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Tag Archive | "Cedar Springs Board of Education"

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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Board of Education adopts governance standards


 

The Cedar Springs Board of Education 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. 

 “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 23, 2017, I believe BOE members listened to Mr. Morrell,” said Board President Matt Shoffner. “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,” he added. “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.”

The Board of Education Governance Standards were developed by school board members for school board members through the Michigan Association of School Boards. The Standards provide a shared, research-based framework for effective school board governance. Not only do they define the principles that should affect board decisionmaking, they also identify the specific behaviors of school boards and school board members that contribute to positive outcomes for students. And they do so in simple terms so as to be easily understood by board members and the entire school district community.  

“We believe that locally adopting the Standards not only helps our governance team be more effective, but it sends a strong message that all of us as local school leaders are willing to step up and serve professionally,” said Shoffner. “We have standards for students, teachers and administrators, and now we have Board of Education Governance Standards for our board as well.”

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School board dismisses complaints against Superintendent


 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education passed a resolution 4-2 Monday evening to dismiss several complaints filed against Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn, including one filed by board member Ted Sabinas.

The board went into closed session Monday evening before voting on the resolution. The two board members voting against the resolution included Vice President Brooke Nichols and trustee Michelle Bayink. The resolution was read but there was no discussion.

The Post asked for a copy of the resolution, which was handwritten, from both Board President Matthew Shoffner, and the Superintendent’s office, but received no response from either.

According to Sabinas and others present at the meeting, the resolution dismissed complaints filed by Sabinas, Sue Wolfe, and Tammie Drake, which all asked for an investigation into whether Dr. VanDuyn had violated the school’s bullying and harassment policy (1162) in a statement she made to Sabinas in a previous board meeting on April 24, 2017. It happened during a presentation on privatizing the transportation services. Sabinas had tried to attend what was listed as an informational meeting between the bus drivers and administrative team, but was locked out. Sabinas said he was told that the drivers voted it down during that meeting, but that VanDuyn and Transportation supervisor Jerry Gavin then walked out and met privately, then went back into the meeting and told the drivers that if they voted against it, Gavin would be out of a job, but if they voted for it, he would work for Dean. The vote then passed. The statement under question from VanDuyn was uttered in an effort to explain why she and Gavin went outside.

“You had your truck backed in the parking lot and they felt stalked or intimidated by you sitting in the parking lot. And, so we had to check and see if things were safe for our drivers,” she said.

Sabinas had asked for an independent investigation. It was reportedly handled by Shoffner and treasurer Heidi Reed.

Sabinas reported that under the resolution, there would be no mention of the complaints in the Superintendent’s file.

The passage of the resolution did not stop people from airing their complaints during public comments. Many people addressed the board Monday evening, including current and former employees, and at least one high school student.

Teacher Erin Cairy (wife of former Asst. Superintendent Dave Cairy), who took a leave of absence this year to stay home with her three-year-old son, said the 2015/16 year was demeaning and toxic, and she had feared returning to the vicious things said about her family both verbally and on social media. After she submitted her leave of absence in August, many of her colleagues reached out to her, as did parents of the students she was to have, but the administration did not communicate with her at all. She said she sent emails and texts asking how she could help with the transition but they were not answered. She wrote a personal letter that she hoped to have delivered to the parents of her students, but it was not. She said she sent emails asking if she still had insurance. Those also went unanswered. On Sept. 4 she said she sent one final email begging for communication, but it also was not answered.

Kristina Cassiday also spoke. She worked for 13 years in the teaching and learning office. She said that she had always felt respected and well-liked by the principals, teachers and support staff, and had been thought of as dependable, trustworthy, knowledgeable and hardworking. However, she said that prior to her leaving, she was accused of unprofessional and unethical practices, including deleting appointments from Asst. Superintendent Jo Spry’s calendar; inappropriate charges on a purchase card; releasing confidential budget information to staff members; and cheating the system, in regard to vacation, sick and personal days. “This kind of leadership (false truths, devious, accusatory, strong arming and deceit) has spread fear and distrust throughout our district and community,” she said.

