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Tag Archive | "Cedar Springs Board of Education"

School board recall drive suspended


 

By Judy Reed

A drive to recall three members of the Cedar Springs Board of Education came to a halt this week after a spokesperson for the recall team said they no longer felt it necessary to proceed.

Petitions to recall board president Heidi Reed, vice president Matt Shoffner, and treasurer Shannon Vanderhyde were filed this spring, in the aftermath of the resignation of Superintendent Laura VanDuyn.

The reasoning on the petitions for the recall had to do with public comment being limited at a board meeting. Reed apologized the day after the meeting, noting that she had erred in not letting some people speak who had not signed up ahead of time. 

However, there was more behind the recall effort than the one incident. Many of those who had demanded that the former superintendent resign also felt that the board had not been listening to the public or staff over the last few years when they complained about the former superintendent, and wanted to see them recalled. However, since that time, board members have made efforts to be more transparent, and show that they are listening to their constituents. The recent hiring of Superintendent Scott Smith had the public involved at almost every level.

Recall spokesperson Molly Nixon released this statement earlier this week: “Upon evaluation of the recent changes made by the board of education from 6-year to 4-year terms, and upon seeing that the new superintendent contract is not self-renewing, the recall team has decided that it is not necessary to continue with our efforts at this time. We would like to thank all of the citizens who assisted with the circulation of petitions. We ask all citizens to continue to watch closely the actions of elected officials. While we will continue to expect a high level of transparency we thank the board for taking these first steps in the direction of reconciliation. It is a new day indeed.” 

For more information on term lengths and what positions are up for election this fall, click here.

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School board reduces term length; four positions open


By Judy Reed

 If you’ve been thinking about running for a seat on the Cedar Springs Board of Education, you’ll have your chance in November. There will be four positions open—two full terms and two partial terms. None will be longer than four years, since the Board voted on Monday, June 25, to reduce the term served from six years to four years.

A previous board had voted several years ago to change term lengths from four years to six years after the state of Michigan passed a law regarding when elections could be held. They did it to avoid a 4-3 rotation every two years.

Interim Superintendent Mark Dobias had said he felt it might encourage more people to run if they reduced the amount of time to serve. He asked for input from the community on shortening the time frame from four to six years, and told the Post that he received 50-75 emails on it, and no one had voiced opposition. 

The seats up for grabs this fall include Matt McConnon’s seat, which will be a four-year term expiring in 2022; Brook Nichols’ seat, which will also be a four-year-term expiring in 2022; the seat occupied by Jeff Rivard, which expires in 2020; and the seat currently held by Traci Slager, which expires in 2022.

Anyone wishing to run for one of these four trustee positions may either file a petition no later then July 24, 2018, or pay a $100 filing fee by no later than July 24, 2018. You can pick up an election packet at the Kent County Clerk’s office at 300 Monroe Ave., in Grand Rapids, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call them for information at (616) 632-7640.

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Board approves Superintendent contract


 

New Superintendent, Scott Smith

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education approved the contract of their new Superintendent, Scott Smith, at their regular board meeting on Monday, June 25.

“The Board of Education is pleased to culminate months of work, by approving a 3-year contract with Scott Smith as our superintendent, with a unanimous board vote of 7-0,” said Heidi Reed, board president. 

“The entire board is thankful for the support and input from staff, students, parents and community members during this process.”

The board extended an offer of employment to Smith, who is currently an assistant superintendent at Hudsonville Public Schools, after a rigorous day of Smith meeting with eight different focus groups, dinner with the board, and then a second round interview with the board at 7 p.m. June 18. 

Gary Rider, of Michigan Leadership Institute, led the search to replace former superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn, who resigned in March. The board hired interim superintendent Mark Dobias to fill the vacancy until the end of the June.

“We are grateful to Gary Rider, our search consultant; Mark Dobias, our Interim Superintendent; and all of our building leaders and staff who assisted during this time of transition in our district,” noted Reed.

Smith’s contract starts July 1 and will cover the 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21 school years. His salary will be $150,000 for 2018-19. His salary the following years will depend on if he is rated effective or highly effective. If he is rated effective for 2018-19, his salary for the following year will not be less than $153,000. If he is rated highly effective, it will not be less than $154,500. If he is rated effective in 2019-20, his salary the following year will not be less than $156,500. If rated highly effective, it will not be less than $159,500. He also may be eligible for one percent or two percent stipend based on whether he is effective or highly effective.

The district will also help with moving expenses, not to exceed $10,000, if Smith should decide to move into the district, which he has said he would like to do. He and his wife, Sarah, currently live in Hamilton.

Smith will be in the office starting Monday, July 2.

“We are excited to get started with Scott (Smith) and continue the important work of our district, which will benefit our students,” said Reed.

