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Archive | Cedar Springs Public Schools

School saves taxpayers money on bond sale

But must work on maintenance, balanced budget

By Judy Reed

There was good news and bad news at the Monday, March 14 Cedar Springs Board of Education meeting. The good news is that the board approved the sale of the 2016 Refunding Bonds, which will save taxpayers over $2,000,000. The bad news is that the school district has numerous deferred maintenance problems to address, and needs to solve those problems while trying to come up with a way to offset a $1.3 million shortfall in next year’s budget.

Sale of bonds

The 2016 Series A refunding bonds are being issued to refund a portion of the district’s 2006 refunding bonds, and pay a portion of the costs of issuing the bonds. They were sold at a true interest rate of 2.77 percent. This will reduce the school district’s interest and save taxpayers approximately $1,017, 252 through lower debt payments over the next 16 years.

The 2016 Series B bonds are being issued to refund some outstanding indebtedness of the district to the State of Michigan under the State of Michigan School Bond Qualification and Loan Program, and to pay a portion of the costs of issuing the Bonds. They were sold at a federally taxable rate of 1.98 percent. This will reduce interest and payment costs to the state, saving taxpayers an estimated $1,500,000, according to Rosemary Zink, Director of Business and Finance. The estimated reduction in repayments is based upon the current School Bond Loan Fund interest rate of 3.50%.

“Cedar Springs Public Schools’ Bonds were well received by the bond market,” said Brenda Voutyras, Managing Director with Stifel, the brokerage firm that helped with the sale. “We saw good demand and were able to take advantage of current low interest rates that resulted in a very nice savings for the District and its taxpayers.”

Deferred facilities maintenance

Matthew Losch, with Excel Consultant Group, LLC, completed an assessment of the Cedar Springs Public Schools facilities, which are valued at $50 million. He found several issues that need to be addressed, including some that would could cause the school to be fined by MIOSHA. He told the board, in his presentation, that he mainly looked at safety, efficiency, and effectiveness. “This report is not about a staff or person not doing their job,” Losch said in his report. “It is about a department structure or organizational system which requires improvement, positive change, and support. We want to make a great school district even greater.”

Losch said that one of the problems is that the maintenance department needs a managerial supervisor to work with Jerry Gavin, Director of Maintenance and Operations. He noted that Gavin is doing a great job, but needs someone to help oversee work assignments, regulartory compliance, project coordination, safety inspections, recordkeeping, and more.

Losch also said that their regulatory compliance requires serious work because there are various safety issues, and several written programs are not MIOSHA compliant. One photo showed a saw without a guard, which he said is a $1,500 MIOSHA violation. “If someone got injured, I can’t imagine what the blank check the board would be writing,” said Losch.

The district must also develop a preventative maintenance program. He supplied photos showing asphalt cracks, roof leaks, problems with door jambs, thermal insulation falling off, a fence needing repair, etc.

Department documents also need to be organized. Photos showed blueprints and other papers piled randomly on file cabinets and in storage areas. They also need to work on safety inspections, an annual review of the district’s emergency management plan, training and instruction, certifications, etc.

Losch recommended they plan for preventive maintenance, taking care of deferred maintenance, cyclical replacement, and capital repairs. Funding strategies could include sinking fund projects, grants, performance bonds, and utility company services and funding.

Long range financial projection

The board saw a long range financial projection for the school district last week, and could be looking at a possible shortfall of almost $809,000 this year, and $1,360,000 next year, with only $2,075,000 in the fund balance. By 2017-18, with declining enrollment, and no increase in state aid, the projection shows a shortfall of of almost $2 million with only $120,000 in the fund balance.

Donald Sovey, CPA, CFO, of School and Municipal Advisory Services, PC, gave the presentation to the board. He noted that the modeling is based on if things stay the same, and that the current projections would change as new facts become available, such as enrollment, retirement contribution rates, facility and equipment needs, staffing changes and related costs, and state and local funding levels. The state aid in the long range projections was based on the governor’s proposal for the 2016-17 school year. Some maintenance that has been deferred is included in the forecast.

Sovey said he sat down with the building principals and showed them their budgets. “Some of them saw it for the first time,” he said.

