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Rotary Club honors 5th grade essay winners

From left to right: Darla Falcon & Carolyn Davis (4Way Test Committee), First place Evan Mattson & Addison Jones with teacher Mrs. Kahler,; Second Place Sophia Whitten/Mrs. Cairy and Otto Pigorsh/Mr. Moleski; Donna Clark (committee) and Third Place Caleb Christie and Nolan Papke, Mr. Moleski and Mrs. Gallagher.

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Rotary handed out awards to students on March 7 in their annual Rotary 4-way test essay contest. They invited fifth grade students from Cedar View and Creative Technologies Academy to participate. All essays were written in 200 words or less. Teachers chose the 2 best essays from their class and submitted them to the committee, which included Darla Falcon, Carolyn Davis, Donana Clark and Bea Hesley.    

Clark and Rotary president Tom Noreen spoke with each of the classes ahead of time, and gave them some background on Rotary. “Tom and I visited all of the 5th grade classes and shared what the 4Way test is, how it started and tried to inspire students with ideas of how to write a story that would be compelling and touch our hearts—something real, something that impacted them that they could relay with feeling,” explained Clark.

The students were then on their own to write the essays. And the students who won had a good grasp of what the committee was looking for. Out of 12 essays, they chose six—two for each place. 

“The essays were phenomenal this year! We had so much trouble narrowing it down to just one 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner that we decided not to,” said Clark. “We were a bit extravagant and allowed ourselves to choose two for each place!”

The first place winners were Evan Mattson and Addison Jones, both of Mrs. Kahler’s class. They each won $35 and a gold medallion of 4Way test.

Second place winners were Otto Pigorsh of Mr. Moleski’s class, and Sophia Whitten, of Mrs. Cairy’s class. They each won $20 and a gold medallion.

Third place winners were Nolan Papke of Mrs. Gallagher’s class, and Caleb Christie, of Mr. Moleski’s class. They each won $10 and a gold medallion.

The 4-Way Test was adopted by Rotary in 1943 and is a code of ethics each Rotarian aspires to live by both in their business and personal lives. It says: “Of the things we think, say or do: 1. Is it the TRUTH? 2. Is it FAIR to all concerned? 3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? 4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

This is the 10th year that the Rotary has partnered with local schools on this project.

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Self-driving semi hits the road

Photo by Sharon Parker

We have electric cars, solar-powered cars, self-driving cars, race cars, Hot Wheels cars—just about any type of car you can think of. And just last week, a brand new type of vehicle hit the road for a test drive: a self-driving semi tractor trailer that can drive forward or backward. 

Yes, you read that correctly. Because to this vehicle both ways are forward. It just depends on what direction you want to go. 

Some of the perks include:

*Run into a traffic jam? No problem. You can go back the way you came and never even have to turn around. It’s the same thing with a dead-end road.

*Someone tailgating you? Just turn on your bright lights and it will be like throwing a spotlight into their windshield. We guarantee they’ll back off.

*Rear-end someone? No worries, just head in the other direction as fast as you can. 

*And last, but certainly not least, if the brakes should fail and a crash is imminent, you can push “the red button” and the truck will transform into robot superhero Optimus Prime, keeping you airborne until you can find a safe place to land.

We are sure you can think of some great ways to use this truck yourself! Just check them out at your nearest car dealer. They should be hitting the showroom floor on April Fool’s Day!

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First grade library card celebration

Kids were excited to celebrate at the Kent Theatre earlier this month. Photo by Donna Clark.

A free popcorn was part of the fun at the Kent Theatre. Photo by Donna Clark.

The First Grade Library Card Roundup ended with a Grand Party at the Kent Theatre on Monday, March, 5, and Tuesday, March 6, to celebrate “March is Reading Month.” The Cedar Springs Public Library and Kent District Library Branches from Nelson and Spencer Townships each sponsored a free ticket for all first graders from the Cedar Springs Public Schools and Creative Technologies Academy to see “Paddington 2.” The Kent Theatre offered free popcorn to all first graders with a library card, counting 89 first graders over the two evenings. Counting everyone who attended—students, parents, siblings, teachers, and library staff—the total came to 283 over the two evenings.

Local author Amanda Litz donated books to be handed out at the event.

The Cedar Springs Public Library started this program in 1997, and later joined with KDL to jointly administer the program since students who live in Nelson and Spencer Townships have their home library there.

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Kent County getting additional money for road repairs

No tax or fee increases required for extra funding

 Cedar Springs will be one of several cities and villages receiving more funding for road repairs.

According to Rep. Rob VerHeulen’s office, Kent County—along with many of its local communities—will receive more money than previously expected for road repairs through a new state law.

The additional money comes without raising taxes or fees.

