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Tag Archive | "cedar springs public schools"

From the Superintendent’s Office


Superintendent Scott Smith

As we are now in the month of October, it is safe to say that we have successfully reached the point in the journey where we can remove the “new” label when referring to the 2018/19 school year for Cedar Springs Public Schools.  It is no longer necessary to say the “new school year” in our conversations.

The successful establishment of routines, at home, on the bus, at lunch, at recess, and in the classroom, has made this possible.  The incredible efforts of our students, families, and staff have contributed to the establishment of new norms around attending school.  These norms will create the foundation for our success moving forward. Routines at home and school help contribute to stability for students, families, and staff.  

For some, getting up in the morning may not be as easy as it was in previous weeks as the “newness” of the school year wears off.  It is important to recognize the impact that regular school attendance has on the academic growth of students regardless of their age.  Cedar Springs is thankful for the opportunity to partner with other schools in Kent County in our efforts to improve school attendance for our students.  

The initiative, called “Strive for Less than 5”, encourages students to do their best to miss less than five days in any given school year.  Chronic absenteeism is often a factor when students fall behind their peers academically.

Families in Cedar Springs can help support this initiative through the establishment of regular routines at home.  Routines that involve sleep, eating, play, reading, and other homework are essential for our students to be at their very best each day.  Another way families can support students is to help build excitement at home around the things their students are doing at school. Each of our buildings uses multiple channels to communicate with families around what is happening at school.  To continuously improve in the area of communication with families, if we are not meeting your needs as a family in this area, please let us know so we can take steps to assist you in your efforts as you do your best to support our amazing students.

With respect and appreciation,
Scott B. Smith, Superintendent

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Cedar Springs Education Foundation 


The Cedar Springs Education Foundation was established in 1986, and has provided over $2 million to support the quality education and learning in our Cedar Springs Public Schools. The board members are volunteers and have a passion for our public schools and the education of our young people. The Foundation has 501(c)(3) non-profit status, therefore all donations are tax deductible and can be mailed to the Foundation at 204 E Muskegon or given to any board member. Please consider a donation as a way to honor a teacher, staff member or community member. A note will be sent to the honoree informing them of your donation.   Tax deductible donations can be mailed to: Cedar Springs Education Foundation 204 E Muskegon Street Cedar Springs, MI 49319

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Summer fun in school


Cedar Springs Public Schools hosted Summer School for grades K-5 from June 11 through 28.  Highlights of this year’s programming included educational field trips to our community’s new Cedar Springs Public Library and Cedar Springs Museum.  Daily learning activities in both math and reading featured direct instruction and use of interactive technology, along with fun brain breaks and muscle activities.  

Students enjoyed a new addition to our programming this year, and each receiving brand new “free” reading books.  These books supported our District’s focus on early literacy and were paid for by grant funding as part of the “Kids Read Now” programming.  Summer School also included snack breaks, lunch and transportation to and from school.  It all added up to Summer Fun in School!!!

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Superintendent profile posted


By Judy Reed

After compiling the feedback from citizen surveys and working with board members to narrow down the results, Gary Rider, Regional President of the Michigan Leadership Institute, finalized the candidate profile for what Cedar Springs wants in a new Superintendent last Friday, May 4, and attached it to the job posting.

According to Rider, he received over 300 responses to the online survey, which was posted on the Cedar Springs Public Schools website. It closed on April 28.

He then sent the data to the board, and once they had digested the information, he asked each board member to give him their top 10 items for what they think is needed in the next Superintendent. 

“From those 70 responses I then try to group common themes and compose a first draft of the profile,” explained Rider. “It usually ends up consisting of between 16-20 proposed points. I then ask the Board to tell me what modifications they may want me to make, what changes in wording they may prefer, and if they think I am close to what they want in a candidate profile. I also ask them to rank order the profile points so that the final draft in some way shows the most critical needs toward the top of the list.”

The profile consists of 16 points.

