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Tag Archive | "Cedar Springs Board of Education"

Board chooses firm to lead superintendent search


By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education took their first step toward finding a new superintendent when they voted 5-0 in a special meeting Tuesday evening to have Michigan Leadership Institute (MLI) facilitate the search.

The board heard presentations by both the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) and MLI. The costs were comparable from both agencies ($6,500 plus expenses). Gary Rider, regional president of MLI, will lead the search and said his expenses (mileage, copying) would not go over $800 since he lives nearby (Comstock Park).

Rider was a former Superintendent at Thornapple Kellogg, and also worked in the West Ottawa and Kenowa Hills School Districts. He said that MLI is made up of former Superintendents who cover regional districts where they served, so they know many of the Superintendents and/or administrators out there.

Rider went through what process he would use, including an online survey for the staff and community regarding what they wanted to see in a new superintendent, as well as face-to-face meetings with focus groups. From there they would create a profile of what they were looking for. The community would also be involved in the actual interviews by giving written feedback after each one.

He reminded the board that they each represented the entire community—not just a specific segment—and that they needed to get this right. “Your process is critical. If you don’t do this right, a bomb will go off in this community,” he warned.

Rider told the board that there was a reason he wanted to lead the search here—he has a personal stake in it. Rider said he has two son-in-laws who were best friends in school and who both graduated from Cedar Springs, and their families are still here.

“If I don’t get this done right, I won’t be welcome at Thanksgiving dinner,” he remarked.

Board members liked that they met who would lead their search, as opposed to MASB, who would appoint someone. They also liked the passion he showed and felt they could trust Rider to give more guidance.

One area where some of the board didn’t seem quite as comfortable was with the timeline Rider presented. He gave them an estimated timeline of 9 weeks, with selection of a Superintendent mid-June, so as to get someone in place by July. Trustee Traci Slager questioned more than once whether moving that quickly was the best thing.

Vice President Matt Shoffner said he liked the timetable, but that the correct process is huge. “I think there would be some leeway if we wanted to extend it a couple of weeks,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we’re not comfortable with who we get, we can push it back. Or even with community feedback, we can hear and respond.”

Secretary Brook Nichols also said she thought there was some wiggle room on the timetable. “I’d rather take our time and be thorough,” she said.

During public comment time, Sue Wolfe told the board she was happy to hear the open dialogue between the members. She also cautioned the board that with so much going on—board member and administrative slots to fill—that maybe they should slow the process down.

Teacher Libby Metiva also told the board that she was proud to see the way the board interacted, with the tone being light and the comments insightful. “No one monopolized the conversation,” she said.

 In other board news, trustee Tim Bauer, who was appointed in December, resigned his position on the board. He was not attendance, but did send a letter of resignation. The board voted to accept it, 5-0. Treasurer Shannon Vanderhyde was not in attendance.

Bauer had announced late last month he would resign, after public outcry over comments on his personal Facebook page and at the March 26 board meeting condemning those who wanted former Superintendent Laura VanDuyn to resign.

In his resignation letter, he said that it has been both an honor and a challenge to be appointed a board member. “Believing that I have fulfilled in a short time period my calling from God in this position, it has been made clear that I am now to resign.” He went on to quote an article by Craig D. Lounsbrough titled “Consequences: We are the Cause.” He said it encapsulated what he wanted to say. You can view Bauer’s entire letter on our website at www.cedarspringspost.com.

The board has 30 days to fill his position. As of Wednesday, April 11, no announcement had yet been made on when they would start taking applications for it.

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Cedar Springs Superintendent resigns


Many of those demanding the resignation of the Superintendent marched to Cedar Springs High School from the Hilltop building Monday evening. Photo by Aleshia Smith.

by Judy Reed

After several years of complaints from teachers and community members against Cedar Springs Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn, the Cedar Springs Board of Education voted Monday evening to accept her resignation.

The main complaint was of creating a hostile and toxic work environment, with a turnover of 70-plus employees in the last three years. Several complaints of bullying had also been lodged against her in the past but dismissed by the Board of Education.

