web analytics

Archive | Voices and Views

What is a leader?

Leadership. An effective leader is a person who does the following:

1.Creates an inspiring vision of the future.

2.Motivates and inspires people to engage with that vision.

3.Manages delivery of the vision.

4.Coaches and builds a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision.

Reflecting on the last 18 month, this does not describe the approach and behaviors exhibited by our current board and administration.

The “how” we do things is equally as important as the “what” we do. A hostile working environment is not an environment that provides quality education for our children. Our administrators and teachers need to feel valued and accountable to delivering there best each and every day. What our teachers and administrators have had to endure while working through this “change” is unacceptable. Intimidation, fear, being demeaned in front of peers, being disregarded, no collaboration and retaliation for speaking up or against a situation to name a few. The disrespect, lack of listening and disregard for the community’s concerns is unacceptable. Countless attempts to ask questions, to seek information, to ask for accountability and action, and nothing happens. No questions, no conversation among the board at the open meetings about anything. This path and these actions need to change, for the health of our district and for our children’s education. The only way forward is together.

The best ideas and our greatness as a district over decades has come from trust, collaboration, high expectations for students and staff, welcoming our differences and working together to give our children the best education possible. This is what makes the most powerful positive “change.”

As a community, we are passionate and united by one thing and that is the education of our children in this district. The board and the superintendent are ultimately responsible for that and their behavior and choices matter. We are losing talented people in this district that have made a tremendous impact and were part of making us great, and I am sure if nothing changes we are sure to lose more teachers, administrators and students.

Any good leader is not afraid to listen, adjust, take action and move forward courageously. This path we are on is not leading us to continued greatness, it ls leading us to failure, bankruptcy and utter embarrassment within the region and state.

Are you prepared for that to be your legacy?

Sincerely,

Laura Davis, Algoma Township

Posted in Post ScriptsComments (1)

A different point of view

I see things differently than some of the writers in the Post.

I am highly encouraged that our CSPS School Board and Dr. VanDuyn are reviewing administrative practices at CSPS. In Michigan there are increasing school requirements and competition in the education arena.

The School Board is being questioned and threatened by a group or individuals, who feel they have been wronged. Personnel details cannot legally be disclosed or publically discussed. This school board is essentially the same and was acceptable to most, until they did not promote Mr. Cairy to superintendent.

#PeopleHaveLeftBefore

FOIA information shows 1.5 years before Dr. VanDuyn was hired, two administrators and one teacher received separation agreements or severance pay. This supports change happens in education, regardless of who is at the helm.

#CurrentDedicationandTalent

We currently have many talented/accredited/acclaimed hardworking employees and students in CSPS!

#SpeakUpPositive4CSPS

Increased attendance at CSPS school board meetings is also support for the positive changes taking place, A few:

*Beach Back Pack reinstated/volunteer based

*GATORS reading staff expanded

*Class sizes reduced in elementary

*Human resources for staff assistance & policy

*Increased communication district wide from Dr. VanDuyn.

#ProtectingOurInvestmentforKids

*Building maintenance is moving to a preventative system. We have deferred maintenance to overcome.

*New budgeting system. Building principals now see their building finances and will contribute to decisions made for their building.

*Bidding processes will now be public, timely, including complete scopes of work.

*50+ active credit card accounts reviewed—business consultant recommended less than 5 is appropriate.

I see the CSPS school board members (the majority who are present for all meetings), are doing their job, aware of personal conflicts of interest, mindful of board fiduciary responsibility and making informed decisions to move our district forward.

Working together we can go from good to great, with the leadership of Dr. VanDuyn.

Go Red Hawks!

Heidi Reed, City of Cedar Springs, CSPS Sinking Fund Committee & School Board Meeting Attendee