“Roads in many areas of Michigan obviously need a lot of work, especially with all of the potholes appearing after the freeze-and-thaw season,” VerHeulen said after the funding was signed into law this week. “More help is on the way with this extra money.”

An additional $175 million in transportation funding will be allocated statewide on top of what was previously expected. Much of the money is headed directly to counties, cities and villages for road preservation and construction.

Kent County’s road commission will get an estimated $3.34 million in additional funds. Cities and villages receive extra money on top of that including Casnovia ($3,938), Cedar Springs ($23,936), Grandville ($113,579), Kent City ($8,461), Rockford ($35,798), Sparta $26,939) and Walker ($180,740).

The money is already available because various state departments did not spend as much as originally projected during a previous budget cycle. That’s why no budget cuts or additional fees or taxes are required for the investment.

The extra money comes in addition to record-level road funding provided by previous long-term reforms. The state also has strengthened its warranty system designed to make sure new and refurbished roads will last longer.

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Post travels to Caribbean

Myrna Chapman, of Cedar Springs, pictured with the Post and two of her great-granddaughters in Cozumel, Mexico.

For over 30 years Bruce and Myrna Chapman, of Cedar Springs, have been enjoying their yearly cruise.  This year they traveled to Tampa, Fl  with family members and friends where they boarded the “Rhapsody of the Seas” a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship, on March 4th for a week long cruise to the western Caribbean. They visited Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Mexico, the island of Belize, and Costa Maya, Mexico and took the Post along with them.

Thanks for sharing and taking the Post with you!

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!

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Staff and others share reasons for wanting Superintendent to resign

By Judy Reed

Over 500 people filled the meeting room and foyer of Solon Township Hall Thursday evening to hear the personal stories of both current and former staff and board members of Cedar Springs Public Schools and how they have been affected by the policies of Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn.

Several of the speakers were in tears as they told their stories in public for the first time, despite fears of retaliation.

VanDuyn was hired to be Superintendent four years ago, but a movement within the community to get her to resign or for the board to give her a vote of no confidence has been steadily growing. An online petition has garnered just under 1,900 signatures, and paper petitions with signatures will be presented at the next Board of Education meeting on March 26.

Mary Graf, an elementary teacher for 41 years, said she has worked for seven superintendents and several principals over the years. She said there would always be change, but also there has always been mutual respect and collaboration with the administration. She remarked that now there is no collaboration, and that teachers now feel repercussions if they don’t completely agree with something or question anything. She said that happened to her last spring during a PLC on reading. There was a lot of tension in the room, and she said she tried to clarify how the teachers were feeling. The next week she received a letter from her administrator saying she had been unprofessional. Graf said her administrator had not even been in the meeting. When she met with him about it, he told her he was forced to write the letter.

Jan Wallace

Former board member Jan Wallace spoke about consultants, noting that the district had spent $300,000 over 15 months. “Do you wonder why our district has to consult outside experts so often?” she asked. Wallace added that $115,000 of that was spent on the Orange Frog program, “which teaches the staff to learn to be happier.” She felt they could have used that money on the deteriorating roads on campus. 

Wallace explained that when she was on the board, they looked at privatizing busing, and met with the staff to talk about it. “This board didn’t do that. They had a consultant come in to help,” she said.

Former board member Ted Sabinas talked about being locked out of the meeting on privatization of transportation; the fact that once he was on the board, staff and administrators told him they were not allowed to talk to him; and that all three elementary principals, two assistant principals, and the athletic director had all left in the last three years. He also noted that the Superintendent received a 3 percent raise while the staff did not receive a raise.

Joan Boverhof

Long time teacher Joan Boverhof spoke about the relationship between the teachers and administration eroding. She said that the board, administration and teachers union used to work together as a team but that was not happening now.

Teacher Brett Burns, who also president of the teachers union, said the union has been trying to repair the relationship with the board but they aren’t listening. He likened it to a child coming to him and saying he was being bullied and him ignoring it, and then the same thing happening again, and him not doing anything about it. “I am begging,” he said. “We are hurting. When are you, the community, and the board going to acknowledge that we are human?”

Secretary Mary Gardner was in tears as she shared an ordeal she faced about being forced to administer shots. She steadfastly refused, as she has a fear of needles. It was something nurses used to do. She finally got a lawyer involved.

Teacher Erin Cairy spoke about taking leave just before school started. She said the administration never reached out to her. Although she emailed a letter to be sent to the students who were supposed to be in her class and their parents, it was never sent. She also emailed asking how she could help the new teacher, but that went unanswered. She said she returned this year, and many questions she’s asked about programs, such as iready, have been taken as being negative.

