council.

According to the opinion issued by Forsyth in January 2010, in which he cited the Public Offices Act, State Attorney General opinions and Supreme Court opinions, he noted that a person could serve on both boards if they do not negotiate or enter into contracts with one another, which the city and school do. “Of equal significance, an individual cannot avoid the incompatibility by abstaining from voting on resolutions…because abstention under such circumstances ‘is itself a breach of duty.’” He specifically mentioned the city collecting the taxes for the school, and the city conducting school board elections, and the school reimbursing the city for them.

Courtland Township does the same.

The Post emailed Board of Education President Heidi Reed and Superintendent Van Duyn to inform them of the prior case. Reed told the Post they would check into it. She then later issued her statement cited earlier in this article.

The Post will update this story when we know more.

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