Many who had voiced comments against the Superintendent at previous board meetings felt the board was not listening or did not care. That fueled a movement that recently grew in the community to get their voice heard.

A sea of red shirts sporting the logo “#ResignVanDuyn” filled the auditorium at Cedar Springs High School before the regularly scheduled board meeting Monday night. Many also held signs with the same logo. The group, made up of parents, teachers, and other community members, had come to demand that either the board put the Superintendent on immediate leave pending an investigation, or that they negotiate with her to resign. They also had petitions for the recall of three board members.

Some supporters of the Superintendent came with signs that read “B kind to VanDuyn.”

Signs in support of Superintendent VanDuyn. Post photo by J. Reed.

As the board members filed in at the start of the meeting, one person was conspicuously absent: Dr. VanDuyn.

Board president Heidi Reed announced that the Superintendent had been excused from the meeting. After making some introductory statements about the board, they made a motion to go into closed session to discuss “a personnel matter.” After more than an hour of deliberation, they reconvened and made a motion to accept the resignation of Dr. Laura VanDuyn.

Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn.

Cheers filled the auditorium as the motion was announced. The vote passed 5-1, with Board trustee Tim Bauer the lone no vote. Trustee Shannon Vanderhyde was not present.

Bauer, who was appointed earlier this year to fill an empty seat, said he felt it was wrong. He noted that many of those wearing the red shirts had probably went to church on Palm Sunday. He then compared them to the angry mob that had crucified Jesus when they didn’t get their way. A Facebook post by Bauer Tuesday morning speaking of judgment on those that wore the red shirts caused more furor and scrutiny by law enforcement. He later announced on Facebook he would resign at the next board meeting.

Board Vice President Matthew Shoffner gave one of the most heartfelt speeches from the board. “I hoped for something better and that has not come about. I hoped for unity and I hoped for this community to be brought together. That is still my hope. I hope that we can do this together,” he said.

Katy Austin, one of the founders of the “Cedar Strong” movement, was one of those thankful that the board finally heard their voice. “I’m incredibly thankful to each and every person who helped the community be heard. I’m excited for the future and I can’t wait to see our kids soar,” she said.

Dr. VanDuyn will remain at Cedar Springs through the end of the week. An announcement from Board President Heidi Reed said VanDuyn would also continue as an ad-hoc consultant through June 30, 2018. 

Reed noted that the Superintendent still has many supporters in the district.

“During her almost four years with our District, Dr. VanDuyn’s leadership has blessed our district with talent and new ways of thinking while challenging us to rise to a higher standard.

“Dr. VanDuyn’s top priority has always been the children and creating the best environment to promote academic growth and development. Her exceptional beliefs and leadership built a strong foundation for our journey to excellence. The board is thankful for Dr. VanDuyn’s dedication and service to CSPS and we wish her well in future endeavors,” she said.

The board appointed Mark Dobias, former superintendent of Allegan Area Educational Service Agency (AAESA) and Fennville Public Schools as interim Superintendent. He is scheduled to start on April 9. “Our strong building leadership coupled with his operational background will assure a seamless transition as we begin the search process for a permanent replacement,” said Reed.

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Commenters call for resignation of Superintendent and trustee


By Judy Reed

A standing room only crowd at Monday evening’s Cedar Springs Board of Education meeting made it clear to the Board of Education through their public comments that they feel the only way this community will heal from the division it is experiencing is for Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn to resign.

Many also called for newly appointed trustee Tim Bauer to resign as well, after they said they saw remarks he made on his personal Facebook account disparaging gays, and prophesying judgment on those in the community leading the effort to get Dr. VanDuyn to resign. The comments on his page have since been taken down.

A citizen group filed a petition last week at change.org calling for VanDuyn to resign, and ran an ad with the petition in last week’s Post to advertise a community meeting taking place tonight (Thursday at 7 p.m.) at Solon Township hall to discuss the issue. At press time Wednesday, over 1800 people had signed the petition.

Many of those people were at the board meeting Monday evening. 