Senior Peyton Elliston spoke about how “our once cohesive, friendly town has turned into a divided battleground that has pitted teacher against teacher and student against student.” She talked about how teachers help students, and not just academically, but also as a mentor, and how several of those teachers she relied on as mentors were now gone. “I’m standing before all of you today to tell you that this—without a doubt—affects the students,” she said. She questioned how the people that are supposed to help students feel safe can do that when they don’t feel safe themselves. “Multiple staff members have stood before you over the last two years, simply asking for your help because they feel bullied and intimidated, yet you haven’t even acknowledged them, because they keep coming back. Imagine having a playground bully you can’t escape, and your repeated cries for help fall on deaf ears.” She noted that they are sending a message to students that their voices are insignificant.

Retired teacher Peggy Hansen asked why the board is turning a blind eye to all the controversy. She said teachers need to be reassured that they can speak out without retaliation. She also asked why the board is not getting back to community members regarding the questions they ask.

Teachers Union representative Brett Burns also spoke while 30-plus teachers stood behind him. “We stand before you this evening as a unified group of educators who you trust with your children every day. We want you to know that we love our kids, we are positive, we are united, we are hopeful. We want to begin the very important process of mending fences in order to build bridges to a bright future. Knowing that you want the same thing for our community and its children, we are extending an invitation for an open dialogue between educators and you, the members of the Cedar Springs Board of Education. We look forward to working as a team on this shared goal. Thank you for listening to this positive, caring majority who deeply desire the best for our staff, our community, and most importantly our kids,” he said.

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School board member files complaint against Superintendent


 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education meeting held Monday evening—where at least 10 people spoke against Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn during public comment—culminated with trustee Ted Sabinas stating that he was filing a complaint against her for bullying.

Sabinas read his complaint aloud during board comments and then gave it to Board President Matt Shoffner to process.

“During the board meeting of April 24th, I believe that Dr. VanDuyn made an inappropriate calculated statement in an effort to discredit me,” said Sabinas. “Her statement is clearly a violation of our Neola policy 1662 Anti Harassment. Making this comment by stating someone else originally made the comment cannot be considered appropriate.” He also asked for her to be put on immediate leave and an independent compliance officer be hired to investigate the complaint.

His complaint refers to the April 24 board meeting, when they were discussing the possible privatization of transportation, and Dr. VanDuyn made a comment about the bus drivers feeling stalked or intimated by Sabinas.

Prior to that meeting, Sabinas had attempted to attend a meeting between the bus drivers and administration to learn more about the privatization and speak to staff but was locked out of the building. (He had been given permission to attend during March’s board meeting by Board president Matt Shoffner but that was later rescinded.)

At the April 24 Board meeting, bus driver Becca Fisk was speaking about the bus driver vote and how it was done. Sabinas said that he had heard that there was more than one vote by the bus drivers. He said he was told that the vote was initially no, and that the Superintendent and Jerry Gavin (the transportation supervisor) then had a private meeting, and then went back into the meeting with the drivers and told them that if they didn’t privatize, Mr. Gavin would be done in June; but if they did privatize, that he would then work for Dean’s Transportation for 5-7 years. He said he was told that another vote was then taken and it had passed, out of loyalty to Mr. Gavin.

It was then that Dr. VanDuyn made the statement that Sabinas is filing a complaint about.

She said she could speak to this. “There was an issue—we had bus drivers who were very uncomfortable because they didn’t want you to enter their meeting, and you were insisting you would be at their meeting, and you had your truck backed in, and they felt stalked or intimidated by you sitting in the parking lot and so we had to check and see if things were safe for our drivers.” She then looked at Becca Fisk. “You can attest to what you said about anyone being in the meeting other than Ken, Jerry and I with the departments.”

“And so Jerry and I did step out,” she continued, “and talked about whether you (Sabinas) were still there, this was a problem for our drivers, and Becca you can attest to…”

At that point she was interrupted by VP Brooke Nichols, who said she thought they should stick to the agenda.