At one point during the meeting, moderator Todd Norman asked the group how many were hearing these stories for the first time. Almost half the room raised their hand.

Teacher Libby Metiva said that the board of ed has said things that have wounded, but they have also been manipulated. “How can we help them? All of you are influencers. I’m asking all of you to help empower and influence the board members to take back Cedar Springs.”

Superintendent VanDuyn gave the Post a statement about the petition. 

“As superintendent, it is my promise to the community to make the best decisions I can to ensure our students have an exceptional educational experience while keeping our district financially stable. Our students should have a top notch school system to develop and grow. I am saddened by this petition as I am fully committed to making CSPS the best place it can be. My daily motivation and priority continues to be serving the students and families of CSPS.”  

To watch the entire video of the community meeting, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68xfuX_Ulsw&feature=youtu.be

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Teen defends Post newspaper, will miss prom

 

Peyton Elliston

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs High School senior Peyton Elliston was upset a few months ago when Cedar Springs Public Schools stopped distributing the 150 copies of the Post to the school buildings without notice. The Post and the school later negotiated to drop fewer papers there, but Petyon said she still isn’t seeing it at the high school.

Last month, Peyton put together three packets of information, along with a Post that she hung in the bathrooms in the senior hallway. The cover page said that “the transportation office was directed by the superintendent to abstain from distributing the newspapers any longer. This is nothing short of an attempt on control and censorship. While I understand that many people have resorted to using the Internet to access the daily news, the Cedar Springs Post is still a relevant collection of the significant events taking place in our community. We reserve the right to have access to the town newspaper within our schools, and we will not let one woman prevent us from keeping up with the stories surrounding Cedar Springs.”

The cover letter was accompanied by anonymous comments from students and community members.

Peyton and her mom Tami met with Assistant Principal Anne Kostus on the issue. According to Tami, they made an agreement that Peyton would take a one-day suspension for “insubordination” though there is nothing on that in the handbook. She said the agreement was that she would still be able to go to prom if she behaved. Students who are suspended cannot normally go to the next dance.

Tami said the insubordination came from the fact that the week before, Peyton had asked a lunch employee if she could put something on the tables (a paper) and was told she had to get permission. She didn’t put the papers out.

While Tami and Peyton thought the ordeal was over, she said she later got a phone call from Kostus saying that she should not have told her Peyton would be able to go to prom. It wasn’t fair to the other students.

Tami said the change came after the petition came out to ask the Superintendent to resign. Tami is one of the backers of the petition.

Peyton, who has a 4.0 average and will go to Michigan State for pre-law, said she would do it again. “It’s censorship, you can’t censor the students’ material,” she said.

In last week’s Post, Board President Heidi Reed made the statement “Just as our students do not sacrifice their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse doors, our individual Board members retain their individual rights as citizens when they volunteer to serve our school community,” when she was speaking about statements made on a board member’s personal Facebook page. Peyton’s dad brought that up when he met with Kostus, but was reportedly told it didn’t apply to Peyton, because she didn’t ask permission. But was also told if she had asked, it wouldn’t have been given. He has contacted the ACLU regarding Peyton’s right to free speech.

The Post reached out to Kostus to confirm the story or give a comment, but said that she couldn’t discuss the discipline of a student due to the privacy act.

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Prep work begins onUS-131

On Monday, March 19 the tree clearing stage of the US-131 Reconstruction Project began. In order to complete this operation, there will be periodic shoulder closures on Northbound and Southbound US-131 from 10 Mile Road to 14 Mile Road. These shoulder closures will be in place until March 31.

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U.S. attorney’s office addresses opioid epidemic 

As part of his office’s “prevention, preservation and prosecution” efforts, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced the arrival in West Michigan of additional resources for the Drug Enforcement Administration. 

U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge invited the media to meet with him and several partners from the community and law enforcement on how they are addressing the opioid crisis. 

“It’s a matter of saving lives,” U.S. Attorney Birge declared as he recounted the staggering statistics already been in the news lately: 

• Since 2009, drug overdose deaths have outpaced traffic accidents as the leading cause of injury death in the United States. 

• Life expectancy in the United States dropped for two years in a row after more than a century of steady progress. 

• The number of children admitted to hospitals for opioid overdose has nearly doubled since 2004, according to a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics. 

• More people died of an overdose in 2016 than ever before—and more than died in the entire Vietnam War. 

• The Centers for Disease Control identified Michigan as one of the states experiencing a significant increase in its drug overdose death rates through 2016; and up over 24 percent for women just last year, according to the United Health Foundation. 

• Emergency Department visits for opioid overdoses rose 30 percent in all parts of the country from July of 2016 through September of 2017. Opioid overdoses were up 70 percent in the Midwest during that period. 

