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Archive | Post Scripts

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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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

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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

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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 

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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.)

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