Dr. VanDuyn responded with, “Ken, Jerry, and I know what happened in the meeting and what the votes were.”

Sabinas said in his complaint that “for Dr. VanDuyn to make bullying comments towards one of her employers shows a total lack of respect for the board and is an act of insubordination. If we allow these types of actions by the district leader we are telling the staff and students that it is completely OK to make bullying and harassment comments to anyone they encounter. The example that Dr. VanDuyn chose to demonstrate does not represent the core values of our district.”

Sabinas asked that Dr. VanDuyn be placed on immediate leave of absence and be restricted from school activities until an independent compliance officer can be hired and rule on the harassment and bullying complaint.

According to the Board’s policy, the Superintendent is the compliance officer that would normally investigate complaints. But Sabinas said he consulted with the legal division of the Michigan Association of School Boards, and they advised him to request an independent compliance officer.

“You can’t have her or a close associate investigate a complaint about her. I know we’ve had other complaints about the Superintendent that she or someone who works for her has investigated. The school lawyer is also not the right person because he has the needs of the school in mind,” explained Sabinas.

Earlier in Monday’s meeting, there were many public comments supporting Sabinas and condemning Dr. VanDuyn’s statement about stalking. Staff also spoke about fear of speaking up about things, saying that they had felt intimidated and manipulated, and were afraid of being targeted or reassigned. Several speakers asked for an investigation into Dr. VanDuyn.

Board member Heidi Reed spoke up and said that if there were an investigation, she would bring forth evidence showing that Sabinas had also bullied Dr. VanDuyn.

Sabinas said that he is not the type of board member that just takes what he is told by administration at face value. “I ask a lot of questions. I don’t rubber stamp things,” he explained. “People expect me to do what I say. I campaigned on being thorough, investigating, and talking to people.”

But Sabinas said that right now, it’s hard to do that. “I’m being blocked. Various staff members have said they were asked not to talk to me, and were told they would be fired. So they won’t talk,” he said.

He said it’s not routine in a school district that board members cannot speak to staff or ask them questions. “We have a lot of uniqueness going on here,” he said.

During Monday’s board meeting, Dr. VanDuyn listened but did not respond to complaints from residents and staff.

The Post emailed Board President Matt Shoffner on Tuesday, May 23, asking for a statement on what he was doing with the complaint, but did not have a response by Wednesday evening at press time.

The Post also emailed Dr. VanDuyn and gave her the opportunity to make a statement, but did not receive a response by press time.

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School board votes to privatize transportation


CSPS-logo-vertical

By Judy Reed

The buses transporting students to school next year will still say Cedar Springs Public Schools; the drivers will still be the same familiar faces; the supervisor and dispatcher will be the same; and the buses will be housed at the same bus garage. What will be different is that the buses will no longer belong to and employees will no longer work for Cedar Springs Public Schools. Ownership will shift to Dean’s Transportation, after the Cedar Springs Board of Education voted 6-1 Monday evening to privatize transportation and to go with Dean’s.

The one lone no vote came from board member Ted Sabinas, who said he had too many concerns. “Once we make that decision there will be no turning back—ever. We will never be able to buy buses again,” he explained.

Last year Excel Consultants did a transportation study and recommended the school district sell some of their old buses and compare what the cost would be to privatize versus keeping it in-house. In the end, they chose Dean’s, after the majority of the bus drivers decided that’s what they wanted to do.

The Cedar Springs 2016/2017 Transportation Budget is $2,943,208, The 2017/2018 Transportation Budget is set at $3,683,314, which includes six new buses and two mechanics instead of just one, because they cannot keep up with the repairs.

The proposed budget from Dean’s will be $1,774,274, without fuel. The school will still be responsible for the fuel ($270,000) and payments to other schools ($1,146,000), for a total of  $3,190,274. That’s a savings of $493,040.

Dean’s will also purchase their bus fleet at blue book value, which causes a one-time infusion into the budget of $638,600. Between the savings and the purchase of the bus fleet, the school would see a financial impact of $1,132,640.