You can download a copy of Scott Smith’s contract below: 

Superintendent Scott Smith Contract – 2018-2021.pdf

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Cedar Springs chooses new superintendent


 

Scott Smith has been selected as the new superintendent

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education voted 7-0 Monday evening, June 18, to extend an offer to Scott Smith to be their new superintendent.

Smith currently serves as an assistant superintendent at Hudsonville Public Schools.

The offer came after a rigorous day of Smith meeting with eight different focus groups, dinner with the board, and then a second round interview with the board at 7 p.m. The news was given to Smith by board president Heidi Reed shortly after 9 p.m. via speakerphone, accompanied by loud applause from the approximately 50 staff and community members present for the interview.

“It is an incredible honor to receive an invitation to join the Cedar Springs team as its Superintendent of Schools,” said Smith. “This opportunity has been on my radar for nearly ten years. Cedar Springs has a rich history as a student-centered and teacher-centered school district nestled within a strong, supportive community. I can’t wait to get started doing this exciting work!”

Community members and staff gave feedback to the board about Smith after the focus groups and after both the first and second round interviews. Several board members noted that the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

 “We had tremendous feedback from staff, students, parents and community members during the process,” remarked Reed. “Scott had overwhelming support and was clearly a great fit for the candidate profile. He is very well prepared to be our next Superintendent and we look forward to having he and his wife Sarah become part of our community. The unanimous decision to offer the job to Mr. Smith is the result of several months of work by the board with support and input from staff, students, parents and community members. We are all excited to get started with Scott on the important work of moving our district forward.”

Contract negotiations will start immediately between the district and Smith, with the board voting that Reed and the lawyers for Cedar Springs lead that effort.

The board opted to forego a site visit, with several members explaining that they had already received a lot of input from members of the Hudsonville community and district. Reed noted that some of the people they had heard from were people that they would talk to during a site visit. Three of the board members—Traci Slager, Matt Shoffner, and Shannon Vanderhyde—all mentioned being open to the possibility of a site visit to add an extra layer of thoroughness to the search process, but were completely ready to move forward without it if the others were also ready to move forward. 

Before the vote, board members mentioned some of the things they liked about Smith, and all agreed that he was a perfect fit to the profile that they had developed with the help of search consultant Gary Rider and the results of the community survey.

Smith has served as Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources for the Hudsonville Public Schools for seven years. Prior to this work he served as the Middle School Principal for Hamilton Community Schools for six years, and as a Middle School Science teacher for Holland Public Schools for three years.  Mr. Smith holds a Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from Grand Valley State University, and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Earth Science both from Western Michigan University. He currently lives in Hamilton but noted that he will be looking to sell his home and find something in the area.

Cedar Springs is one of seven districts in Kent County who will have new superintendents for this next school year. The others are Caledonia, Comstock Park, East Grand Rapids, Sparta, Thornapple Kellog, and Wyoming.

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Board selects finalist in Superintendent search


Scott Smith

Community forums and second interview set for June 18

The Cedar Springs Board of Education conducted first round interviews Friday evening, June 8, in their search for a new Superintendent, and narrowed their field down to one finalist. Scott Smith, Assistant Superintendent at Hudsonville, will return for a second-round interview.

The board gave high marks to all three candidates who interviewed, but seemed to like Smith’s leadership style, community focus, and experience with a larger district. 

The other two candidates who interviewed were Karl Heidrich, of Stockbridge Community Schools, and John VanLoon, of Ravenna Public Schools.

A second-round interview is scheduled to take place at 7:00 p.m., Monday, June 18. (Please note this date is a change from that listed in the tentative calendar previously released.) The interview will take place in the District Office Board Room, 204 E Muskegon St., Cedar Springs, Mich.  

“The public is strongly encouraged to attend,” said Search Consultant Gary Rider. “Feedback from the audience has already been very valuable to the Board in the selection process.” Rider is the consultant that was selected by the Cedar Springs Board to facilitate the search effort.

Prior to the second round interview in the evening, focus groups will be held during the day on June 18 so that the community, staff, business, and government officials can all meet with Smith and give feedback to the board. There will be two community forums: one at 10 a.m. and one at 4 p.m. Both will be held in the District Office board room. Smith will have dinner with the board at 5:30 p.m., followed by the interview at 7 p.m. in the board room.

Scott Smith has served as Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources for the Hudsonville Public Schools for seven years. Prior to this work he served as the Middle School Principal for Hamilton Community Schools for six years, and as a Middle School Science teacher for Holland Public Schools for three years. Smith holds a Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from Grand Valley State University, and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Earth Science both from Western Michigan University.

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Board requests feedback from residents on term lengths


By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education would like to hear from residents whether they think six years is too long of a commitment to serve on the board. They began their discussion on Monday evening, July 11, on whether to transition to four-year terms or stay with six.