The board heard from staff, students, community members, and even a former Board of Education member. Carolee Cole was on the BOE for 12 years, from 1998 to 2010. She said that the only person who could heal the divide is Dr. VanDuyn. “I strongly believe that it is impossible for our staff to be effective when they are experiencing the level of distraction and distress this division causes them on a daily basis,” said Cole. “Teachers can’t teach well when they are stirred up. Even the teachers who prefer Dr. VanDuyn’s style of leadership and feel safe and affirmed under her, can’t teach well if they are aware that many of their fellow teachers, the parents of their students, and others do not feel safe and affirmed under Dr. VanDuyn,” she said. Cole also noted that their had been a terrible breakdown in communication over the last three years. “Our side of the divide has invited open dialog. It has been refused or ignored. Your side of the divide has not created a forum for discussion and open dialogue. You can’t just keep telling educators to go along with the program.” Cole’s not sure the breach can be repaired. “Honestly, because we’re three years into the struggle I question whether it’s possible to continue Dr. VanDuyn’s tenure with the district. However well-meaning or gifted a leader she might be, she hasn’t been a good fit for the whole of Cedar Springs, obviously, and it’s time for this board to cut the losses to the District and replace her with someone who does fit and can nurture us back to the health our students need, and we once enjoyed.”

Teacher Libby Metiva read a statement on behalf of many teachers, who stood with her in solidarity. She noted that the teachers had stood there in June of 2017, and asked for the board to meet with them to help them build bridges, but it had not happened.

One of the students that spoke is president of the gay/straight alliance at the school. Her comments were directed at Bauer. She told him that she was not saying he should go against his beliefs, but that his comments were personally hurtful to her and others. “They leave scars,” she said.

Two people spoke in favor of VanDuyn. One was Pastor Keith Hemmila, and the other was bus driver Rebecca Fisk.

Hemmila said he was concerned about people’s motives for speaking out. “If it’s for the good of the kids and the school, that’s good. But if your motive is to get your way, that’s not good.” He said he appreciated Dr. VanDuyn. “She’s doing a lot of good for students left behind,” he said.

Rebecca Fisk said that a lot of people hadn’t given the Superintendent a chance, and noted that they had closed minds and closed hearts. “As a leader you hold people accountable for their actions. I’m a bus driver and I hold the kids accountable, that doesn’t make me a bully.” She also asked believers, “How much have you prayed about this?”

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, Board President Heidi Reed posted an apology for that. “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.” 

In the same letter, she also clarified the board’s position on Bauer’s comments and those of other board members. “Because the Board President is the official spokesperson for the Board, individual members are not speaking on the Board’s behalf when speaking in their own individual capacity. Just as our students do not sacrifice their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse doors, our individual Board members retain their individual rights as citizens when they volunteer to serve our school community,” she wrote.

During the meeting, Reed read a statement regarding the Superintendent: “Superintendents and Boards make difficult decisions considering input from all stakeholders. As a District, we have a strategic plan that sets the path for our leadership allowing the Board to measure the District’s progress toward its goals. Each of our decisions is made objectively on the facts, both positive and negative. To date, Dr. Van Duyn has brought many positive changes to the district and has scored as ‘highly effective’ on her last three evaluations.”

The Post asked Reed what would be the plan moving forward after hearing all the concerns Monday evening. “Each of our decisions is made objectively on the facts, both positive and negative. The Board will continue to listen to the community voice their concerns and will objectively evaluate these claims as part of Superintendent Van Duyn’s upcoming evaluation. Prior boards on three occasions have rated the Superintendent as Highly Effective.”

She also said any formal complaints brought to the board would be investigated. “CSPS has established policies and procedures in place for students, staff and parents to report complaints within the District. Each formal complaint brought to our attention is investigated and addressed accordingly,” said Reed.

Todd Norman, who will moderate the community meeting Thursday evening at Solon Township Hall, said the message was clear Monday evening. 