Dean’s will automatically replace nine buses next year that are past their prime.

“Let’s look at the safety of the students,” said board member Patricia Eary. “The average age of a bus is 12-1/2 years old. Our oldest bus is 22 years old. Who drives a 22-year-old bus?” she remarked.

Bus drivers met with administration and with Dean’s before voting on the issue. Sabinas asked driver Becca Fisk, who spoke on behalf of the drivers, if there was more than one vote held. Both she and Supt. VanDuyn said no. Sabinas had tried to attend one of the meetings, but was denied entrance.

“Some of the drivers were uncomfortable about you being at the meeting,” VanDuyn told Sabinas. She noted that his truck was still parked there in the lot, and some of the drivers felt like they were “being stalked.”

Board VP Brooke Nichols then asked that they stick to the agenda.

Fisk explained the procedure they took of voting by paper ballot, and that there were 16 yes votes, 3 no, and 2 undecided. She also knew of a couple people that weren’t at the meeting who said they would be leaving.

One person told the Post she knew of nine drivers that wouldn’t be back.

“”It is not ideal for every transportation employee but rather the great majority; hence their request to privatize. We regret any employee will leave our CSPS if it was not of their choosing,” said VanDuyn, in a letter to parents in the district. “We value every employee and the time they each have served here.”

Dean’s said they will hire the drivers and requested a letter of recommendation from the school district for them. CS drivers will have super seniority, which means that another driver from Dean’s who drives for another district but has more seniority won’t be able to bump them. They will also have the opportunity for more hours with Dean’s.

Cedar Springs transportation has been short staffed for several years, and going with Dean’s will also alleviate that problem. “With our recruiting practices, we have better resources to fill those shortages as soon as possible,” said Kelly Dean, owner of Dean’s Transportation.

Dean’s has transported Cedar Springs special education students for several years, and other area districts use them, including Sparta and Tri County.

The board will vote on the contract with Dean’s Transportation at their next meeting on May 22.

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School board considers privatizing busing


N-Privatization-bus

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education held a special meeting on Monday, March 27, to finalize contract issues, and heard information on the possibility of privatizing transportation.

Earlier in March, a split board had voted to issue non-renewals of contracts for high school principal Ron Behrenwald and transportation supervisor Jerry Gavin. Those were rescinded after Behrenwald and the administration agreed on a contract, and Gavin decided to retire from public education. It appears he will likely go to work at Dean Transportation, and do the same job he is doing now with Cedar Springs, if the school chooses to privatize.

The board did vote 5-2 to approve a non-renewal for part time employee Linda Bayink. Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn explained that Linda had been with the school for many years and they couldn’t appreciate her more, but they needed someone full time in that position. She said that Linda understood, and that they were hoped to keep her in the district, and that they were checking out other positions for her. Both Ted Sabinas and Michelle Bayink voted no, with Sabinas saying he didn’t think it was an accurate account.

The board heard a presentation on the possibility of subcontracting busing to Deans Transportation. Dean’s currently buses Cedar Springs special education students, and several area districts also currently use them, including Sparta, Tri County, Muskegon, Reeths Puffer, Grand Rapids, Kent Intermediate School District, and Ottawa Intermediate School District.

VanDuyn said that the same team that currently oversees Cedar Springs transportation would be running it for Dean’s, using the same software, and from the same building they currently work out of. The buses would be housed at Cedar Springs, and Dean’s is willing to hire the drivers.

In January they received an informal quote from Dean’s, then meetings began with the district and the bus drivers. VanDuyn said they wanted the drivers to know what it would look like to be employed by Dean’s, what their pensions would like, etc., so had Dean’s meet with the drivers, then the drivers met with the administration. Then, in a private vote, the bus drivers voted to go with Dean’s. There were 21 drivers present, with 16 voting yes, 3 no, and 2 undecided.