The board heard a presentation from interim Superintendent Mark Dobias on the issue, who said some people have said six years is too long of a commitment. “I think it’s a good move (to transition to four years). Then they won’t have to be on the board for more than half a decade,” he said.

Treasurer Shannon Vanderhyde explained that when she first came on the board, they did four years at that time. It was because of Michigan law changing regarding when they needed to do elections that they transitioned to six years. Schools used to be able to run elections every year, in either May or November. In February of 2012, the board voted to switch to six-year-terms after the state passed legislation mandating that school elections be held every two years during the general election in November. They made the switch at the time to avoid there being a 4-3 rotation: 4 members up for election, then the other three in two more years. Instead, with a six-year-term, it’s a 2-3-2 rotation.

“That’s why we went to six years, so we wouldn’t have four new members at a time,” she said. “So far it hasn’t been a deterrent.”

Vice President Matt Shoffner said he would be in favor of the switch. “It does seem like a long time. But that’s a good thought—four could go out or come in at a time,” he said.

Currently, the seats held by McConnon and Nichols expire this year, and whoever wins them would serve until 2024 under the current system. Shoffner’s and Vanderhyde’s seats expire in 2020, as does Rivard’s. However, since Rivard was appointed, he has to run in November and be elected to finish out the term. The seats held by Reed and Slager expire in 2022, but Slager must also run in November and be elected to finish out the term. 

If the board switched to four-year terms, there would be three seats up for election in 2020 and the other four seats in 2022. 

Dobias is asking the public to give their input before the June 25 board meeting. “The rationale behind choosing 6-year terms involved providing more stability over a longer period of time as well as the belief that an entire Board would not turn over as quickly.

“However, there is now a feeling that six years is an awfully long time for people to commit to the Board of Education. Also, a shorter term of office could entice more individuals to seek office and ultimately lead to a Board with greater diversity of opinions, which could yield more rich discussion,” he explained.

The board would like to know what residents and staff think before making a decision at the June 25 meeting. You can email your thoughts to mark.dobias@csredhawks.org.

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School board bits


 

By Judy Reed

Board to conduct superintendent candidate interviews Friday

The Cedar Springs Board of Education will conduct the first round of superintendent candidate interviews this Friday, June 8, beginning at 5 p.m.

The board will first approve minutes from the special meeting on May 18, and then hold public comments.

The candidate to be interviewed first will be Karl Heidrich, Superintendent at Stockbridge Community Schools. 

Scott Smith, Asst. Superintendent at Hudsonville Public Schools, will interview at 6:30 p.m.

John B. VanLoon, Superintendent at Ravenna Public Schools, will interview at 8 p.m.

The meeting will be held in the 3rd floor boardroom at the Hilltop Administration building.

School board to consider changing length of office term

The Cedar Springs Board of Education will soon consider whether to shorten the length of time that a board member serves from six to four years. The board will begin the discussion at its regular meeting on Monday, June 11.

According to a news release sent this week from the office of interim Superintendent Mark Dobias, more people might apply to serve if the term was shorter. “The Board deeply appreciates the value of community service and recognizes that becoming a Board Member is one way residents choose to get involved. Diversity of thought, backgrounds and opinions can lead to healthy, productive discussion which is a cornerstone of effective Boards of Education. The Board further understands that a six-year commitment is difficult for many citizens to make and believes that this change could encourage more people to seek a Board seat.”

Board members had previously served four-year terms until the board changed its policy six years ago. In February of 2012, they voted to switch to six-year-terms after the state passed legislation mandating that school elections be held every two years during the general election in November. They made the switch at the time to avoid there being a 4-3 rotation: 4 members up for election, then the other three in two more years. Instead, it was hoped with a six-year-term, it would be more like a 2-2-3 rotation.

While discussion on this topic will begin at the June 11 Board of Education meeting, no decision will be made until the June 25 meeting. The Board is hopeful that community members will express their opinions in the meantime so that the Board can make a well-informed decision.

“We want to hear how the public feels about this matter. We see merit in making this change but would never do so without the opportunity for public discourse,” said Board President Heidi Reed.

The meeting will be held in the 3rd floor boardroom in the Hilltop Administration Building.

 

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School board members receive awards


Heidi Reed

Shannon Vanderhyde

The Cedar Springs Board of Education recognized two of its board members at its regular meeting on Monday evening, May 14, for awards they received from the Michigan Association of School Boards.

Heidi Reed, President of the Board of Education, received Level 1 Certified Board Member Award Certification. Heidi had to take nine classes, all at the 100 level to receive this award.

Treasurer Shannon Vanderhyde received the Award of Distinction. Shannon has taken all 100 level classes, all classes at the 200 level and 6 at the 300 Level earning her the Award of Distinction.

Congratulations on your awards!

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Prosecutor renders opinion on incompatible offices


By Judy Reed

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker issued his opinion this week on whether Courtland Township trustee Matt McConnon can also serve on the Cedar Springs Board of Education. In his opinion, the offices do not conflict with each other.