  • An excellent communicator skilled at listening, speaking, and writing who will engage all stakeholders and clearly explain rationale for decisions.
  • Someone whose first priority is the needs of our students. 
  • A collaborator and team builder with the ability to empower others who will ensure the voices of staff, students and the community are heard.
  • Someone who has a track record of successful experience in the classroom, as an administrator, and as either a Superintendent or Assistant Superintendent.
  • A fair, honest, honorable, wise, accountable and humble leader who demonstrates the highest standards of integrity.
  • Someone who will clearly demonstrate their commitment to and engagement in, both the school district and community.
  • Someone who can build trust, heal relationships, and unite our students, staff and community.
  • An impartial decision maker and problem solver.
  • An advocate for both academic and extra-curricular excellence who is committed to best practice.
  • Someone fiscally responsible who will transparently and accurately communicate the financial status of the district to students, staff, the community and the board.
  • Someone with outstanding interpersonal skills who is approachable and friendly.
  • A strong leader in both the school district and community who will continue to build on the effective programs already in place.
  • Someone who can develop a shared vision and strategic plan that engages all stakeholders and can skillfully execute and follow through with plans of action.
  • Someone who is both compassionate and caring that will value all people and points of view.
  • Someone who will join the board in a pledge to commit to the appropriate roles and responsibilities of governance team practice.
  • Someone with a minimum of a Master’s Degree in an education related field who will demonstrate compliance with the requirements of state Superintendent certification within appropriate time lines. 

The application deadline is May 16, and the board will screen candidate applications in a special meeting on May 18. The time has yet to be determined.

First interviews will take place in special meetings on June 7 and 8, with second interviews June 26 and 27. The board can then either make their decision after the second interview, or conduct site visitations on July 10 and 11, with a final vote on July 12.

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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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Interim Superintendent impressed with Cedar Springs


Mark Dobias

Wants to be available for people to share their concerns

By Judy Reed

When Mark Dobias was asked to become interim Superintendent at Cedar Springs Public Schools at the end of March, he didn’t know much about the district. But after just one week on the job, he said he is very impressed with what he sees.

“When I look at the size of the campus, and the fact that all buildings are together; the administrative staff seems outstanding; I’ve met a lot of teachers and there seems to be great things going on in the buildings; I am very impressed,” he said.

Dobias grew up in Scottville, which is east of Ludington. He graduated from Central Michigan University with a Bachelors degree in Education and a Masters in Education Administration. He first became a special education teacher in homes for delinquent boys. Later he was a high school teacher in Manistee, then an elementary principal in Hart, and a Middle School principal back in his hometown of Scottville. He became Superintendent at Fennville in 2001, and was Superintendent at the Allegan Area Service Agency from 2008 to September of 2016, when he retired.

During his retirement, Dobias kept busy doing Superintendent searches, strategic planning, and human resources work as a part-time consultant for MASB (Michigan Association of School Boards). He came out of retirement to become interim Superintendent at Cedar Springs.

“It was a good time for me. I was able to clear my calendar, and I was ready to get back into it. When you work in schools as long as I have, it’s good to know you are appreciated, that people think you can still make a difference. I was flattered to be asked, and I am enjoying it,” he said.

He remarked that his reception here has been outstanding. “I’ve been made to feel very welcome. If people see me wandering up and down the streets of Cedar Springs looking confused at where I’m going, please stop and say hi,” he added with a chuckle.

Dobias explained that his mission at Cedar Springs is to provide stability as the district transitions to a new Superintendent. With that are three steps: one, to do what he can to end the year on a good note; two, to help do what he can to begin the year on a good note; and three, to provide an avenue for people (staff, students, and community) to share their concerns and frustrations.

“I want people to have that opportunity to talk, so I may set up some office hours in various buildings,” he said. “I want to make myself available.” He said that people are more than welcome to call his cell phone (269) 532-0543, which he has posted on the school website, or email him at Mark.Dobias@csredhawks.org.