• Preliminary numbers from the Medical Examiner in Kent County for 2017 indicate that we lost at least 137 community members in this County to drug overdose deaths—a 50 percent increase over the preceding year, with more cases pending. 

U.S. Attorney Birge explained, “We also know that this trend started with prescription drugs. Addiction to these drugs leads to heroin and worse, including fentanyl bought off the street. About 80 percent of heroin users report using prescription drugs prior to heroin.” 

U.S. Attorney Birge then discussed the three ways his office is addressing the epidemic: 

• Prevention, educating the public and community members—especially our youngest—to discourage the new use of these dangerous drugs; 

• Preservation, furthering information about what can be done to protect those currently suffering from Substance Abuse disorders, teaming with medical and treatment professionals and those that provide overdose antidotes to the community; and

• Prosecution, investigating and charging those that would profit from the spread of these dangerous substances in our community. 

In the area of prevention, the U.S. Attorney’s Office teamed with Grandville Public Schools to host a community presentation on the epidemic in the Grandville High School Auditorium earlier this week. “I cannot stress enough how important it is for parents and teenagers to understand this epidemic. Teenagers learn and grow by making the occasional poor choice, but they can’t afford to make poor choices with opioids,” explained U.S. Attorney Birge. 

As for preserving the lives of those caught in the addiction spiral, Dr. Jeanne Kapenga talked about Families Against Narcotics (FAN) and how FAN educates the public and provides support for families facing addiction. 

“My office, of course, enforces the law,” U.S. Attorney Birge said. “Enforcing the law deters the suppliers and saves lives.” He gave as an example his office’s prosecution last year of a physician from Albion, Dr. Horace Davis, for illegally prescribing opioid painkillers and committing healthcare fraud. And he highlighted the heroin trafficking conspiracy his office charged last fall against 28 people. 

“We used the tools at our disposal to build that case, including wiretaps and the secrecy of the grand jury. During the initial takedown, we seized over 21 kilograms of heroin, over 13 kilograms of cocaine and over $1.3M in cash.” He added that his office prosecuted 50 percent more heroin cases and defendants last year than the year before and that he expects that rate to keep rising. 

“The federal penalties for drug trafficking are heavy; trafficking offenses can carry mandatory minimum penalties of five, ten, and twenty years and even life in prison, depending on the amount of drugs involved and criminal history. So my message for those who would turn people into addicts or take advantage of those who are already addicted, is the following: we’re going to use every tool we have to come looking for you and to prove your guilt and the federal sentences you will face if convicted are severe.” 

On the subject of enforcement, Bruce McColley, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Cathy Gallagher, the Detroit Diversion Program Manager, addressed additional resources the DEA is bringing to West Michigan. The Grand Rapids office of the DEA will have more agents installed to investigate diversion of prescription drugs to non-medical uses, which fuels the epidemic. 

U.S. Attorney Birge explained that the additional resources “will substantially improve our ability to deter and prevent prescription drugs from ending up in the wrong hands.” 

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State eat safe fish guidelines set for Freska, Versluis Lakes

 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently advised the Kent County Health Department of contamination of fish from Freska and Versluis Lakes. MDHHS caught and tested fish in the lakes last year for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and mercury. Staff set “Eat Safe Fish” guidelines for fish caught in these lakes to protect everyone, including children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with existing health problems such as cancer or diabetes.

Eat Safe Fish recommendations are provided as “MI Servings.” Think of the Michigan mitten shape: one MI Serving for adults is 6-8 ounces of fish (about the size of an adult’s hand). For children, one MI Serving is 2-4 ounces of fish (about the size of an adult’s palm).

FRESKA LAKE: Bluegill, sunfish, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass filets were collected from Freska Lake in 2017 and tested for PFAS and mercury. PFAS and mercury was found in all the fish species. MDHHS issued the following recommendations for eating fish from Freska Lake:

 Type of Fish Tested  Chemical Causing MI Serving Recommendation  Size of Fish  Recommended MI Servings per Month 
Bluegill  Mercury & PFOS  Any 
Sunfish  Mercury & PFOS  Any 
Largemouth and smallmouth bass  Mercury  Under 18”
Largemouth and smallmouth bass  Mercury  Over 18”

VERSLUIS LAKE: Northern Pike were tested from Versluis Lake in 2017; PFAS and mercury were detected. MDHHS issued the following recommendations for eating fish from Versluis Lake:

 Type of Fish Tested  Chemical Causing MI Serving Recommendation  Size of Fish  Recommended MI Servings per Month 
Northern Pike  Mercury  Under 30”
Northern Pike  Mercury  Over 30”

An advisory has been added on the Kent County PFAS information pages at www.accesskent.com/PFAS.

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