He also noted that he recommended a stop to purchasing of all budgeted items for this year. “If it’s not been purchased by now, they probably won’t need to,” he explained.

This is one of the most stable districts I’ve worked with, but there are still some challenges,” remarked Sovey. “The population numbers are shrinking some over the next few years, and state aid is tied to that. We need to eliminate surprises and upgrade documention.”

Sovey explained to the Post that there is a good accounting system in place, it just needs more refinement. “My job is to process, improve on, and tighten up procedures—to set up an accounting system to provide timely and useful information that can be used to make good decisions.”

He also noted that the audits at the school are always really good. “It’s a great district, and they’ve had some excellent people working there,” he remarked. “Finances in school districts are always a challenge, with the state aid remaining flat.”

Sovey said that the model forecast was done without seeing a new budget. “A zero-based budget is underway. This long range modeling can help us project what could happen if no changes are made. It’s not carved in stone. There may or may not be a deficit by the time the board gets done.”


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Odyssey of Mind team takes third at State

Members of the Odyssey of the Mind team.

Members of the Odyssey of the Mind team.

By Judy Reed

A first-year Odyssey of the Mind team at Cedar View Elementary did something this year that is rarely seen—they finished second at regionals, then went on to take third place at state.

Team members Ethan Griffee, Hannah Anderson, Nate Slager, Ella Buttermore, Riley Robb, and Judy Visser were coached by Tanja Griffee and Aaron Anderson. Regionals were held February 27 at Greenville Middle School, where they placed second and earned a silver medal. The state finals were held March 19, at Thornapple Kellogg Schools in Middleville, where they placed third, and received a bronze medal.

The problem they competed in was called, “No-Cycle Recycle.” They had to build a car and perform a skit involving recycling and repurposing trash items.  

“They are an amazing group of kids,” said Coach Griffee. “They worked hard and did great as a team. I am extremely proud of them for their accomplishments!”

Regional Director Linda Blackmore, of Cedar Springs, was surprised at the progress the group made for being a first year team of fourth and fifth graders.

The program is overwhelming, and so I usually tell the coaches to have two goals: survive and have fun,” explained Blackmore. “They just need to get through it the first time, to learn the ropes. But then they went on to state. That hardly ever happens. It’s an accomplishment against the best of the best at state finals—to not only be there, but to place as well. It’s only happened maybe once in the 20 years I’ve been doing this,” she said.

Blackmore said that she’s hoping to get more teams from Cedar Springs involved in Odyssey of the Mind. Teams can be created at any grade level, from grades K-12, and grade levels can have more than one team, as Cedar View did this year. If anyone is interested in getting involved, contact your building principal, or contact Blackmore at region2@michiganodyssey.com.

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Cedar Springs Public Schools 1st Semester Honor roll 2015-2016


HEY proud parents and grandparents!

The Cedar Springs Public Schools Honor Rolls for Middle School, High School, and New Beginnings Alternative HS are now available to download.

Click link below to download the Cedar Springs Public Schools 1st Semester Honor Roll 2015-2016


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Odyssey of the Mind comes to Cedar View Elementary

Team 1 will tackle the vehicle problem.

Team 1 will tackle the vehicle problem.

Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem solving competition where teams of up to seven students led by coaches tackle an open ended (long erm) problem and a spontaneous question. The long term problem can be anything from creating your own vehicle with a propulsion system the team devises, to a performance with humor, scripts, sets, props and costumes all created, written, and performed by the students!

Odyssey of the Mind offers an amazing opportunity for kids to discover the millions of ways to problem solve, create, invent, reuse and recycle all while working within your team, using team work and team building skills. 

The leaders of the future emerge from Odyssey of the Mind participation and involvement.

Cedar View has two teams this year:

Team 1, coached by Tanja Griffee and Aaron Anderson is tackling the vehicle problem. Team members include: Ethan Griffee -5th grade, Riley Robb-4th grade, Judy Visser-5th grade, Hannah Anderson-5th grade, Ella Buttermore-5th grade and Nate Slager-4th grade.

Team 2 will tackle the performance problem.

Team 2 will tackle the performance problem.