Gavin said that when he started in the 1970s in transportation, it was a whole different type of job—many retirees and others who only needed some part time work took advantage of the job. He said that now, with all the changes, such as training and medical requirements, it’s no longer really part time. “You can’t expect to keep people working split shifts with no insurance and no summer hours. We haven’t been fully staffed for the last 6-10 years.” He also noted their aging bus fleet. “If Dean comes in, we’ll automatically nine buses out,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s the right thing to do at this point.”

Bus driver Rebecca Fisk, who has been with the district for 15 years, spoke to the board on behalf of the bus drivers. She told the board that to be honest, she was going to work for Dean (no matter what they decided). “They have what I need,” she said. She explained how she is supposed to be unassigned—to sub for other drivers—but they are understaffed. “When Obamacare hit, it reduced my hours to 28. It hurt. That’s $300-$400 a month. At Dean’s we can get that,” she said.

The 2016/2017 Transportation Budget is $2,943,208, The 2017/2018 Transportation Budget is set at $3,683,314, which includes six new buses and two mechanics instead of just one, because they cannot keep up with the repairs.

The proposed budget from Dean’s, comparing apples to apples will be $1,774,274. The school will still be responsible for fuel ($270,000) and payments to other schools ($1,146,000), for a total of  $3,190,274. That’s a savings of $493,040.

Dean’s will also purchase their bus fleet at blue book value, which causes a one-time infusion into the budget of $638,600. Between the savings and the purchase of the bus fleet, the school would see a financial impact of $1,132,640.

They also received bids from three others:

Durham bid $1,615,000 plus requiring CSPS to buy buses as follows: 1st yr 12, 2nd yr 1, 4th yr 13.

First Student bid $1,450,000, a generic quote per bus figure but it was verbal only with nothing in writing.

Operation Engineers Local 324 – Operate as they  currently do or $3,683,314 with CSPS running all operations.

Sabinas noted that when he was asked if he could attend the meeting between the administration and the bus drivers, he was told yes (by board president Matt Shoffner) and that later he was told no by VanDuyn.

“I know that I said that,” explained Shoffner, “but I did send an email rescinding that saying that it probably wasn’t the best thing for one of us to be there.”

Sabinas noted that it was a big decision. “We will be remembered as the board that decided,” he remarked.

The board may vote on it at their next meeting on April 24, at 6:45 p.m.

In other action, the board also voted to update facility fees for users within and outside of the community.

For a complete list of items discussed and voted on, visit the school website at www.csredhawks.org. The meetings are also recorded on video, and you can access them through the school website.

 

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School board bits


 

Contracts, privatization of transportation

By Judy Reed

Board votes on administrative, other contracts

The Cedar Springs Board of Education found themselves split 4-3 Monday evening, March 13, when voting on contracts for administrators, executive assistants, and administrative assistants.

Dr. Laura VanDuyn, Superintendent of Cedar Springs Public Schools, brought the contracts to the Board that evening. She told them that all the administrators, except one had agreed to the contracts.

Trustee Ted Sabinas said up front that due to the lack of time they had to review, read, and compare the administrator contracts to the previous contracts, and due to the lack of collaboratively working with the administration on the contracts, as had been done in the past, he would be voting no.

VanDuyn assured the board that she and Carrie Duddles, human resources director, had met with the administrators several times, fielded phone calls, and gave them opportunities to ask questions.

A vote was taken on whether to table the administrator contracts, and it was defeated 3-4. Sabinas, Michelle Bayink, and Brooke Nichols all voted to table. A motion was then made to approve the contracts, and it passed 4-3. Shannon Vanderhyde, Heidi Reed, Patricia Eary, and President Matt Shoffner all voted to pass the contracts.

The Board voted 4-3 to table the executive assistant and administrative contracts, because they had not seen them. Sabinas, Bayink, Nichols, and Shoffner all voted to table them. Shoffner said that he voted to table them because the contracts were not in the packet and he wanted to see them. He said he voted to pass the administrator contracts because they did see that information.

The Board then had to vote on a non-renewal of contracts for two employees—high school principal Ron Behrenwald and transportation supervisor Jerry Gavin.