“The majority of the people of Cedar Springs are not happy with Leadership. They want a change. A recent survey showed the thing teachers want the most was a new Superintendent. Parents took a survey, too. In that survey the second most popular answer was new Superintendent. That was after security. The message was also clear that many felt board member Tim Bauer and his wife broke the Neola bylaws for publicly coming out against ‘the homosexual agenda’ on a Facebook post followed by a post that said, ‘To the degree that you have led this fight will be the degree God’s judgement will fall on you and your households.’

Many took this as a threat.”

Norman also remarked that a member of the community made a comment that the board members and Dr. VanDuyn were making notes and passing them back and forth while community comments were going on. “I witnessed this as well,” he said. 

Some community members have questioned whether that might be a violation of the Open Meetings Act, since text messages and other private acts of communication are not allowed.   

“It’s time to make a change,” said Norman. “This isn’t ok anymore.”

To watch the entire March 12 board meeting, visit the school’s web page for videos at http://www.csredhawks.org/District/Board-of-Education/Meeting-Minutes–Agenda/Board-Meeting-Videos/index.html. (Please note that as of Wednesday evening, it had not yet been uploaded.)

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School board bits


By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education heard several presentations Monday evening, February 26, and heard from several people during the public comment time. We will cover a few of them here and continue next week.

Reading Now Network

The board heard from Dr. Barb Johnson and several teachers about the success of the Reading Now Network program and the implementation of the I-ready program. According to Johnson, several years ago reading scores in Michigan were falling. So two to three years ago, Kent County Superintendents looked at 14 schools that were doing well in reading. They narrowed the list down to five, then looked for the threads that were common in all the districts that helped them do well. They then joined with other districts and got a $12.5 million grant from the Michigan Department of Education in November. 

All the children now have chrome books and are working on the I-ready program. Most are required to read 45 minutes daily on it during the school day. And there are fun games to help assess how they are doing. Since using the I-ready program, reading scores in most all elementary grades have improved greatly from last fall to this January. You can see the entire presentation on the board meeting video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ADR-JOiEwo&feature=youtu.be.

Public Comments

The board heard comments from several people Monday evening. The heard first from Tami Elliston, who said she’s had children in CSPS for 12 years. She said she has waited for three long years for the board members to act on multiple complaints from community members, current and former staff members, students, and other board members regarding Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn. Elliston spoke about a recent issue of between the school and The Post regarding distribution on the school campus and the school page no longer appearing in the Post. (It’s now in the Advance.) She also mentioned that the Post binds all the papers into a book each year, and presents it to the Cedar Springs Historical Society, and now those school pages will no longer be a part of Cedar Springs history.

Elliston asked why the Hilltop admin building was given a secure entrance before buildings that house students. She also brought up the manner in which an investigation against a teacher was recently conducted. She asked the board to remove the Superintendent before she causes anymore damage to the community.

Teacher Virginia Valentine expressed concern about the lack of a Dean of Students, and there only being one principal for 1,000 students when one of the two are gone.

Katy Austin, of Solon Township asked the board to hold a no confidence vote on the superintendent. She reminded them who they work for, and who they serve—the public. She said that when Dr. VanDuyn was hired, she (Katy) was excited, but the change has went 180 degrees in the other direction. She noted that educators are leaving, and the ones that stay are afraid to speak up for fear of repercussions. “I’m here to give a voice to the voiceless. There is something wrong and it is your job to make it right. It isn’t a witch hunt or a good old boys club being bitter that their guy didn’t get the job. It is me pleading with you to do something! Even if only 10 percent of what I said is true it’s enough to finally take action,” she said.

Band Director Adam Borst shared about the band trip to Disney World.

Sue Wolfe asked about what they were changing in the board operating procedures, and asked a question about the data on the citizen survey.

You can see the entire board meeting video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ADR-JOiEwo& feature=youtu.be.

Next week: Citizen Survey

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School board gets a glimpse at citizen survey data


 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education got its first look at the results of the citizen survey it distributed to parents, students, and staff last fall. A snapshot of the results were shown in a power point presentation at a special board meeting Monday evening, by Jeff Gartner, a marketing researcher who works with the Kent Intermediate School District and other area schools.

