By Judy Reed
The Cedar Springs Board of Education met again on Monday, March 28. The meeting started with the board adding an agenda item to read a board statement, which was passed. Trustee Michelle Bayink asked to add an agenda item for discussion on comments from the last meeting, but it was not seconded, and died for lack of support.
Several people read letters or made comments to the board.
Bruce Marvel, an educator in another district, whose children attend Cedar Springs, asked the board, What are you? He noted Board president Eary’s statement about them only having one employee, and then asked why the contracts begin with the words “The Board of Education of Cedar Springs Public Schools and ____ enter into a contract”? He also asked if the board only has one employee, why did they tell the staff in the October 12 meeting, “if you don’t like it, you can take you services elsewhere”? (See an edited version of his letter on page 5)
Jan Wallace, a former member of the Board of Ed for 12 years, and said they were always transparent and accountable to the community. She noted the difficulties they overcame (a failed BOE recall, teacher’s strike, major budget issues) and how they healed with the support of the entire community and staff. She questioned Board president Patricia Eary’s statement about them only having one employee—the superintendent; and took issue with her previous statement about it not being an “open, public meeting…we are here to do the work of the board.” Wallace said the pubic is an important part of that work and has a right to speak. (See an edited version of her letter on page 5)
Tammie Drake, a school of choice mom, also spoke about communication has dissipated in the district. She said the board and superintendent are expected to listen, be curious, and act when needed. She said that we once were leaders and now people are asking what’s going on in Cedar Springs. (See her edited letter on page 6)
Teacher Libby Metiva also spoke. She asked that the board honor the request by trustee Michelle Bayink to address concerns by the community. She also asked who are the good ol’ boys? She said that term has been used in conversations in the community, and she wondered if the board might be allowing personal feelings or prejudices regarding good ol’ boys to influence their decisions as a governing body. She also tried to explain that the issue they are currently facing is not about the inability to embrace change. She listed several ways that the staff has changed over the last several years. Metiva noted teachers with 30-plus years experience speaking out because they are concerned. “Clearly our community is dysfunctional and divided,” she said. “What is stopping you from digging deeper? Aren’t our children worth it?”
Jamie Zywycki spoke and asked the board members to remember that they are trustees for the students.
First grade teacher Karen Gebhardt, who is in her 30th year of teaching, also spoke. She talked about the anti-bullying program “be nice” and importance of treating people with respect. “While we’ve expected our students to abide by this, with the administration and teachers it’s been harder,” she said. “The days of intimidation are over. It used to be that way at Cedar Trails but it’s not anymore.”
Many have questioned Board president Eary’s statement that they only have one employee—the superintendent. And while they may give the Superintendent the authority to hire and fire, according to the Michigan Association of School Boards website, under powers and duties of the local school board, it says that specific provisions in the revised school code assigns the board responsibilities such as employing a superintendent, other administrators, teachers, and support staff personnel. That job is seen each meeting when the board votes on the consent agenda to approve new hires or release employees.
For more on school board responsibility visit https://www.masb.org/your-local-school-board.aspx.
Cedar Springs Board meeting statement
The board read a statement during the meeting. “Let me first begin by thanking all of you for being present this evening as a part of this school board meeting. We recognize the interest in education by our community members, and value the opportunity to gather, listen to one another and consider the affirmations, questions and concerns of the community as part of our service as the Cedar Springs Public Schools board members.
As we have encountered change during the course of the year, we have heard affirmations, questions and concerns. We are proud that our community cares a great deal about the quality of education available for all our children. The Cedar Springs Board of Education cares a great deal as well. We are committed to proved an education of excellence for the children in the community.
The board is working with the Superintendent to ensure that wwe are in line with educational best practices and operations across our district. We are committed to being data driven in our decision making, as we continually serve our students and inform our community. We are committed to civility and respect, especially when there is a difference of opinion. These are the values we must uphold and model for all in our district, including our students.
We also stand committed to holding individuals accountable to work with integrity in their positions. Whether an individual is the Superintendent, a teacher in the classroom, a coach or a support staff member, we have high expectations and we expect excellence in all that we do. Valuing high expectations for ourselves sets the foundation for the best educational programs for children in our district.
The Cedar Springs Board of Education is listening to the community and is responsive to your concerns. We will continue to be in communication regarding a range of issues in the days ahead. We believe the leadership team shares our commitment and together we are confident that the children of Cedar Springs are going to continue to receive a great education.
The board and district leadership team appreciate the hard work done on a daily basis by staff and teachers in the classroom and on the grounds of the district. Effective teaching and learning is happening, and here are some examples:
*Long time teachers like Larry Reyburn at Cedar Springs High School who has always wanted to teach since his days as an FFA student at CSHS in the late 1960s.
*Becky Powell, who over the past 20 years has provided many hours of college preparation volunteer time with our CSHS students.
*The teachers at Cedar Trails who were recently commended for their implementation of Responsive Classrooms by a national trainer.
*Staff at our Cedar Springs Community Health Center, who support the physical and mental health needs of all students.
*The many other stories of exceptional adacemic success by our students such as Madison Skelonc, a 6th grader honored for scoring in the top 20 percent of the ACT of all college-bound high school students.
*Many excellent contributions in our various co-curricular programs.
*Our many volunteers who continue to partner with Cedar Springs, including parents and grandparents.
We live in a community where our students are learning and accomplishing great things. We live in a community that cares about education and our students. As a board, we are committed to continue this tradition of excellence going forward. Our community partnerships make a difference in our shared commitment to provide a high quality, world class education that ensures success for every child through exemplary teaching and learning.