VanDuyn said that Behrenwald was the administrator that did not approve his contract. She explained that he had asked for more time to review it because he had a question about salary. She then explained that in order to meet the requirements of Section 1229 of the Revised School code, and to meet contract language, the board had to give 30 days notice that they were considering non-renewal if there was any delay in signing the contract. The Board would have to give final notice on April 24, so the process needed to start that evening, March 13. According to the law, the administrator would be notified with a letter, which was reportedly dated March 10, and would give the reasons for non-renewal. VanDuyn said Behrenwald could still sign his contract up to April 24.

Nichols questioned the letter. “I feel like if we pass this, it’s a non-renewal,” she said. “I feel like there should be reasons in the letter, with written statements on why we’re doing non-renewal,” she said.

VanDuyn told the board their attorney drafted the resolution and the letter, and that the letter spoke to multiple discussions or opportunities to discuss the contract, and spoke of the delay.

The Post sent a FOIA request for the letter, among other items, but the administration opted not to fulfill the request for another 10 days.

The Board also needed to vote on non-renewal of Gavin’s contract, due to the fact that they are looking at restructuring transportation, and possibly privatizing it. VanDuyn said he would not have the same contract, and they currently haven’t offered him another contract. She said that they can’t give him a definitive yes or no on his job, and that they have had discussions with him. “We will wait and see as we explore privatization,” she said. “He’s well aware.”

VanDuyn noted again that the process of non-renewal needed to start that night to meet the timeline, and that waiting until March 27 would be too late, since they need 30 days and the final vote is April 24.

The Board voted 4-3 to pass the non-renewal of Behrenwald’s and Gavin’s contracts. Sabinas, Bayink and Nichols all voted against it. Shoffner said he only voted to pass them in order to make the needed time line.

Under Section 1229, those getting a non-renewal notice are also allowed a hearing before a majority of the Board. According to Thrun Law Firm: Strict adherence to the Section 1229 timelines is critical, as a school must give the affected administrator notice that the board is “considering” nonrenewal along with a written statement of the reasons for nonrenewal at least 90 days before the affected administrator’s contract expires.

Section 1229 also requires a period of 30 days before the board can make a final determination on whether to nonrenew the affected administrator. During this period, the affected administrator must be given the opportunity to meet with a majority of the board members to discuss the stated reasons for the nonrenewal.

The school board then must make its final determination and give the administrator notice of that decision not later than 60 days before the affected administrator’s contract expires. Under Section 1229, a school may not nonrenew an administrator’s employment contract for a reason that is “arbitrary or capricious.”

Privatization of transportation

Supt. VanDuyn spoke to the Board about the plans to explore privatization of busing. She said the one of the recommendations made by the Excel Consulting Group last year was to get a quote on privatizing busing. They received an informal quote from Dean’s Transportation, and they brought them in to meet with the bus drivers, first in small group, then in a larger group. She noted that they wanted the bus drivers to weigh in on this, and that there would be meetings with them last week. “It’s been a great collaboration process,” VanDuyn told them. She said that she would have information for the Board at the March 27 meeting.

According to the most recently amended budget, the budget for transportation is $2,926,976. And, according to statistics posted on their website from April 2016, they had 41 buses in their fleet.

The Post asked the Superintendent some questions about the possibility of privatization, savings, what would happen to the buses, and other things, but she declined to comment, because the board had not yet seen any information.

SPECIAL MEETING

Please note that there will be a special board meeting on Monday, March 27, and it will start at 5:45 p.m. That is an hour earlier than normal.

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Year in Review: School board takes heat


Heidi Reed is one of two new faces on the Cedar Springs Board of Education this year.

Heidi Reed is one of two new faces on the Cedar Springs Board of Education this year.

Ted Sabinas is one of two new faces on the Cedar Springs Board of Education this year.

Ted Sabinas is one of two new faces on the Cedar Springs Board of Education this year.

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education was under fire this year as many school staff members and residents took to the podium at school board meetings and wrote letters to the Post asking why four administrators had left since Supt. VanDuyn took over and expressing displeasure at the way certain matters were being handled by the board and administration. Many other residents and school staff took the opposite view, and said that they were supportive of the changes happening in the district.