Posted in Post ScriptsComments Off on A different point of view

Resigning is a choice

Letter read at March 14 Board of Education meeting

My name is Sarah (Welch) Holtrop and I am writing this letter out of concern for the students, staff, administration, and school board. I have lived in Cedar Springs my entire life. My parents were both teachers at Cedar Springs. They devoted their lives to their students. After graduating from college, I also began my career as a teacher in the Cedar Springs district. My husband and I raised three children in Cedar Springs and they attended Cedar Springs from preschool through the 12th grade. I have been teaching in Cedar Springs for the past 32 years. In those 32 years, I have had the opportunity to work for 5 different superintendents, and 9 different principals. I have shown respect for them all and that is the way it should be. Over the years I have attended many board meetings and for the last two years I have attended almost all of them. In that time the board hired a new superintendent…Dr. Laura VanDuyn. The vote was 5-2 in favor of Dr. VanDuyn. I continue to attend board meetings in order to be certain I am informed. I am breaking my silence because I do not feel it is fair for individuals to stand up and verbally blame Dr. VanDuyn for being the cause of the resignation of four administrators. This accusation is unfair, as all of these individuals have resigned. All of them could have accepted Dr. VanDuyn as their new superintendent, and worked alongside her to serve the students of Cedar Springs. However, instead of doing so, for one reason or another, they have chosen to resign. I have heard many ask the board why the administrators have resigned. Instead of asking the board over and over again why, ask these individuals exactly why they resigned.

In our careers we are continually faced with change, and like it or not, we have to accept it. An administrative change is not a reason to end a long-term career. Personally, I have found Dr. VanDuyn to be compassionate, caring, and concerned (for the well being of both students and staff.) She is working tirelessly for the Cedar Springs School district. She offers opportunities for all staff members to meet with her. She actually listens to concerns. She values the employees of the district. In her short time serving the district, she has a growing list of accomplishments. Restoring the counseling to Cedar Trails and Beach, and lowering class sizes are a couple of recent examples. In conclusion, I think it is time to accept the fact that our administration has changed. It is certainly not the first time and we need to move forward with our new leaders. They deserve our kindness, support, and respect.

Sarah (Welch) Holtrop, 1st Grade Teacher, Cedar Trails

Posted in Post ScriptsComments (1)

Our community is the one who loses

The story of “Cedar Springs Athletic Director Resigns” has been weighing on my mind since it began swirling around the news and social media. I have been debating with myself on whether I should comment or not, but I believe as a former student of the Cedar Springs School District and part of a family that has resided in Cedar Springs for many years, it is important for people like me to speak up. It is concerning to me that the current administration (Superintendent and Board of Education) is not leading in a way that will allow the school district to continue to be successful in maintaining a level of excellence in the classroom and in the many extra-curricular activities. To see someone that has worked so hard and made such an impact on both the school district and the community leave because of the current climate is really very sad and our great community is the one who loses. Autumn has done an amazing job with the students at all levels and has built a winning and successful sports program at Cedar Springs. Doing this takes time, devotion, hard work, integrity and an unwavering need to not give up when things get tough. Unfortunately, it seems those are the very things at stake and it is up to the community to find out why before we get too far off course. I may no longer live in this community but still consider Cedar Springs my home and my school. I want to see this community be successful and a leader in the area and I believe that the students at Cedar Springs deserve this as well. Please ask the tough questions, stand up to the pressures of being bullied and mistreated, dig down to find the answers, and think about the students. Autumn, congratulations on your huge success with our athletic program and the many ways you have shown great leadership. You have been a major influence on so many and your impact will be felt forever at our school. I wish you the best of luck on your new adventures. Cedar will most undoubtedly not be the same without you there.

Nathan Wallace, Cedar Springs Graduate, Class of 2000

Posted in Post ScriptsComments Off on Our community is the one who loses

Stop using kids to get back at mom

 

I chose to live in Cedar Springs because I believed it was a welcoming community, which offered a family, and had a big heart. I was raised in a much larger town then Cedar, so I had hoped my children would experience a close knit feeling by going to a smaller school district. I wanted them to open up their yearbooks and not question who the majority of the students were like I experienced. I thought by growing up in Cedar that they would always feel safe, because of the community unity and big hearts.

Recently I’ve questioned if I made the right choice. I’ve seen, read and heard things that make me feel that if your opinion is different than theirs it doesn’t matter. I cry myself to sleep because my children have experienced unkind words and believe their friends are shunning them, because their mother has been publicly vocal. I fear everyday that they will be repeatedly punished because I am expressing my difference of opinion and have been working to focus on the positives occurring at CSPS.

I agree there is a broken unity in our community, but I’m having a hard time believing it ever existed from the way my family has been treated. We didn’t grow up in Cedar Springs but our opinion as residents should be just as respected as those who have lived here longer than us. I don’t expect us all to agree similarly, but I do expect us all to be respectful, kind, understanding, and to agree to disagree when we have a different opinion.

So, please stop using my children as a method of attacking me. I don’t mind if you don’t like me or my opinions but I ask that you not use my children as pawns and allow them, as they grow up, to feel they are safe.