Team 2, coached by Emily Elliot, Michelle Wiles and Abby Briggs, is tackling the performance problem. Team members include: Annalise Elliott-4th grade, Coryn Wiles-4th grade, Ember Briggs-4th grade, Ryan Rypma-4th grade, Devin Jobson- 4th grade, Aiden Lake-5th grade, J.R. Nulph-5th grade.

The competition takes place on February 27 at Greenville Middle School. The public is welcome to attend.

Team 1 is at 10:20 a.m. in the gymnasium, and Team 2 is at 9:00 a.m. in the 300 block of rooms.

For more information visit Odysseyofthemind.com (the national site) or Miodyssey.com (region 2) our local Michigan site.

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Hard Work leads to Sledding Party

Kindergarten and first grade students enjoy sledding as a reward for meeting their reading goals.

Kindergarten and first grade students enjoy sledding as a reward for meeting their reading goals.

The elementary students were able to enjoy some winter fun before the snow melted!

The kindergartners and first graders earned a sledding party because they have worked so hard to meet their reading goals this year. Mrs. Bialkowski, the first grade teacher, and Miss Bostic, the kindergarten teacher, wanted to celebrate their students’ successes!

What better way to celebrate in the winter than with a sledding party followed by hot cocoa and a special treat!

“It was a blast seeing the excitement from these little ones and knowing that all this happened because they had been working so hard in the classroom,” said Miss Bostic. “These kids can make any situation exciting and enjoyable, even this small sledding hill!”

Thank you to all the moms and dads of the first graders and the kindergartners who made this celebration possible! Now they are on to setting and meeting even more goals for the year with National Reading Month right around the corner!

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Fundraiser to benefit Brison Ricker


WERQ dance fitness workout March 11

Join us for a dance fitness party to raise funds that will go towards Brison Ricker’s medical care. Brison Ricker is a 15-year-old Cedar Springs student who was diagnosed in January with inoperable brain cancer.

What better way to raise funds than to come together for a 90-minute dance fitness party? Sweat to some of your favorite songs for a good cause. Let’s do what we can to help kick cancer’s butt!

No experience necessary—anyone can do it! Just throw on your fitness gear, bring a water bottle, a sweat towel, and your favorite dancing/workout friends!

The fundraiser will be Friday March 11, 6-7:30 p.m. at Red Hawk Elementary. The cost is $10.  It will last 90 minutes, with multiple WERQ Instructors, and fun routines to your favorite radio hits!

Just DO IT!

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From the Superintendent’s Desk


Dear Cedar Springs Public Schools Families:

As we kick off the month of February each year in our district newsletter, the Red Hawk Review, we salute the volunteers of our great district.  I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my personal thanks to our volunteers as well.  We know the partnership we enjoy with so many parents and community members is something special as Cedar Springs is such a warm and giving community committed to the students and staff of CSPS.

We’ve witnessed the giving of countless hours of volunteerism in our schools.  We so appreciate our parents and community members for bringing smiles to the faces of our students and staff.  Our volunteers spend time assisting students in small groups, they help teachers in busy classrooms, they raise funds, they shelve books, they serve food, they travel to far-away places to support our kids in a variety of activities, they support our Special Olympics, they bake and cook for our staffs, they organize countless activities, they hold team dinners, they donate thousands and thousands of dollars to support needs and wants otherwise not possible and SO much more.  Our volunteers do so with a heart and spirit of giving as they love supporting our RED HAWKS, young and old!  Thank you to all who support our schools – we couldn’t do it without you!

Speaking of volunteers, our Cedar Springs Board of Education is a group of 7 people who volunteer all year long.  They are committed to serving in many capacities to ensure the very best education for our nearly 3,500 students.  Their work goes far beyond a couple of meetings a month.  They spend days and nights engaged in the work of the district as their primary role is the “big picture” of the district in order to: set the vision for the district, hire/evaluate the superintendent, and set Board policy.  To that end our Board is currently volunteering in the strategic planning process in order to set the vision for the district.

Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining direction for the organization in order to accomplish goals.  In that process the vision, mission and core values of the organization are defined.  The vision is where we are trying to go; the mission is why we are doing what we’re doing; the core values are how we are going to go about it.  The Board of Education establishes the vision for the district by gathering input from the stakeholders of the district and community.

