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Tag Archive | "Cedar Springs Board of Education"

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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Board sets calendar for Superintendent search


 

Residents urged to take web survey, attend community meetings Thursday or Friday

By Judy Reed

If you live or work in Cedar Springs and would like a voice in what qualities the Cedar Springs Board of Education should look for in a new Superintendent, you will have the opportunity to do that through Saturday, April 28.

The board held a special meeting Thursday evening, April 19, where they met with search consultant Gary Rider, of the Michigan Leadership Institute (MLI) and set a tentative timeline for the search.

Rider and the board discussed the importance of feedback from parents, students, staff, and the community throughout the process. “Mr. Rider will be facilitating focus group meetings and a community forum to explain the search process, and a survey to gather data regarding what people would like to see in their next superintendent will be posted on the district web site.  This data will be compiled and given to the Board to consider when developing a profile for the ideal candidate,” said Board President Heidi Reed.

The short three question survey can be found on their website at http://www.csredhawks.org/. Just scroll down to where it says, “Take the Superintendent Search Survey.” It is available through noon on Saturday, April 28.

Rider will also be holding focus group meetings and community forums this week. The community forums will be held in the Hilltop 3rd floor boardroom on Thursday, April 26 at 7:30 a.m. and again at 6:30 p.m., and then on Friday, April 27, at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon. The public is invited to attend any of these.

A preliminary job posting was put up online last Friday, April 20, just putting the position out there. After the board gets feedback from the survey and the focus groups and community forums, they will put together the candidate profile, which will be posted by May 4. 

Rider stressed to the board the importance of listening to the feedback they get from the community, staff and students. “If you don’t take that feedback and include it in the profile, they should call you out on it,” remarked Rider. “You need to be accountable to them. You are looking for credibility. This is a great opportunity to show it.”

The application deadline for the position will be May 16. Rider expects a good pool of qualified candidates to apply for the position. “I anticipate the district will attract quality applicants both close to Cedar Springs and from outside the area,” said Rider.

The board will meet on May 18 to review the applications in closed session, and then will announce in open session which candidates will be interviewed. The first round of interviews will take place on June 7 and 8, with second round interviews on June 26 and 27. Rider said the community would be involved in those interviews by giving written feedback and questions to the board.

July 10 and 11 have been blocked out for possible site visits.

Rider noted that the community and staff don’t want this to be rushed. He said he would do a thorough job regardless of the time frame.

During the public comment time, both teacher Jen Kahler and community resident Sue Wolfe said they felt like the search was being rushed. Wolfe noted that not only are they are down a board member, but she asked what happens if Matt McConnon decides he can’t serve if the decision comes back from the prosecutor’s office that he can’t serve on both the school board and Courtland Township? And what happens when Brook Nichols leaves? (She is selling her house but will probably still be on board through early July.) She also noted that many people would be busy during this time.

The board met again on Monday, April 23, for a regular business meeting. Remarks during public comment time centered around asking the board to slow down the process. Teacher Virginia Valentine asked them to put the search on hold until they could get a new board. (Three are up for potential recall, and others will need to run for their seat again in the fall.) 

Teacher Libby Metiva told them there is a high level of fear regarding the Superintendent search and said that it might be time to share their thinking. “How flexible is your timeline if you don’t find the right candidate?” she asked.

Resident Todd Norman asked them to “pump the brakes, halt what you are doing. Bring in an interim and let the people decide.” He noted he didn’t want the same thing to happen that happened in March.

Resident Sally Smith said she thought it’s tragic what has happened in the district. She said she was confident Gary Rider was the best person for the job and would do his best. She also noted that having a Superintendent before the beginning of the year was the best thing for our district.

At the end of the meeting, during BOE comment time, Brook Nichols gave an emotional statement to the audience regarding the resignation of the former Superintendent and the search for a new one. She apologized to the crowd and urged them to come together and put aside their differences.

“Everyone makes mistakes. I made a mistake. I was thrilled with the last person until I realized what was happening. And her not being here is best for our whole district…The board that was there and continued to be there for part of that time is very different than the board that’s up here now…Of course we want what’s best for our district. Our kids go here, or have gone here or have graduated and we’re proud of that. We don’t want someone that does a terrible job, of course. I know it’s frustrating; I’m not going to ask you all to just trust something that you haven’t trusted and haven’t felt heard for a long time, I get it. I do. But reach out to a few of us and not just the ones you think will listen. Let us know how you feel. I understand you’ve spoken up here, but it’s different. Meet for coffee. I’ll meet anybody. Be a part of the process. There is a lot in place for feedback. 

“To me, when I heard slow down, to be honest with you, I thought that meant take your time, not wait for everybody to get recalled or changed and then start next year…now I understand what you meant. But, there could be a great candidate out there. And there might not be…And if we all work together and listen to each other, I promise I’ll listen to the feedback…This is what we’ve got going. There are rules in place for people that have retired. How long they can work, how much they can collect in salary, so there are other pieces to it.

“I can’t discuss what happened in closed session so I’m not going to do that…We did not sit down and have a happy conversation…It was not a happy ‘Hey let’s sit down and do this together.’ It was horrible. It was horrible for all of you and it was also horrible for all of us. I guess with that in mind, I’m sorry for what happened. I’ll take any responsibility that is my own. Maybe at times I should’ve done or voted something differently. I apologize if I offended anyone personally. Let me know and I’ll try to make it right.

“We are not going to vote tonight on stopping a process because that’s not how this normally works. Not that we can’t have that conversation, and not that it can’t continue and still at some point say we don’t have any good candidates…
“But that can’t happen if there’s all this conflict. So I’m asking anyone that’s willing to take a little step forward, all together, and let’s follow the process. Let’s get your input, have the meetings, see what we get, and if we don’t get somebody that’s right, we can start back over. And that’s ok…

“I do care. We all deserve to be heard and we all deserve to be cared about. And we all deserve to come to a district where we can help our kids be the best they can be. I’m asking everyone to put aside their hate or upset feelings or whatever it is and please come together.”

To reach the members of the Board of Education, you can find their email addresses at http://www.csredhawks.org/District/Board-of-Education/Meet-our-Board/index.html.

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Board of Education vacancy


 

If you’d like to serve on the Cedar Springs Board of Education for the remainder of the year, they are taking applications for the vacancy created by the resignation of trustee Tim Bauer.

The person selected would serve through the end of December, but would have to run for election for their seat in November if they would like to serve beyond that.

Applications must be in to the interim Superintendent by April 26. Click link below to view ad for more details

CSPS-VACANCY2x5.5LEGbw1618

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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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