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Archive | Post Scripts

Days of fear and intimidation are over

Dear CSPS Board of Education and Community,

Be Nice.

We embrace this anti-bullying initiative in our district. It’s on t-shirts, posters, and banners throughout our schools. The Mental Health Foundation website states that this campaign was designed to spread awareness surrounding the issue of bullying. The ‘Be Nice’ campaign strives to educate students and community members about how simply being nice is an effective way to promote a safe and civil environment within the school and community.

I’ve worn my Be Nice shirt to board meetings and the superintendent interviews. While we’ve expected our students to adopt this philosophy, some of our staff and administrators have not. Since we’ve had a change of superintendent, I have not felt the need to wear this shirt to board meetings.

Dr. Van Duyn IS nice. She is an example of what we should see in a person living out this philosophy. I feel safe, respected and valued. I do not fear unfair and unwarranted attacks any more. Any questions I have are quickly and completely answered. The days of fear, intimidation, disrespect, lies and corruption are over. That’s how it USED to be, especially at Cedar Trails.

I’ve been reading letters in the Post about a lack of leadership by the current administration, and I am confused. You could have said those things two years ago, but not any more.

The changes we’ve been experiencing are all for good. I feel listened to and supported. We have counseling back. Our professional development is relevant and helping us to better understand and meet the needs of the children that we serve in this community.

Now I am confident that this district is headed in the right direction. Our current leadership is skilled, competent and highly qualified.

Great things are happening here. Please keep up the good work!

Sincerely,

Karen Gebhardt

First Grade Teacher

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Board of education works for the community

I am a past member of the Cedar Springs Board of Education (BOE) serving for 12 years as a trustee, VP and President.

When elected to the BOE, we had just experienced some very difficult times in the district, including a split BOE with a fractured agenda, a failed BOE recall election, major budget issues and a teacher strike. We began to heal with a devoted BOE and Superintendent whose first concern was the students and the quality of their education. Over time mutual trust was restored and we moved the district forward, including the construction of new buildings to accommodate our growing enrollment. None of this would have been possible without the support and cooperation of the entire community and staff. Our school district was respected in the community as a place where people wanted to raise their kids. It is heartbreaking to me and many of those who did the hard work, to watch the effects of a divisive climate in our community, and to know ultimately the ones who will suffer will be the students.

Comments by the board president like, “we only have one employee,” are shocking! Who is the employer of all the other employees? The Superintendent is only one of the many employees the BOE is responsible for. Comments like this do nothing to build trust and community.

When high paid consultants present at a BOE meeting, no one asks a question? No discussion? Shouldn’t our district employees be able to prepare reports/presentations like the “Budget Projections” presented at the March 14th BOE meeting?

Why do three District Office Administrators live outside of the Cedar Springs school district? What a message that sends to the very people who pay taxes and their salaries! While we may not be able to require that the Superintendent live in the district, it is the right thing to do. Our administrators who live in other school districts pay taxes that benefit the school where they live not the district that pays their salary.

I understand that the BOE has been told, in a statement, not to talk to community and staff. They should be reminded that the BOE actually works for the community! When there is avoidance, people will think you have something to hide. Please do not let anyone silence you! Please have open discussion at the BOE table—yes, in open meetings. Ask questions, ask the hard questions—show leadership to the people who elected you!

Jan Wallace, Solon Township

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Don’t get down on teachers

Thank you for your paper. I enjoy it. I’m sorry to hear you’re all having problems with staff at school.

You know I would have stayed in school if it was not for rumors about me. I feel students are harder to teach now days because some people do not get after their children enough. One of the reasons I left Cedar Springs is people coming up to our trailer in Cedar Springs Mobile Estates. They threatened my life and my children’s. Then they used the C.B. radio to say terrible things.

There is something definitely going on in Cedar Springs. I hope our teachers and school staff does not have problems that they have to be ashamed about. Our schools there in Cedar Springs had good teachers when I went there. I wished I would have stayed in just for them working so hard trying to help me.

Just remember some kids are mean and say things that hurt sometimes.

I wish you would not get down too hard on our teachers. They have a hard enough time with students.

I hope in some way I can help because I love Cedar Springs but just cannot live there.

Darlene Kay Rhineberger Fuller, Big Rapids

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A House divided against itself will not stand