According to Gartner, the survey was similar to one he has done for Rockford Public Schools for several years. 

For the Cedar Springs survey, about 577 parents answered the survey, along with 240 staff, and 296 students. Some of the things that came out are that the majority of students trust their teachers and other staff; that there is a high level of satisfaction by graduates of CSPS; that parents feel more connected and know teachers better in elementary school; that many staff commented that there is too much divisiveness, too much us vs. them; concerns about security; classroom sizes are too large; that staff would like more support and intervention to help resolve problems with students with behavioral and emotional issues; students would like content to be more relevant to them; and that parents and community are not as involved as  in other districts. Detailed results have not yet been distributed to board members and staff.

Security concerns have already been addressed with the buildings’ new secure entries. This happened after the survey was distributed. 

Gartner elaborated on the students wanting relevant content. “Training works if it’s relevant to you,” he explained. “You don’t necessarily have to change what’s taught, just make it relevant to them.”

Community involvement appeared to be a big challenge. 

“People, not just parents, are way more involved in other districts,” noted Gartner. He specifically mentioned Lowell and Rockford as having 70-80 percent involvement by the community. “How do you get people to be more involved with your school?” he asked the board. He talked about it being a place where people come to do things, and gave examples such as in an area district that is putting in a KDL library, or Forest Hills’ Aquatic Center, where people swim. 

“We can see there’s a disconnect there,” said Board Vice President Matt Shoffner at the end of the presentation. “This is the first step. Now we know where to go.”

So where do they go from here?  

“Now our Board of Education work begins in that we will analyze this data as a board, in conjunction with our district’s established Culture and Climate Committee of over 30 people from all positions in the district, with Dr. VanDuyn,” said Board President Heidi Reed. “We will be using multiple lenses and viewpoints to look at the data with Mr. David Hulings, from Hulings and Associates facilitating this process.  

“This is a collaborative process looking at the greater understanding of how we handle change in our educational world. By using different viewpoints, personality traits, historical issues and progressive forethought, Mr. Huling’s established work process will ensure measurable results. 

“It is exciting next step work for the community and school district as Dr. VanDuyn ties this data into our CSPS Mission/Vision statements and Goals for the CSPS district. We thank Dr. VanDuyn for coordinating this effort, as we all continue to work together towards the CSPS brand promise of Purpose, Potential and Pride.” 

 

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School board selects new trustee


 

Matt McConnon was appointed on Tuesday, January 23, to fill a vacant seat on the Cedar Springs Board of Education. Courtesy photo.

But question arises on whether he can serve

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education held a special meeting Tuesday evening, January 23, to fill the board seat vacated by Patricia Eary last week when she resigned. The board interviewed six candidates, and voted 6-0 to appoint Matt McConnon, of Courtland Township, to fill the seat until January. He was sworn in at the end of the meeting by School Resource Officer Deputy McCutcheon.

Several of the board members felt McConnon’s 10 years of experience in policy making and budgeting on the Courtland Township board would be beneficial to the school board. It remains to be seen, however, whether they will get to use his expertise.

“After we appointed Matt McConnon to the BOE, it came to light that there could be an outside concern with the incompatible office law as Matt is a trustee on the Courtland Township Board,” said Board President Heidi Reed.

“With the first look, the two positions (Township Trustee and BOE) appeared to only have a ‘potential of incompatibility,’ which meant the law did not apply. Matt’s longstanding board service to Courtland Township is to be admired. We have been in contact with Matt and we will amicably resolve this situation after we have gathered the facts,” she said. 

The concern arose because at the end of the meeting, the Post found, after speaking with Mr. McConnon, that he was still serving on the Courtland Township board. He explained that Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn had checked into it, and told him that there should be no conflict of interest since Courtland Township doesn’t do much voting on school issues.

However, the Post remembered that there was a similar case eight years ago, involving our own school board and the Cedar Springs City Council, and that the Kent County Prosecutor had deemed the two offices incompatible.