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Staff and others share reasons for wanting Superintendent to resign


By Judy Reed

Over 500 people filled the meeting room and foyer of Solon Township Hall Thursday evening to hear the personal stories of both current and former staff and board members of Cedar Springs Public Schools and how they have been affected by the policies of Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn.

Several of the speakers were in tears as they told their stories in public for the first time, despite fears of retaliation.

VanDuyn was hired to be Superintendent four years ago, but a movement within the community to get her to resign or for the board to give her a vote of no confidence has been steadily growing. An online petition has garnered just under 1,900 signatures, and paper petitions with signatures will be presented at the next Board of Education meeting on March 26.

Mary Graf, an elementary teacher for 41 years, said she has worked for seven superintendents and several principals over the years. She said there would always be change, but also there has always been mutual respect and collaboration with the administration. She remarked that now there is no collaboration, and that teachers now feel repercussions if they don’t completely agree with something or question anything. She said that happened to her last spring during a PLC on reading. There was a lot of tension in the room, and she said she tried to clarify how the teachers were feeling. The next week she received a letter from her administrator saying she had been unprofessional. Graf said her administrator had not even been in the meeting. When she met with him about it, he told her he was forced to write the letter.

Jan Wallace

Former board member Jan Wallace spoke about consultants, noting that the district had spent $300,000 over 15 months. “Do you wonder why our district has to consult outside experts so often?” she asked. Wallace added that $115,000 of that was spent on the Orange Frog program, “which teaches the staff to learn to be happier.” She felt they could have used that money on the deteriorating roads on campus. 

Wallace explained that when she was on the board, they looked at privatizing busing, and met with the staff to talk about it. “This board didn’t do that. They had a consultant come in to help,” she said.

Former board member Ted Sabinas talked about being locked out of the meeting on privatization of transportation; the fact that once he was on the board, staff and administrators told him they were not allowed to talk to him; and that all three elementary principals, two assistant principals, and the athletic director had all left in the last three years. He also noted that the Superintendent received a 3 percent raise while the staff did not receive a raise.

Joan Boverhof

Long time teacher Joan Boverhof spoke about the relationship between the teachers and administration eroding. She said that the board, administration and teachers union used to work together as a team but that was not happening now.

Teacher Brett Burns, who also president of the teachers union, said the union has been trying to repair the relationship with the board but they aren’t listening. He likened it to a child coming to him and saying he was being bullied and him ignoring it, and then the same thing happening again, and him not doing anything about it. “I am begging,” he said. “We are hurting. When are you, the community, and the board going to acknowledge that we are human?”

Secretary Mary Gardner was in tears as she shared an ordeal she faced about being forced to administer shots. She steadfastly refused, as she has a fear of needles. It was something nurses used to do. She finally got a lawyer involved.

Teacher Erin Cairy spoke about taking leave just before school started. She said the administration never reached out to her. Although she emailed a letter to be sent to the students who were supposed to be in her class and their parents, it was never sent. She also emailed asking how she could help the new teacher, but that went unanswered. She said she returned this year, and many questions she’s asked about programs, such as iready, have been taken as being negative.

At one point during the meeting, moderator Todd Norman asked the group how many were hearing these stories for the first time. Almost half the room raised their hand.

Teacher Libby Metiva said that the board of ed has said things that have wounded, but they have also been manipulated. “How can we help them? All of you are influencers. I’m asking all of you to help empower and influence the board members to take back Cedar Springs.”

Superintendent VanDuyn gave the Post a statement about the petition. 

“As superintendent, it is my promise to the community to make the best decisions I can to ensure our students have an exceptional educational experience while keeping our district financially stable. Our students should have a top notch school system to develop and grow. I am saddened by this petition as I am fully committed to making CSPS the best place it can be. My daily motivation and priority continues to be serving the students and families of CSPS.”  