Overflowing attendance at board meetings became the norm, as people on both sides of the issue yearned to have their voice heard.

The administrators in question had all resigned. Then two more administrators—elementary principals Andy Secor and Ken See—left last summer.

Later in the summer, the board released the Rehmann Report, a forensic audit that appeared to be targeted mainly at the athletic department. The forensic audit into record keeping in the athletic department at Cedar Springs Public Schools did not show any intentional misuse of funds or fraud, but did show that the district needs to have stricter policies and procedures on procurement cards and ensuring employees have the guidelines on how to use them. The report stated that they did not note any purchases under former Athletic Director Autumn Mattson that were inherently inappropriate.

“The investigation was a reflection of concerns brought to us about athletic accounts,” explained Dr. Laura VanDuyn, Superintendent at Cedar Springs Public Schools. “When several concerns mounted, the board decided to go ahead with the investigation. We are accountable to the community, staff, and parents. We are stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Things got even more heated as the school board election campaign got underway. Incumbent Jeff Gust decided not to run again. Challengers Ted Sabinas (a former teacher and track coach) and Mistie Bowser campaigned together for two seats, and while challenger Heidi Reed and incumbent Joe Marckini campaigned separately, they were often promoted together by those writing letters to the editor. So it appeared there were two camps—Sabinas and Bowser (who questioned changes), and Reed and Marckini (who supported current administration). (A fifth candidate, Rita Reimbold, dropped out, saying she didn’t want to run against Marckini.) The election results showed, however, that it wasn’t quite so simple. Sabinas won his seat with 3,789 votes, and Reed won the second seat, with 3,602 votes. Bowser came in third with 2,789, and Marckini fourth, with 2,366.

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Sabinas and Reed win school board; other election results


Heidi Reed

Heidi Reed

Ted Sabinas

Ted Sabinas

By Judy Reed

While the results of the presidential race was the big surprise of Tuesday’s election, the results of the Cedar Springs Board of Education race may have also surprised some voters. There four people running for two seats: challengers Ted Sabinas and Mistie Bowser campaigned together for two seats, and while challenger Heidi Reed and incumbent Joe Marckini campaigned separately, they were often promoted together by those writing letters to the editor. So it appeared there were two camps—Sabinas and Bowser, and Reed and Marckini. (A fifth candidate, Rita Reimbold, dropped out, saying she didn’t want to run against Marckini.) The election results showed, however, that it wasn’t quite so simple. Sabinas won his seat with 3,789 votes, and Reed won the second seat, with 3,602 votes. Bowser came in third with 2,789, and Marckini fourth, with 2,366. Reimbold garnered 875 votes. The county of Newaygo added a handful of votes—about 26, split among the candidates.

City of Cedar Springs

City Council: There were two positions open for City Council, with only two people running. Jerry Gross Sr. got 744 votes, and Rose Ellen Powell 765.

Other election results (with more than one candidate for a position):

Nelson Township

Supervisor: Deputy Supervisor Robyn Britton ran as a write-in against Supervisor Tom Noreen, since he has said he will retire in December or January. Write-in results were not immediately available and Kent County has two weeks to certify those results. According to posted results, Noreen received 1,726 votes. If he wins the election, it would be up to the township board to appoint Britton to the position when Noreen retires.

Village of Sand Lake

President: Tom Norton ran for Village President and trustee Bette Towsley ran as a write-in candidate. According to posted results, Norton won 95 votes. The number of write-in votes has not been posted, and Kent County has up to two weeks to certify them.

Trustee: Nyha French (114), Tonia Parkhurst (105) and Danielle Hardenburg (90) won the three seats on the Village council. James Ward came in last with 75.

Proposal: The street bond proposal passed with 133 yes, and 76 no.

Courtland Township:

Clerk: Three candidates ran for Courtland Township clerk, and Sandra Frandsen-R won with 2,558 votes. Marilynn Crosby-D came in second with 1,313 votes, and Grace Mosher with 426.