We are making great progress in the strategic planning process by involving our stakeholders.  A steering committee of staff, parent and community leaders reached out to secure large groups of participants to be in feedback groups during the month of February.  It is in those groups where staff, students, parents and community members convene to share with a facilitator their hopes and dreams for the Cedar Springs Public Schools.  Our Board of Education will then establish the “big picture” of a vision for a 3-5 year plan for moving our district forward in the very best way to serve students as our Cedar Springs students deserve the very best.  Thank you to ALL who are giving of their time in this important process.  It’s an exciting time at CSPS!

As always, it is an honor to serve as your CSPS superintendent.  Please know I maintain an open door to any and all who would like to talk.  Please do call, write or drop by for a visit at any time.  I would love an opportunity to get to know you and learn how I might support your wishes or to answer any questions you may have about any topic, such as strategic planning!


Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools

Office:  616-696-1204 ext. 1001

Cell: 925-899-3111

Email: laura.vanduyn@csredhawks.org

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February School News

Beach Elementary receives grant

Beach Elementary received a $500.00 grant from Exxon Mobil, store #310509 the Cedar Rock Mobil Mart on 11800 Northland Dr. Part of the stipulation of our grant is that we publish the information about the grant. The grant is titled Exxon Mobil Education Alliance program and they are made annually to support math and science.


Open Enrollment for the Tuition Based Preschool begins Wednesday, February 17, 2016 Classes will be forming for students who are 3 or 4 years old by September 1, 2016.  Information will be available at that time for families that are interested in tuition assistance for preschool.

Kindergarten – Ready, Set, Go! “The Future Begins Here”

The Cedar Springs Kindergarten Team welcomes the parents and guardians of the 2016-2017 Kindergarten Class for an information night.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 6:00 – 7:00 pm Cedar Trails Elementary

Parents and guardians will meet in the multi-purpose room where our kindergarten teaching staff will present an outline of the typical day, share curriculum expectations and give some helpful tips on selecting a backpack and other frequently used items. We are hoping to answer questions and get everyone ready for an exciting start to the school year.

In August, after teacher assignments have been finalized, we will welcome the students to Cedar Trails’ Open House to visit their classroom and meet their teacher.

NEW Director of Business and Finance – Rosemary Zink, CPA, MBA, CMA

Rosemary starts at Cedar Springs Public Schools February 1, 2016. She comes to CSPS with a wealth of skills and knowledge in school business and finance.  Her office will be located at the Hilltop Community Building.  Please join us in welcoming Rosemary to the district.


Due to our increased Campus Kids Child Care enrollment, we have opened another Campus Kids Child Care location at Beach Elementary. We will have programming at the Beach location for 2nd through 5th graders, mornings and afternoons. Campus Kids will base out of the Beach cafeteria and we will use the gym, library, and computer lab for activities. We will maintain our Child Care program at Cedar Trails for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and first graders.

Rates are available for mornings, afternoons, all day programming when school is not in session, and drop-in (based on availability). We will also be offering a Summer Camp with lots of fun activities and field trips.

Campus Kids Program Information

call: 616-696-1716

visit: http://csredhawks.org/Parents/Campus-Kids-Child-Care/index.html

stop in: Cedar Trails or Beach Elementary Main Offices

Monday – Friday, 6am to 6pm

Location: Cedar Trails Elementary & Beach Elementary

Mid Winter Break 

No School February 12 through February 16;  Students returning February 17

Education Foundation to receive plaque

Ed Foundation Plaque at High School Auditorium On March 5, 2015, the Education Foundation met in the High School’s auditorium with director and teacher Justin Harnden to present the official $25,000 Education Foundation donation check. New speakers and a sound system have been installed in the High School Auditorium. The school is very excited for these new additions, and will certainly be seen and used as often as possible. Thank you Holton family!

As a demonstration of appreciation, a plaque will be dis-played at the High School Auditorium to recognize the generosity of the Holton family.

2016 High School Winter Musical “Wizard of Oz”

For more information visit:


Mark your calendar for the show on Feb 4, 5, 6, & 7




9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.