Stephanie Morris, Solon Township Resident

Posted in Post ScriptsComments Off on Stop using kids to get back at mom

Board urged to seek out the truth

 

A letter read to the Cedar Springs School Board on March 14 during the second public comment section of the meeting. 

Thank you, Mrs. Bayink, for “Speaking” and requesting the board discuss several issues at hand during the next board meeting. I believe I saw a head-nod of support to Mrs. Bayink’s request from Mr. Shoffner. Thank you both for being a voice of acknowledgment.

The Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) specifically notes under their publication titled “Characteristics of an  Effective Board Member” that they show “the willingness to express one’s own opinion and participate in discussions openly and honestly while encouraging and respecting the free expression of opinion by colleagues. “

Under the MASB’s publication titled School Board Members Job Description, the header and two of the six items read, “In addition to duties enumerated in the Michigan School Code, good governance imposes the following responsibilities on the board: 2. The board connects with the community; 6. The board takes responsibility for itself.

The educators and community members who are happy with the current procedures, decisions, and trends are certainly entitled to their opinions and should be treated respectfully. But don’t those that have questions and concerns also deserve to be equally heard, considered, and respected?

Mr. Sabinas read a section of the MASB “Your Local School Board” under “How do School Boards Make Decisions.” It reads, “When making decisions, school boards seek the advice and counsel of the district’s administrators, teachers and other employees, as well as input from the community and specialists with knowledge about the topic under consideration.”

Are you willing to follow the MASB’s recommendations?

How is your current strategy of “no response” working?

Do you feel you have provided more transparency and gained a level of trust over the last few months?

What does the continued increase in attendance (standing room only) at board meetings mean to you?

Do you trust, believe, and value the educators who you have known and have served our district for 10, 20, and 30 years when they tell you they are concerned?

While the projected deficit budget presented tonight looks bad…have you considered what it might look like with a significant exit of students from our district next year?

Please allow yourselves to opening and honestly discuss the questions and issues brought before you at the next workshop meeting.

Please follow the MASB’s recommended practices of seeking out the truth.

I believe the Open Meetings Act and School Policies do give you the right and I hope you believe there is a need to discuss the issues before you and most importantly look for collaborative solutions. Thank you very much.

Susan Wolfe, CSPS District 

Posted in Post ScriptsComments (3)

Is the board interested in hearing the facts?

 

CS Board of Education, (read at Board of Ed meeting March 14)

The March 3 edition of the Cedar Post reported that Autumn Mattson had requested an exit interview with the Board of Education and that it had been denied. If this is true, at what public board meeting was this discussed and voted on? It is not recorded in any board minutes at this time. Please clarify if this is a true statement.

Also according to the Post article, there has been an appeal to the board on their decision to deny the interview. Since an answer to the appeal is required by the board and the topic is not on tonight’s board agenda, when does the board plan to address it?

The Open Meeting Act is very clear that all board decisions must be made in public. Total compliance with all Open Meeting Act laws is critical in maintaining the integrity of our district.  Our own Board of Education’s Policies & Goals States in Goal #2 Community Relations 2.1” Promoting honest, trustworthy, relationships with transparent dialogue and communication (Internal) organizations that support win-win situations for both parties that increase student achievement.” As board members, You took an oath to follow the law which includes the Open Meetings Act.

This was a request directed to the board and not a staff member. The board has every right to grant this request. You may choose to do this at any regular meeting or hold a special meeting. There is absolutely no reason not to do this. Why wouldn’t the board want to gather all the possible information from an administrator who has served our students and community for 14 years?  Mrs. Mattson is willing to openly discuss her experience in our school district. She is willing to share the facts. You could clarify and ask any questions you or the public may have. This interview would be an excellent opportunity for you to gather accurate information.

So why wouldn’t the board be interested in hearing the facts first hand? You have the opportunity to decipher between fact and fiction on our local education for yourselves and the community. This is what I am asking for.

1.  The board connects with the community

2.  The board monitors performance

3.  The board takes responsibility for itself

I would like to request that this letter be recorded in the minutes.  I would like your response to be answered publically and to also be recorded in the board minutes please.

Sincerely, 

Lee Mora

Cedar Springs School District Resident

(This letter has been edited for length. A full original copy is available from Mr. Mora.)

Posted in Post ScriptsComments Off on Is the board interested in hearing the facts?