To watch the entire video of the community meeting, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68xfuX_Ulsw&feature=youtu.be

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A movie inspires a dream


Maximus De Back finished 8th out of 170 in a fencing competition earlier this month in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Teen finishes in top 8 in fencing competition

By Judy Reed

Maximus De Back, 16, of Solon Township, is working hard to realize a dream—to become part of the USA Olympic fencing team. 

Earlier this month, Maximus was part of the Team USA at the Bratislava Men’s Foil Cadet European Cup in Slovakia. Team USA won gold, silver and bronze, with five of the team in the top eight—including Maximus. He finished 8th out of 170 in the international tournament. 

Maximus, who is the son of William P. and Rachel De Back, has been fencing since he was six years old. “I watched the movie The Princess Bride and told my mom and dad I wanted to try it,” he said with a smile. “So I took fencing lessons at a club in Grand Rapids.”

He trained for about a year, then participated in his first tournament at about age 7 or 8.

His sister, Greta, 13, also fences. But she is currently healing from an injury.

According to his dad, Maximus practices two hours a night, 4-5 days a week, all year long. He trains at the Grand Rapids Fencing Academy, and competes in various tournaments, both domestic and international. In Budapest, he placed in the top 32.

All of his training and traveling doesn’t give him much time to attend school, so he takes virtual classes online, through Cedar Springs Public Schools, so that he will be able to earn his diploma.

What is it that Maximus likes about fencing? “It’s not just who is bigger or stronger; you have to think about what you are going to do,” he said. “If you lose, it’s your fault.”

He said he will sometimes study his opponent to see what they like to do, then shut that down. 

While his goal is to join the Olympic team at some point, he said his immediate goal is to just get better each time he competes.

Maximus will complete next in the Jr. Olympics in February in Memphis. 

You can keep track of many of the fencing tournaments here and abroad on the USA Fencing facebook page.

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Bus slides off road


A Cedar Springs Public School bus slid off the road last Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday afternoon, about 3:30, we received a phone call from a passerby that said a school bus had slid into Pine Lake at 17 Mile. Or at least that’s what we thought they said. When we arrived on scene, we were happy to see that was not what had happened. Instead, a bus had slid off the road on 17 Mile, near Pine Lake Ave.

Jerry Gavin, who oversees Cedar Springs Public Schools transportation for Dean Transportation, was at the scene. He said it was a high school bus on the way back from its run and was empty when it slid off the north side of 17 Mile Rd. The bus was towed out of the ditch and the driver was not injured.

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New sports turf installed at Red Hawk Stadium


Fall sports have kicked off, and one of the new items greeting athletes, the high school marching band, and fans, is the new sports turf at Red Hawk Stadium.

“We are excited to kick off the 2017-18 school year with a beautiful new Red Hawk Stadium turf,” said Cedar Springs Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn. “As our Cedar Springs Public Schools campus is the center point of this great community, it is our honor to shine for all to see our Cedar Springs pride with this new look.”

Replacement of the turf was identified as one of the needs in a 2011 bond issue study for the sinking fund millage. The cost at that time was estimated at $750-850,000. However, Shaw Sports Turf came in with a cost of $406,990.

The turf was replaced this summer, in time for the marching band to hold their annual band camp.

“We are grateful for the research, experience and work our Athletic Director, Mr. John Norton, and our Director of Operations, Mr. Ken Simon did to prepare and oversee this project,” said VanDuyn. “We are also grateful for our Board of Education supporting the purchase and installation of our new turf as well as for our principals, maintenance department, coaches and music directors for their input.”

VanDuyn said she hopes the community will come out to various events to see the new turf, such as at soccer and football games, the CSPS fundraiser walk-a-thon, the Red Flannel Festival Marching Band Invitational and the annual Powder Puff football game.

She also thanked the community for their part in making it happen. “On behalf of our Board of Education, Administration, staff and students, thank you Cedar Springs residents for investing in our schools, by providing for a sinking fund that made this beautiful new stadium turf possible.”

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