The cold air is settling in, but you don’t have to give up your workout. Cedar Springs Public Schools supports your effort to stay healthy this season. Red Hawk Elementary will open their doors to all community members who would like to walk the halls from 4:00-8:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday when school is in session. If Cedar Springs Public Schools is closed due to inclement weather, holiday or no school scheduled, walking is canceled that day.

Scheduled days closed… February 15 & 16

For inclement weather school closings, please stay tuned to your local TV Station listings.

Calling All Cedar Springs Community Members — It is Box Top and Labels for Education Submission Time!

CSPS-Box-TopsDo you have Box Tops or Labels for Education sitting around the house and no one to donate them to?    Box Tops for Education is a program created by General Mills to help schools earn cash to buy the things needed: books, computers, playground equipment and more.   You can find Box Tops on hundreds of products throughout the grocery store.  To get more information on the program, visit www.boxtops4education.com

Labels for Education a fun and easy program where families and members of the community work together to “Earn Free Stuff” for their school!  By collecting UPCs your school earns points that can be redeemed for Arts, Athletics, and Academics merchandise.  For a complete list of participating products, visit www.labelsforeducation.com.

Help out Cedar Springs Public Schools by dropping the box tops off to the district office.  District office hours Monday through Friday; 7:30am – 4:00pm.  Please drop off donations before February 11, 2016. The elementary school students thank you!


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Dedicated & Talented Middle School Art Student

Eilena Lopez shows off some of her artwork.

Eilena Lopez shows off some of her artwork.

Jennifer Swift, Art Teacher

I would like to take the time to celebrate an extraordinarily talented artist at Cedar Springs Middle School.

Eilena Lopez is an eighth grader who consistently demonstrates dedication, perseverance, the ability to think outside the box, and the artistic skills to create incredibly unique works of art.  She typically takes on more than the project requires, doing multiple projects, adding intense details, and even working from home.  She is thoughtful and reflective in every project and a great inspiration to her fellow classmates.

CSPS-Art2Eilena is skilled in a variety of art mediums, but her passion is drawing with value.  Eilena’s work will be on display at the administration office if you have a chance to see her work in person.  The attention in detail in her portraits is absolutely stunning!  I feel so very grateful to get to work with such an incredible person and artist every day.  Cedar Springs is very lucky to have Eilena here!


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From the Superintendent’s Desk

Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Dear Cedar Springs Public School Families:

Happy New Year 2016!  We are so happy to have our schools teeming, once again, with our students, staff and families.  It is my hope you enjoyed a restful vacation from school and that you are ready to take on all the excitement this new year brings.

As we know, there will be challenges and celebrations throughout 2016.  Our positive perspective on what is ahead will lead us to continued growth and development at CSPS.  Please join me in embracing each challenge we may face in 2016 as we know it’s how we learn, grow and thrive. We’ll have many celebrations as we work together and witness the greatness our kids and staff will achieve in 2016.  I know we have some seniors already considering a celebration as the magic “2016” is the year they have been waiting for a long time!  Hold off on that seniors…you still have a lot of work to do!

As we kick off 2016 I want to thank a committed group of people who keep this district so strong…our PTO.  I have witnessed the incredible number of hours this group of parents dedicates to all our schools.  I have learned about the countless things they do to raise funds and support our needs and wants. Just to name a few:  they pay for and build playgrounds;  they provide meals and support to our staff during conferences; they ensure Santa Claus and cookies are a part of the fun at Cedar Trails; they organize and run our book fairs and supply our teachers with many books for their classrooms; they host ice cream socials to build community; they supply books for and help run our libraries; they cheer on all our kids as they walk the track for our annual PTO fundraiser.  Our CSPS PTO seeks to serve and they do so with a smile and great cheer knowing that they are building community at Cedar Springs.  Thank you, PTO, and Happy New Year to all of you from all of us at CSPS!

We have many exciting things happening as we enter 2016.  One of which is strategic planning.  If you are interested in providing feedback for that process, please let me know as we would love to have your input.  There are parent and community group meetings to be held in February in order to provide the Board of Education with input to help them establish the vision (where we want to go), mission (why we are doing what we are doing) and core values (how we are going to go about it) of our school distict.  Our CSPS Board of Education values all constituent group feedback and looks forward to setting the vision of the district for future progress for all.

It’s great to be back!  Together, let’s make 2016 the best year ever!


Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

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