In that case, Pamela Conley, who was a Board of Education trustee, ran for Cedar Springs City Council in 2009 and won a seat. Both lawyers for the city and the school eventually agreed that the offices would be in conflict, and decided to send it to then Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth for a final opinion. He sent back his decision, explaining why the offices were incompatible. He also told Conley she needed to resign one of the offices by a certain date or he would file charges in Circuit Court. She decided to resign her BOE seat and still serves on the Cedar Springs City Council.

According to the opinion issued by Forsyth in January 2010, in which he cited the Public Offices Act, State Attorney General opinions and Supreme Court opinions, he noted that a person could serve on both boards if they do not negotiate or enter into contracts with one another, which the city and school do. “Of equal significance, an individual cannot avoid the incompatibility by abstaining from voting on resolutions…because abstention under such circumstances ‘is itself a breach of duty.’” He specifically mentioned the city collecting the taxes for the school, and the city conducting school board elections, and the school reimbursing the city for them.

Courtland Township does the same.

The Post emailed Board of Education President Heidi Reed and Superintendent Van Duyn to inform them of the prior case. Reed told the Post they would check into it. She then later issued her statement cited earlier in this article.

The Post will update this story when we know more.

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School board votes in new president


 

Heidi Reed

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education will have a new president to lead the board in 2018.

The board voted in Heidi Reed 6-0, at its annual reorganization meeting Monday evening, January 15. She was nominated by Brook Nichols.

“I am humbled and honored by the support of the entire board of education team to lead this year as President,” said Reed, who is just starting her second year on the board.

“Our CSPS administration and staff are doing great things, on so many levels. I’m grateful for all their committed work for our students! [I am] excited this year to continue the visionary, governance and policy work for the district, [and] honored to serve.”

Matthew Shoffner, who was previously president, was voted in as Vice President, 6-0. In his remarks during the “gratitudes” section of the meeting, he noted that the board had been through quite a bit and he would miss the board members that had left, but was grateful to those that had stayed. 

Brook Nichols was voted in as secretary, 6-0, and Shannon Vanderhyde was voted in as treasurer, also 6-0.

The board will meet again next week, Tuesday, January 23, at 6 p.m. to interview candidates to fill the seventh seat on the board, which was previously held by Patricia Eary, who resigned at the beginning of Monday night’s meeting. (See story here).

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School board fills vacancies


by Judy Reed

Tim Bauer

Traci Slager

The Cedar Springs Board of Education held a special meeting on Tuesday, December 19, to interview applicants for two vacancies left by the resignations of Michelle Bayink and Ted Sabinas at the last regular board meeting Monday, December 11.

The board advertised for applications for the positions in last week’s paper, and the deadline was Monday December 18. The advertisement did not say there would be a special board meeting on December 19, and the Post was not present because we were not notified that a special meeting had been scheduled for the interviews.

The board did video the meeting, although some of it was hard to hear due to quite a bit of background noise and some board members not speaking into the microphone.

The board interviewed 10 candidates for the position, and chose Tim Bauer and Traci Slager to fill the two open seats through the end of this year. Bauer is replacing Bayink, and Slager is replacing Sabinas. 

The board liked the answers provided by both candidates, although Heidi Reed did express some concern that Slager had not been around the board. She did still vote yes, however.

Bauer and Slager can run as candidates in the fall if they would like to for one of four open positions. There will be two six-year positions open with Brooke Nichols and Patricia Eary’s seats coming up for reelection; one four-year seat (for Ted Sabinas’ seat); and one two-year seat for the one vacated by Michelle Bayink.

The two were sworn in at the end of the meeting. The board will hold their reorganizational meeting in January 15 at 6:45 p.m.

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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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Consultant to CS Board: “You have to start working together”


By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education heard some straight talk last month from the MASB consultant who went over the results of the board’s self-assessment.

Scott Morrell, from the Michigan Association of School Boards, told the Cedar Springs Board of Education that when he looks at them, he sees possibilities. But when he showed his staff the results of the board’s self-assessment, their one word to him was, “Yuck.” He added that it may be one of the worst spreads they’d seen.