Teacher concerned about changes in school district

 

Dear Members of the School Board,

I would like to voice my concerns regarding the changing culture in our school district. I’ve heard the many remarks that all of these things that are happening and problems we are facing are because people are resistant to change. I strongly disagree. I have taught here for 39 years, worked under seven superintendents, and I have seen a lot of change. I haven’t always agreed with the decisions that were made. Conflicts sometimes occurred. We had a divisive teacher strike. We suffered a disastrous budget deficit when all bussing was eliminated. There was a year when all specials were cut. But through all of these challenges and difficult times, honesty and respect remained between the teachers, the school board, and the superintendent.

Never did I experience the finger pointing, dishonesty, and disrespect that is currently permeating our school district. How does this type of culture help our students?

We have lost some of the most outstanding educators I have ever met. These include Steve Seward, Jennifer Harper, Dave Cairy, and Autumn Matson. These leaders inspired me to grow and change in my teaching. I am so lucky to be in a profession that I love and to have had the support of so many brilliant educators. Frequently we had teachers from other districts visit our schools to observe our many innovative programs that were initiated by Steve Seward.

Sadly, these leaders are gone. What is even more troubling is the blaming and slandering of these exemplary people. For so many years, these people gave their heart and soul to help our students, and this is how they are treated?

We will continue to lose the best educators in our district to other schools where their work is valued and respected. I miss these people deeply. I miss their enthusiasm. I miss their words of wisdom and encouragement. In teaching, you need this. This makes you better. When you positively impact teachers, you impact students. If you think these vacancies won’t affect our students, you are wrong. They already have.

This is not positive change. Sometimes change can be destructive. We have worked so hard for so many years to be an exemplary school district. Our students deserve nothing less.

Sincerely,

Mary Graf, teacher

Posted in Post ScriptsComments Off on Teacher concerned about changes in school district

Change is a Part of Life

 

My name is Karen Mueller and I have taught at Cedar Springs Public Schools since 1987. This year I will be retiring. My husband has terminal cancer and is feeling well enough to travel, so off we’ll go!  I will miss my precious students very much, but change is a part of life.

Through the years, I’ve seen many changes at our school.  Every change was made for the good of our students. I’m not saying I’ve agreed with every change, but I know the people who made the changes have always worked for what was best for our kids.  Change is a part of life.

Currently I’m excited about my smaller class sizes and having a counselor in the building. During my time at CSPS I have taught over two thousand children, and loved every single one of them.  I have worked under six superintendents and eight principals.  I did not agree with every decision they made, but I am part of a team, so I enthusiastically did my best in every new program that we offered. Change is a part of life.

We will always see change in education. There should be change in education. I hope we can all work together, like we expect our children to. Every teacher and administrator, past and present, truly cares about our kids. We need to do what we expect of our youngest children, “We need kind hands, kind hearts, and listening ears.” I’ve enjoyed working with our current administration at CSPS and I understand change is a part of life. Give change a chance to continue improvement for our district and for our kids.

Karen Mueller, Cedar Springs

Posted in Post ScriptsComments Off on Change is a Part of Life

Ex-spouse Benefits, Taxes, and You

 

By: Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Mid-April features both Ex-Spouse Day and tax day. These two observances are extra important if you are an ex-spouse, because Social Security pays benefits to eligible former spouses. In addition, you may need to claim this income on your tax forms.

If you are age 62, unmarried, and divorced from someone entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, you may be eligible to receive benefits based on his or her record. To be eligible, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for 10 years or more. If you have since remarried, you can’t collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ended by annulment, divorce, or death. Also, if you’re entitled to benefits on your own record, your benefit amount must be less than you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work. In other words, we’ll pay the higher of the two benefits for which you’re eligible, but not both.

You can apply for benefits on your ex-spouse’s record even if he or she hasn’t retired, as long as you divorced at least two years before applying. The same rules apply for a deceased former spouse.

The amount of benefits you get has no effect on the benefits of your ex-spouse and his or her current spouse. Visit Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced at, www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/divspouse.htm to find all the eligibility requirements you must meet to apply as a divorced spouse. Our benefits planner gives you an idea of your monthly benefit amount. If your ex-spouse died after you divorced, you can still quality for widow’s benefits. You’ll find information about that in a note at the bottom of the website.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/divspouse.htm today to learn whether you’re eligible for benefits on your ex-spouse’s record. That could mean a considerable amount of monthly income. What you learn may bring a smile to your face … even on tax day!

Stephanie Holland is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 455 Bond St Benton Harbor MI 49022 or via email at stephanie.holland@ssa.gov

Posted in Business, Social Security NewsComments Off on Ex-spouse Benefits, Taxes, and You