Due to recent events in our school district, many friends now stand divided. Our family relied on many of these past administrators, teachers, and community members as we faced a horrific event that almost took my life. They rallied beside me and my family as I recovered from a massive stroke. Prayers went up on my behalf, a refrigerator full of food was delivered to our home, gift cards filled our mailbox, our driveway was plowed, our laundry was done, and volunteers took me back and forth to therapy. Even my children’s teachers stayed after school to offer an encouraging word or a shoulder to cry on. The list goes on and on. I couldn’t even begin to thank everyone for their support! The Cedar Springs School and community were there for me and my family. They did this because they cared.
Years later, there are new people that have moved into our community. Some of them have had to face unbelievable heartache and circumstances much greater than mine. They have experienced a new set of administrators and teachers that have shown their family the same remarkable love and support that we were shown.
Being a school employee, my heart is torn. Why are there so many harsh words being said towards our school board, a group of volunteers that is working for our school district and our Superintendent? Hearing of their credentials, the school board has hired some highly qualified individuals. Recently, they have completed a Strategic Plan to offer a new vision and mission. I was excited to be on that committee and am looking forward to what the final decision will be. I have not experienced the hostile environment people are talking about.
Are we going to be a community divided or united? We can’t expect the students we work with to get along with each other and show respect if we don’t show respect toward one another ourselves. How about that Habit Of Mind that says “Be thoughtful and considerate of others” that we teach our students? It’s okay to disagree. My concern is the manner in which we are modeling our disagreements to the students we work with. Let’s be a school and community that’s united in a common cause greater than ourselves; the well-being of our students!

Shelley Bauer, Parent As Teachers/New Beginnings Alternative Ed.

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What are you?

I would like to begin by saying thank you to each board member for your willingness to be on the board. It is often a thankless job that requires much of your energy and time. With that said, I ask the Board of Education, “What are you?”

During the Public Comments portion of the Board of Education meeting held on March 14, 2016, Lee Mora asked the board in his comments why Autumn Matteson had not been granted an exit interview. After he finished, board president Patricia Eary made a comment that the board did not grant the exit interview because “they had been advised by the board’s attorney to not grant the interview.” Patricia Eary then went on to say that the board did not give exit interviews to people who were not their employee. Patricia Eary ended her comment by saying, “The only employee of the Board is the superintendent.”

If that is true, then why do all the contracts begin with a line such as “The Board of Education of

Cedar Springs Public Schools and _____ enter . . .?” In other words, the Board of Education is the employer.

In the same meeting on March 14, when the school’s attorney was discussing moving some of the debt from one area to another to gain a better interest rate, a question was asked at the end of his presentation by Patricia Eary wondering what the Board needed to do to move in that direction. Dr. Van Duyn made a comment that “I already signed.” This amazed me! Not one board member questioned the fact that Dr. Van Duyn was making financial decisions for the

district. Although I agree 100 percent that the district needed to change the funding, I am appalled that the Board would so easily let others make decisions and fulfill their responsibilities for them.

So I ask the question again, “What are you?” Are you the board member that swore an oath to fulfill all the duties and responsibilities of the office? Think long and hard before answering as your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear a thing you say.

Bruce Marvel, Nelson Township

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Community encouragement

In a world of terrorist attacks, diseases, life threatening illnesses, devastating earthquakes and tornados….what if every day WE EACH strive to become a better person.  Having had a student in CSPS since kindergarten, students have been taught Habits of the Mind and Be Nice. On April 14, high schoolers will be taught about OK2SAY, a comprehensive communication system that empowers students, parents, school personnel, community mental health services  programs, and law enforcement officials to share and respond to student safety and school violence threats. I pray that our community will soon move forward with each of us focusing on being the best person we can be and think about the type of influence we are being.  I am proud to be a part of CSPS as an employee, parent and community member. I believe there are great things happening in our district and am blessed to be a part of it. 

Kathy Sue Corwin, Solon Township, Proud to be a Red Hawk

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What is communication?

Communication is a two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, where participants exchange information, news, ideas and feelings. Communication is a means of connecting people or places. It is the backbone of any high-performing team. Trust is linked to transparency and two-way communication. This has dissipated from our district and community.

We all have passion and dreams for our children and their education. People want their concerns and opinions heard and respected, not ignored. We expect that our Board of Education and our Superintendent are going to listen, be objective, be curious, act, and adjust when needed. How we provide the foundation for our children’s education is critical and that is where the debate begins.

As a district we have been through ups and downs. Think back to the various millages (bond, operational, renewals, and sinking funds) needed over the years. Difficult times made us stronger. For the last 10 years, we have built our reputation to be leaders in education in West Michigan in progressive strategies for children’s learning. People were benchmarking us. Now they ask “What is going on up there in Cedar Springs?” and “How have you lost your way?” We need to get back to what is important, our children’s education. We achieve that through respect, teamwork, communication and trust. Vision can change, and if communicated clearly, people can understand and align.

We need to understand where we have been to understand where we need to go. This district was stellar and we were proud to be a part of it. Today we are lost, more focused on gossip, rumors, and attacking individuals rather than on what is best for our children. Our leaders need to lead; you need to choose to move this district forward in a way that respects the value of those that are here and move together into the future.

Board Members , we need you to step up, be brave, and courageous. Please seek out all the facts and documentation from all possible resources. Discussing all the information brought before you—the good and bad—must occur in order for our district to move forward. Hold each other accountable and make the tough choices and decisions that protect a quality education for our children. Each of our board members has an equal voice.

Tammie Drake, Cedar Springs School District

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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

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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

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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

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