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Recall drive underway for school board members


 

By Judy Reed

If a current drive to recall three Cedar Springs Public School board members is successful, it could mean that all seven spots on the board would be up for grabs on the November ballot.

Recall language was approved by Kent County for Vice President Matt Shoffner and Treasurer Shannon Vanderhyde on March 26, and for Board President Heidi Reed on April 30. 

The recall language for Shoffner and Vanderhyde reads: “Enacting policy that required a ‘request to comment’ form prior to the meeting to address the board of education during public comments.” 

For Heidi Reed it is: “Enforcing policy that resulted in public comment being limited at a board of education meeting.”

The language refers to an incident that happened at a March 11 board meeting. Some people that wanted to speak were not allowed to because they had not filled out a form at the beginning of the meeting. On Wednesday, March 13, Board President Heidi Reed posted an apology for that. It read: “During our District’s last Board meeting, I did not allow an individual to speak during public comment because they had not signed our required comment form, as has been our consistent practice. Today, after consulting our Board bylaws and legal counsel, I realize that I should have allowed the comment. For this I apologize, and going forward, I will allow.” 

While they do still ask people to fill out the form for contact purposes, they do allow people to speak without filling one out if they desire.

For Cedar Springs resident Molly Nixon, one of the people who had wished to speak at that meeting, it’s about more than a violation of the Open Meetings Act. “The specific language refers to what I and other members of the community believe was a violation of the open meetings act, but that is merely a symptom of the larger problem. This board has repeatedly ignored stakeholder voices. They are beginning to rush into selecting a new superintendent when at least 4, if not 7 seats will be up for election in November. I believe this to be a mistake,” she said. (You can read her entire statement in her letter to the editor here.)

The Post asked for a statement on the recall petitions from the board members. Reed sent one on behalf of all three of them: 

“Like many districts throughout the state of Michigan, the School Board has relied upon NEOLA for its policies. Before Heidi joined the board, our policies on public comment were adopted and in place.

“On one occasion, after lengthy public comment period, Heidi disallowed a speaker who failed to follow published board protocol for participating in public comment. When that action was challenged, after contacting our legal counsel, Heidi published an apology on our CSPS website and sent to the Cedar Springs Post and stated that she would not do so in the future.

“It is our position that the recall petition is invalid, because it inaccurately implies that our board has had a practice of disallowing public comment. We think it is clear from the media accounts that multiple individuals have made their voices heard, loud and clear.

“To our knowledge, other than this one isolated occurrence, no member of the public has been denied access to public comment. Our board values input from our community and stakeholders, and subject to time limits, all public comment has been heard and permitted.

“For these reasons, we believe the petition effort is not based on fact. We will continue to serve the Cedar Springs public schools community, with the best interest of our parents, students, and staff uppermost as a guiding principle for future decisions.”

According to Kent County Elections Director Gerrid Uzarski, those circulating petitions need to get 2,356 signatures for each candidate. The number of signatures is based on the number of votes cast for governor in the Cedar Springs School district in the last election. He said that the number of signatures is 25 percent of that number. Signatures expire in 60 days.

Once the number of signatures is met and they are turned into Kent County, they do a preliminary check to make sure the petitions look ok, and then send them to each city/township clerk to verify that the signatures are valid. They have 22 days to return the petitions to Kent County. In order to be on the November ballot, everything must be back by August 3.

It’s at this point that the board members are officially “recalled.” They will then automatically be on the ballot in November, running for their seat again, unless they opt out. And anyone wishing to run against them for one of the seats, must specify which board member’s seat they are running for. The recall elections would be listed as three separate races.

The reason that all 7 board members’ seats could be open is that there are three appointed board members who are just filling in until the end of 2018 and will need to run for their seat if they so choose. Those members are Traci Slager, Matt McConnon, and Jeff Rivard. Brook Nichols, the remaining board member, is selling her house and will most likely leave in July, and then another board member will be appointed to replace her for the remainder of the year, and that person will also have to run for their seat in the fall. While the election is in November, the new members don’t actually take office until January.

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Two resign from CS Board of Ed


 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education is looking to fill two of its seven seats after two board members resigned at Monday night’s evening.

Michelle Bayink

Michelle Bayink resigned at the beginning of the meeting. She said that her house had sold and that she would be living in Rockford, though her children would still attend Cedar Springs Public Schools. “I love Cedar Springs and really wanted to stay,” she told the Post. “But with everything I encountered, it really wasn’t that hard to leave.”

Bayink has been vocal in her disagreement with some of the decisions of the board and Superintendent Laura VanDuyn. But she told the Post that she really had wanted the board to work together. “When we had that workshop session with MASB, I threw my heart and soul into that,” she said. “I really wanted us to find a way to work things out.”

Bayink publicly thanked VanDuyn for her leadership. “I really wanted to leave on good terms,” she said. 

She was about halfway through a 6-year term.

Ted Sabinas

In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Board member Ted Sabinas resigned during the public comment time. 

He also has been vocal about his disagreement with decisions of the board and the Superintendent. “I have served on this board of education for 12 months and had hoped that my 34 years of teaching experiences in Cedar Springs could help guide this district to the high levels of education that it once had 5 or 6 years ago when our district was considered a leader in the county and state. Unfortunately this has not happened. I learned that if it is my idea, concern or issue it is quickly dismissed,” he said.

Sabinas filed a complaint against VanDuyn for bullying earlier this year, after the Superintendent said at a board meeting in April that the bus drivers felt they were being “stalked,” as a reason not to let Sabinas attend a meeting being held with the bus drivers on privatization. Several other people also filed complaints. The board later dismissed the complaints 4-2. 

“No Supt. in public education should have been allowed to lie about one of her employers. Apparently it is OK with most of the members of this board,” said Sabinas, in his resignation statement.

He has also been unhappy with the amount of spending on the “Orange Frog” program—over $100,000—to create a more positive climate at the school. 

“During the past 12 months I have listened to many lies and misleading statements and poor judgment by the Superintendent. Stating that we should spend upwards of $100,000 on training the staff to be happy when many classrooms exceed 30 or more students is poor judgment, and not what is best for kids,” he said.

Sabinas was the top vote getter out of four contestants in a hard fought election in 2016. He and Heidi Reed won the two available seats.

You can read his entire resignation letter here.

The Board of Education will now take applications for the two open seats. Submitting an application does not necessarily mean a person will be interviewed, however. See specifics on page 17. 

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North Kent Community Services seeking board members


North Kent Community Services is seeking board members who live or work in the Cedar Springs, Sparta and Sand Lake communities to serve on its board and committees for the next year.

“I am looking for people who are dynamic and have a passion for our ministry,” said Executive Director Claire Guisfredi. “We are launching our new Empowerment Plan, called From Survive to Thrive and would like to involve people who have expertise in finance, development, law, business, health and human services, human resources and media/public relations.”

North Kent Community Services serves struggling families with basic life needs all over northern Kent County, from 6 Mile Road to 22 Mile Road and east and west to the county lines.

“Since 36 percent of our clients are from Cedar Springs/Sand Lake and 26 percent are from the Sparta/Kent City areas, it is very important that our board and committees represent those areas,” said Claire.

Please visit the website at www.nkcs.org to apply and learn more about this opportunity. The deadline to apply is December 1.

 

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