Six out of seven of the board members took part in the self-assessment questionnaire. They had to rate themselves from 0-5 (0 meaning don’t know and 5 meaning excellent) in areas of leadership, academic performance/accountablility, board responsibilities, board effectiveness, data-driven decision-making, board-superintendent relations, and community engagement/advocacy. 

They scored lowest in board-superintendent relations, with only an average score of 1.97, which is between unsatisfactory (1) and needs improvement (2). Their second lowest score was in leadership at 2.02. In fact, they scored between (2) needs improvement and (3) satisfactory, in every category.

Morrell told the board he suspected they had trust issues, and that they had lost the respect, responsiveness and professionalism they should have when dealing with each other. “You need to listen to each other,” he told them.

For some time now, various community members and staff have been coming to the board to express their concerns about not being heard, and with the things they see happening.  Morrell had a remedy for that.

“When the board starts functioning better, these community members are going to stop coming. They have better things to do. I’m sorry, but you guys are crazy. You’ve got better things to be doing than this monsoon that’s been going on. But as long as your board is not functioning, you are going to see this…What we have to do is build trust and respect versus setting our hair on fire. When you set your hair on fire, it’s a good show. So here comes the community, “Ok, what are they going to do this time?”

Morrell urged them to make a decision that evening, October 23, that they wanted to improve. “If you don’t make a decision saying we want to improve, you are sending a clear message to the whole organization tomorrow morning that the board doesn’t care. And can you tell me those people aren’t going to talk tomorrow about what the board did tonight?”

Morrell recommended they do a retreat and take the DISC personality profile to learn more about themselves and each other. But there didn’t seem to be a lot of buy in from the board for that. He did also go around and ask each board member one thing they could do to improve. 

The Post also asked board members that question, and received answers from four of the seven members—President Matt Shoffner, Vice President Brook Nichols, and trustees Ted Sabinas and Michelle Bayink.

“My response for improving myself was to seek clarity before board meetings, whether that’s asking the President or Superintendent for clarification on an item or if it’s reaching out to other board members,” said Nichols. “Other board members must have done this as well for Monday’s meeting. Earlier on Monday, Laura sent an e-mail answering multiple questions that board members had on various agenda items so we could all have that information ahead of time, which was very helpful,” she explained.

Michelle Bayink was quite animated during the workshop, asking for ways they could improve and what Morrell’s recommendation might be. “I want to speak up, I want to work together as a board. I’m trying to get solutions,” she said.

Matt Shoffner sent out a general press release stating that the board took a major step toward demonstrating its commitment to governing effectively on behalf of the students and communities it serves by formally adopting the Board of Education Governance Standards at its meeting on November 13, 2017 (click here to read story).

“After working with Mr. Scott Morrell, from the Michigan Association of School Boards during a Cedar Springs Board of Education Self-Evaluation Workshop on October 23rd, 2017, I believe BOE members listened to Mr. Morrell. There is a commitment to be better and do better. To that end the board passed the MASB Board of Education Governance Standards Resolution with a vote of 5 to 1. “   

“We are excited to be among the many school districts in Michigan to adopt the BOE Governance Standards,” said Board President Matt Shoffner. “We believe these Standards are an important tool that will help us with the vital task of governing our district. They will help us raise the bar, live up to expectations as elected officials and better understand our roles as board members.”

Ted Sabinas was the lone member who voted against adopting the Governance Standards. “I don’t agree with everything MASB is trying to communicate,” he explained. “They are pretty generic standards. We struggle with the ones we already have and then to try to add more without a plan on what to do if it’s violated or not followed correctly doesn’t make sense.”

One of the things Morrell told the board was that in certain instances, such as on actions that have to do with vision, the vote should always be 7-0. He also noted that there should be a lot less split votes. But Sabinas doesn’t agree. “I’m not that type of personality that if it’s on the agenda it’s automatically going to pass. I was elected to speak up and point out things that don’t seem correct,” he said.

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