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From the Superintendent’s Desk (March 2016)

Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Dear Cedar Springs Public Schools Staff and Families,

On behalf of the Board of Education, thank you for participating in the Strategic Planning Process. At Cedar Springs Public Schools we commend the Board of Education for entering into this important process. A strategic plan provides for a district shared vision, mission and set of core values in order to plan forward for the continued success in serving the nearly 3,500 students of Cedar Springs Public Schools.

As promised, feedback groups met with the Board of Education’s strategic planning facilitator. Administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents and community members provided invaluable input into creating a district shared vision, mission and set of core values. The facilitator will now combine the information gathered from all constituent groups and circle back to ensure he captured what was shared. The facilitator will then work with the Board of Education to utilize constituent input to articulate the vision, mission and core values for the district.

The collaboration of so many has made this inclusive process possible. Again, thank you to all who spent their days and evenings with the steering committee and in feedback groups. Hard work and great progress is taking place every day at Cedar Springs Public Schools in order to serve our students – because our Cedar Springs Public Schools students deserve the very best!

In appreciation,

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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School board bits

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education met again on Monday, March 28. The meeting started with the board adding an agenda item to read a board statement, which was passed. Trustee Michelle Bayink asked to add an agenda item for discussion on comments from the last meeting, but it was not seconded, and died for lack of support.
Several people read letters or made comments to the board.
Bruce Marvel, an educator in another district, whose children attend Cedar Springs, asked the board, What are you? He noted Board president Eary’s statement about them only having one employee, and then asked why the contracts begin with the words “The Board of Education of Cedar Springs Public Schools and ____ enter into a contract”? He also asked if the board only has one employee, why did they tell the staff in the October 12 meeting, “if you don’t like it, you can take you services elsewhere”? (See an edited version of his letter on page 5)
Jan Wallace, a former member of the Board of Ed for 12 years, and said they were always transparent and accountable to the community. She noted the difficulties they overcame (a failed BOE recall, teacher’s strike, major budget issues) and how they healed with the support of the entire community and staff. She questioned Board president Patricia Eary’s statement about them only having one employee—the superintendent; and took issue with her previous statement about it not being an “open, public meeting…we are here to do the work of the board.” Wallace said the pubic is an important part of that work and has a right to speak. (See an edited version of her letter on page 5)
Tammie Drake, a school of choice mom, also spoke about communication has dissipated in the district. She said the board and superintendent are expected to listen, be curious, and act when needed. She said that we once were leaders and now people are asking what’s going on in Cedar Springs. (See her edited letter on page 6)
Teacher Libby Metiva also spoke. She asked that the board honor the request by trustee Michelle Bayink to address concerns by the community. She also asked who are the good ol’ boys? She said that term has been used in conversations in the community, and she wondered if the board might be allowing personal feelings or prejudices regarding good ol’ boys to influence their decisions as a governing body. She also tried to explain that the issue they are currently facing is not about the inability to embrace change. She listed several ways that the staff has changed over the last several  years. Metiva noted teachers with 30-plus years experience speaking out because they are concerned. “Clearly our community is dysfunctional and divided,” she said. “What is stopping you from digging deeper? Aren’t our children worth it?”
Jamie Zywycki spoke and asked the board members to remember that they are trustees for the students.
First grade teacher Karen Gebhardt, who is in her 30th year of teaching, also spoke. She talked about the anti-bullying program “be nice” and importance of treating people with respect. “While we’ve expected our students to abide by this, with the administration and teachers it’s been harder,” she said. “The days of intimidation are over. It used to be that way at Cedar Trails but it’s not anymore.”
Many have questioned Board president Eary’s statement that they only have one employee—the superintendent. And while they may give the Superintendent the authority to hire and fire, according to the Michigan Association of School Boards website, under powers and duties of the local school board, it says that specific provisions in the revised school code assigns the board responsibilities such as employing a superintendent, other administrators, teachers, and support staff personnel. That job is seen each meeting when the board votes on the consent agenda to approve new hires or release employees.
For more on school board responsibility visit https://www.masb.org/your-local-school-board.aspx.