Solon Township

Trustees: Mark Hoskins and Fred Gunnell won the two trustee seats. Hoskins-R had 1875 votes, and Gunnell-R 1806. They were followed by Christine Witt-D with 812, and Bruce Gravelin with 462.

Spencer Township

Treasurer: Two ran for one position. Scott Baas-R won the position with 1,098 votes. Judy Geglio-D received 815 votes.

Trustees: Two seats were won by John Tow II-R with 1,257 votes, and John Wood, Jr.-R with 1,180. Eldon Lutz-D received 677 votes.

Kent County:

Proposals: The Zoo and Museum millage proposal passed with 173,013 voting yes and 108,140 no. The enhanced 911 public safety surcharge passed with 205,112 voting yes, and 74,726 no.

Prosecuting attorney: Chris Becker-R won with 167, 451 over Alida Bryant-D with 119,923.

Sheriff: Lawrence Stelma-R won another term as Sheriff with 174,260 votes over opponent Michael Scruggs-D, who had 118,244.

Clerk/Register of Deeds: Lisa Posthumus Lyons-R won with 158,132, over Chris Reader-D (115,122) and James Lewis-Lib (16,007).

Treasurer: Kenneth Parrish-R (165,841) beat Jody Betten-D (118,164).

Drain Commissioner: Ken Yonker-R (159,616) won over Rachel Hood-D (127,812).

State

3rd District representative in Congress: Justin Amash-R won another two-year term with 59.45% of the vote, over Douglas Smith-D (37.52%) and Ted Gerrard-US Tax (3.04%)

73rd District representative in state legislature: Chris Afendoulis-R won another two-year term with 63.72% of the vote over Deb Havens-D (32.36%) and Ron Heeren-LIB (3.92%).

74th District representative in state legislature: Rob Verheulen-R won another two–year term with 64.47% of the vote over Robin Bigger-D (30.69%) and Bill Gelineau-LIB (4.83%).

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School board approves deputy on campus


CSPS-hawk-logo

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education showed Monday evening that school security is high on their priority list, when they approved a partnership with the Kent County Sheriff Department to have a School Resource Officer on campus (SRO) 40 hours a week for the upcoming school year.

Building relationships with students to prevent problems and increasing campus security are just two of the things that a SRO would do. Sgt. Jason Kelley noted that there had been 168 calls on school property since the beginning of 2015. “These are reactive—someone called us. We could lower that number and intervene before something happens,” he explained.

Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn reminded everyone that there are 4,000-plus people on campus every day, when you include students, staff, and parent volunteers.

“Security has been on everyone’s mind, especially with recent developments,” said trustee Joe Marckini.

The Kent County Sheriff Department offered to fund 30 percent of the program.

The outstanding cost to the district would be approximately $76,000, after the Sheriff Department’s contribution. The cost would cover wages and benefits for 40 hours per week for the deputy; all standard issued deputy equipment; a Kent County Sheriff car, fully equipped, fueled and maintained; and all police training and supervision.

VanDuyn explained that because of a layoff at the high school of a security officer, the net cost would be about $40,000 to the district for the program.

Marckini wanted to make clear that them hiring the SRO is not why the security officer was being laid off.

“No,” said VanDuyn. “We’ve had bomb threats and intruders on campus this year. This is a very difficult decision. We are looking at our emergency plan. We have worked hard, but we can’t have everything in our budget. We are moving toward a whole new model,” she explained.

The SRO will be based at the high school, but visit other buildings. Cedar Springs Middle School, located on 16 Mile, will keep their security officer.

The school and the Sheriff Department will work together on the process of choosing the deputy. The Sheriff Department will accept letters of interest from deputies, then narrow the field down to those they think might be a good fit for the district. School representatives will then interview the deputies, and forward their decision to the Sheriff Department for final approval.

There are currently six schools actively involved in the program, each with their own officer—Northview, Kenowa Hills, Kent City, Forest Hills, Lowell, and Byron Center. Caledonia also just approved joining the program.

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