McConnon was appointed by the Cedar Springs Board of Education to fill a vacant seat in January. The Post alerted both Board President Heidi Reed and then Supt. Laura VanDuyn to the possibility of an incompatible office, since there was a similar occurrence in 2010. The Post waited until mid-February for an answer, then went to the Sheriff Department and asked them to have the current prosecutor review the case.

McConnon is glad the waiting is over. “I’m just happy it’s been decided,” he told the Post. “I didn’t want it hanging out there.”

In the 2009-2010 case, Pamela Conley, who was on the BOE, was elected to the Cedar Springs City Council. Lawyers on both sides felt it was a conflict, and asked then Prosecutor William Forsyth to offer an opinion. He came back with the opinion that the offices were incompatible.

Forsyth said at the time, that the two entities had contracts and agreements, such as the city collecting the school taxes and then being reimbursed for them. He also noted that under the Revised School Code that the Superintendent could negotiate a reasonable expense for city services and that the board must then also vote to approve any agreement between the school and city.

The other thing Forsyth had cited was the case of school board elections. He said it was his understanding that the city conducted those elections. The school district was required at the time to reimburse city/townships for the cost of running those elections. (That’s because they were held in April and not during a regular election.)

In a nutshell, he felt those things—the collection of school taxes, needing to vote on it (he said not voting on it was a breach of duty) and the holding of elections for the school and reimbursement for it made the offices incompatible.

Becker saw it differently. He said that he saw no contracts between the school and Courtland Township. He said the only possible contractual relationship found was the Cedar Springs Schools Parks and Recreation. Both entities are members of the governing body, but they are partners and do not oppose each other.

Becker did not feel the collection of taxes and being reimbursed for them was incompatible because he could find no direct contract between the township and the school system. There is, however, a form and resolution that the school sends to the districts.

According to Dennis Bain, Director of Fiscal Services at Kent Intermediate School District, the school districts send a L4029 form to the townships and city, along with a board resolution, that tells the township how much they should levy in taxes on behalf of the school district. The township then collects the taxes, and directly pays the school district those taxes. However, when it comes to the township being paid for collecting the taxes, the KISD acts as an intermediary. The township bills KISD for their services of collecting the taxes, and the school pays KISD what is owed.

Baine did not know if it was done the same way in 2010 but he couldn’t imagine that it wasn’t. He also said he didn’t know of any other district in the state that did it differently.

What the Post was unable to find out was whether Courtland Township trustees vote on whether to collect or disburse the taxes. We did not receive a call or email back from them by press time.

Becker also did not feel that school elections were a problem. He said it was different than the Conley case, because in that case, Forsyth said that Cedar Springs ran the school elections, and in this case, Kent County does. “The Courtland Township clerk runs them, but the ultimate supervisor of those elections is Lisa Lyons, the Kent County Clerk. She is the school districts election coordinator under the law,” he told the Post in an email. “A trustee does not have any control or supervisory capacity over her. That is what would lead to a possible conflict.”

The Post looked back at the school elections in 2007 through 2010, and found that people were told to vote at their own township or city polling place, just as they are now, and Kent County listed all the candidates, so they may very well have been done exactly as they are now. The only difference is that since they are now held in November during a regular election, the school doesn’t have to reimburse individual townships or the city for them.

See Prosecutor Chris Becker’s opinion here: McConnon opinion. 

See Prosecutor William Forsyth’s opinion on the Conley case here: Conley letter.

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Board of Education appoints new trustee


Jeff Rivard was appointed to the Cedar Springs Board of Education Tuesday evening, May 1.

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education held a special meeting Tuesday evening, May 1, to interview candidates for the seat vacated by former trustee Tim Bauer.

Four candidates interviewed for the position. Six were scheduled to interview, but two dropped out. The four that were interviewed were Jeff Rivard, Pastor Craig Owens, Mistie Bowser, and Jeff Tolar.

The candidates answered six questions, which they were all given ahead of time to prepare. After the interviews, the board voted to select Jeff Rivard to fill the open seat. The vote was 6-0.

Several board members noted they liked his fiscal background. He also spoke about the importance of the board members listening to every group—the administration, the staff, and the community—and being open-minded. 

In his biography on the school website he said: “I am a dad, father and businessman who lives in the city of Cedar Springs. My wife’s name is Jennifer and we have 2 daughters; Ryllie and Cassandra. We have lived in Cedar Springs for 10 years.

 “I wanted to join the School Board because I have the desire to help our community using my work and life experiences.

“My hobbies include golfing, fishing, biking and exercise.  I am happy to be part of the Cedar Springs Public Schools School Board.”

Rivard will serve until the end of 2018. If wants to retain the seat, he will need to run for election in November.

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