Cedar Springs Board meeting statement

The board read a statement during the meeting. “Let me first begin by thanking all of you for being present this evening as a part of this school board meeting. We recognize the interest in education by our community members, and value the opportunity to gather, listen to one another and consider the affirmations, questions and concerns of the community as part of our service as the Cedar Springs Public Schools board members.
As we have encountered change during the course of the year, we have heard affirmations, questions and concerns. We are proud that our community cares a great deal about the quality of education available for all our children. The Cedar Springs Board of Education cares a great deal as well. We are committed to proved an education of excellence for the children in the community.
The board is working with the Superintendent to ensure that wwe are in line with educational best practices and operations across our district. We are committed to being data driven in our decision making, as we continually serve our students and inform our community. We are committed to civility and respect, especially when there is a difference of opinion. These are the values we must uphold and model for all in our district, including our students.
We also stand committed to holding individuals accountable to work with integrity in their positions. Whether an individual is the Superintendent, a teacher in the classroom, a coach or a support staff member, we have high expectations and we expect excellence in all that we do. Valuing high expectations for ourselves sets the foundation for the best educational programs for children in our district.
The Cedar Springs Board of Education is listening to the community and is responsive to your concerns. We will continue to be in communication regarding a range of issues in the days ahead. We believe the leadership team shares our commitment and together we are confident that the children of Cedar Springs are going to continue to receive a great education.
The board and district leadership team appreciate the hard work done on a daily basis by staff and teachers in the classroom and on the grounds of the district. Effective teaching and learning is happening, and here are some examples:
*Long time teachers like Larry Reyburn at Cedar Springs High School who has always wanted to teach since his days as an FFA student at CSHS in the late 1960s.
*Becky Powell, who over the past 20 years has provided many hours of college preparation volunteer time with our CSHS students.
*The teachers at Cedar Trails who were recently commended for their implementation of Responsive Classrooms by a national trainer.
*Staff at our Cedar Springs Community Health Center, who support the physical and mental health needs of all students.
*The many other stories of exceptional adacemic success by our students such as Madison Skelonc, a 6th grader honored for scoring in the top 20 percent of the ACT of all college-bound high school students.
*Many excellent contributions in our various co-curricular programs.
*Our many volunteers who continue to partner with Cedar Springs, including parents and grandparents.
We live in a community where our students are learning and accomplishing great things. We live in a community that cares about education and our students. As a board, we are committed to continue this tradition of excellence going forward. Our community partnerships make a difference in our shared commitment to provide a high quality, world class education that ensures success for every child through exemplary teaching and learning.

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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

Red-Hawk-art-web

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

CSPS-HonorRoll-1stSemester-2016.pdf

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Chargers Finish on High Note, Sweep Senior Night

 

CTA Boys Basketball Team: Front (L to R): Casen Armstrong, Bailey Hawkins, James Hofstra, Jarod Bouma, Collin Bishop, Mason Dood, James Bishop. Back (L to R): Dawson Armstrong, Isaiah Piskun, Coach Scott Bultman, Charles Wortz, Brandon Beck, Luke Hubbard, John Wortz, Jackson Bowers

CTA Boys Basketball Team: Front (L to R): Casen Armstrong, Bailey Hawkins, James Hofstra, Jarod Bouma, Collin Bishop, Mason Dood, James Bishop. Back (L to R): Dawson Armstrong, Isaiah Piskun, Coach Scott Bultman, Charles Wortz, Brandon Beck, Luke Hubbard, John Wortz, Jackson Bowers

In their only home games of the year, the Creative Technologies Academy boys and girls basketball teams came up with great performances, winning both games against West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science (WMAES).

In the first game, the Lady Chargers battled throughout, trailing by as many as 8 in the fourth quarter. Senior Aubrey Slocum and junior Holly Fahling came up with big baskets to give the Chargers their first lead of the quarter with only two minutes remaining. Stifling defense by 8th graders Hannah Hofstra and Faith Watson shut down WMAES, and the Lady Chargers went on to win their final home game at Grace Bible College, 34-30.

CTA Girls Basketball Team: Front (L to R): Gabriela Fahling, Bridget Lass, Zoe Lehman, Faith Watson, Holly Fahling, Autumn Watson, Cameron Medwayosh, Molly Wortz. Back (L to R): Assistant Coach Danielle Davies, Hannah Hofstra, Kaleigh Keech, Aubrey Slocum, Brianne Calkins, Shauna Russell, Tori Wierda, Sierra Medwayosh, Devin Slocum, Coach Steve Washington

CTA Girls Basketball Team: Front (L to R): Gabriela Fahling, Bridget Lass, Zoe Lehman, Faith Watson, Holly Fahling, Autumn Watson, Cameron Medwayosh, Molly Wortz. Back (L to R): Assistant Coach Danielle Davies, Hannah Hofstra, Kaleigh Keech, Aubrey Slocum, Brianne Calkins, Shauna Russell, Tori Wierda, Sierra Medwayosh, Devin Slocum, Coach Steve Washington

It was the last home game of the careers of Slocum, Kaleigh Keech, and Shauna Russell. Many tears were shed, but it was exactly the way the seniors had hoped to go out, with many hugs passed around after the game. The girls’ team showed great improvement throughout the season, ending with a 4-10 record.

The CTA boys team came out with great intensity after the senior festivities had ended. Junior Brandon Beck and sophomore Dawson Armstrong got started early, and the Chargers never looked back, holding a comfortable double digit lead throughout the majority of the game, winning by 15.

The Chargers varsity team finished with their best record in four years, at 8-6. With no seniors on the team, and growth and maturity expected over the next year, the Chargers could be an extremely dangerous team come next November. Congratulations on a great season, Chargers!

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Davenport Basketball Players Read with Students for Reading Month

Davenport University Basketball players Nick Gamble (L) and John McCloud (R) read to the CTA second grade class.

Davenport University Basketball players Nick Gamble (L) and John McCloud (R) read to the CTA second grade class.

Friday, March 4 was “Sports Day” in the CTA elementary and students received a visit from some famous West Michigan athletes. The nationally-ranked Davenport Men’s Basketball Team, stopped by to spend time reading with the students a few days before they embarked on their trip to play in the NAIA National Tournament. The Davenport team came in to play games and interact with the students before breaking out into the classrooms for some small group time where they read their favorite books and shared their knowledge of basketball and life. “It was pretty cool to have the team here because they were talented and very tall,” said CTA second grader Gavin Olsen. “I really liked when they came back and read to our class, but most of all their dance moves at the assembly.”

This visit was part of CTA’s March is Reading Month program, which has weekly activities for the students, as well as extra time to get lost in a good book.

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CTA Music Program Gets Vocal

CTA 7th Grade students perform at the winter concert

CTA 7th Grade students perform at the winter concert

The CTA choir students presented a concert on March 3 to wrap up a very successful trimester of work. This concert featured all of our 7th graders as well as the high school students in Charger Voices. In addition, the concert also highlighted two high school groups that have been rehearsing after school. The first group – Fifth Element – is made up of six singers who performed a difficult arrangement of a Pentatonix song. The other group was the Men’s Ensemble, which is compiled of seven high school guys and two seventh grade guys who sang two powerful numbers and showcased the men’s sound. The choir program has continued to grow and thrive and as a result, this concert featured music that was more difficult than the first trimester songs; however, the students rose to the challenge and sounded beautiful. The concert began and ended with traditional African songs that featured choreography, rhythm instruments, and call-and-response sections. The students performed their hearts out and the audience left amazed at how far the CTA choir students have come in only a few short months.

Charger Voices High School students perform at the winter concert.

Charger Voices High School students perform at the winter concert.

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Top Hats and Tails at the Daddy Daughter Dance 

Jordan and Abby Brink, along with their two dates - Alice in Wonderland rabbit Jim (Grandpa) and Mad Hatter Lon (Dad) came in full attire for the Daddy Daughter Dance. Young ladies try their skills at limbo during the dance.

Jordan and Abby Brink, along with their two dates – Alice in Wonderland rabbit Jim (Grandpa) and Mad Hatter Lon (Dad) came in full attire for the Daddy Daughter Dance.

Young ladies try their skills at limbo during the dance.

Young ladies try their skills at limbo during the dance.

On February 11, CTA held its annual Daddy Daughter Dance, which was a huge success. The event has grown every year, as more and more daughters and their favorite men come to this event for fun, food, and DANCING!!! This year, “A Mad Hatter Tea Party” was the crazy theme. Each girl was given pearls, a teacup to decorate, and a special treat as she walked into the wacky CTA cafeteria! Also, every girl got on her feet and moved to the funky beats of the D.J.! A couple families pulled out all the stops to come in Mad Hatter/Alice in Wonderland attire and got really creative with their costumes! Donated desserts filled the room for a full dessert bar for the ladies and their dates to enjoy. Our staff and families went above and beyond to make this event a CTA favorite!

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CTA Family Strong Fundraiser

 

When people think of CTA, one of the first things that comes to mind is that it is like a small family, so when one of the “family members” was in need, CTA stepped up to the plate. The Bishop family recently received a cancer diagnosis for one of their daughters and CTA designated them the recipient of the #CTAfamilystrong treatment at a recent CTA basketball game at Grace Bible College. Not only did the CTA basketball teams put their best foot forward and win for both the boys and girls games, there were fundraising games for the kids as well as a silent auction to raise money for the Bishop family. In all, the CTA Family Strong fundraiser raised almost $6,000 for the family to put towards transportation and medical costs as they move forward with treatment. A heartfelt thank you to all involved to make this benefit such a huge success!

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