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Tag Archive | "cedar springs public schools"

First grade library card celebration


Mike Metzger, who founded the First Grade Library Card drive 20-plus years ago, is shown here with two of the attendees of the March is Reading month celebration at the Kent last week. Courtesy photo.

Mike Metzger, who founded the First Grade Library Card drive 20-plus years ago, is shown here with two of the attendees of the March is Reading month celebration at the Kent last week. Courtesy photo.

The First Grade Library Card Roundup ended with a Grand Party at the Kent Theatre last week to celebrate “March is Reading Month.” The Cedar Springs Public Library and Kent District Library Branches from Nelson and Spencer Townships each sponsored a free ticket for all first graders from the Cedar Springs Public Schools and Creative Technologies Academy to see “Lego Batman.” Invitations were for Monday and Tuesday nights,  6 pm on March 6 and 7. The Kent Theatre offered free popcorn to all first graders with a library card, counting 81 over the two evenings. Family members, who shared the fun, numbered in at 258.

(L to R): Sara Magnuson (Youth librarian at Nelson Township/Sand Lake branch of KDL); Mary Shallman (Youth Paraprofessional at Spencer Township branch of KDL); teen Sierra and her mom, CS author Amanda Litz; CS Librarian Donna Clark; and Mike Metzger, found of the First Grade Library Card roundup. Courtesy photo.

(L to R): Sara Magnuson (Youth librarian at Nelson Township/Sand Lake branch of KDL); Mary Shallman (Youth Paraprofessional at Spencer Township branch of KDL); teen Sierra and her mom, CS author Amanda Litz; CS Librarian Donna Clark; and Mike Metzger, found of the First Grade Library Card roundup. Courtesy photo.

This year marked 20 years of celebrating first grade readers since the inception of the program in 1997, when Library Board Member, Mike Metzger, put his idea in motion.  As a part of this year’s celebration, Mike, at the request of Cedar Springs Library Director Donna Clark, sponsored a free book giveaway for all first graders.  Students had the choice between “Pirate’s Treasure,” “The Great Gumshoe,” and “Medieval Quest,” all by Cedar Springs Children’s Author, Amanda Litz.  Amanda and her two teens, Sierra and Jacob, were on hand both nights to celebrate.  Kent District Youth Librarian from Nelson Township/Sand Lake, Sara Magnuson, and Mary Shallman, Youth Paraprofessional from Spencer Township, brought several items for first graders to take home as well.

First grade teachers Mrs. Doncis, Mrs. Brussow, Mr. Avink, Mrs. Sendler, Mrs. Holtrop, Mrs. Graf, Mrs. Shepard, Mrs. Boggiano, Mrs. Upham, Mrs. Benham, Mrs. Tiffany, and Mrs. Schmidutz all welcomed their students with hugs, while keeping track of attendance for the libraries.

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Board rates Superintendent highly effective 


 

Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn

Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn

Dr. VanDuyn’s contract renewed through 2020

Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn has been rated “highly effective” by the Board of Education for the third year in a row, and they have extended her contract through 2020.

According to a release from current Board of Education President Matthew Shoffner, they met with the Superintendent in closed session on December 12 for her annual evaluation. They used the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) superintendent evaluation tool/rubric, and rated her in areas of performance that include: Governance & Board Relations; Community Relations; Staff Relations; Business & Finance; Instructional Leadership; Student Growth. Board members were trained by the MASB in best practices of evaluating the superintendent.

“Dr. VanDuyn received the highest possible rating of ‘Highly Effective,’ said then-Board President Patricia Eary. “She’s taken on many difficult situations, but has done so with grace, courage, servant leadership and professionalism. She’s a champion for all students and a firm believer in and supporter of our staff. Highly effective does not mean there is not room for growth. We can all improve; therefore, the Board sets goals for the superintendent each year. One such goal moving forward is a focus on the culture and climate of the District.”

Dr. Laura VanDuyn began as Superintendent of Cedar Springs Public Schools in July of 2014. She replaced retiring Superintendent Ron McDermed.

“Since that time there has been notable progress throughout the District,” it says in the Board statement. “At the State of the Schools presentation on January 23, 2017 it was evident once again that the superintendent, administration, teachers and support staff are working hard to provide for the best education for our Cedar Springs students. Accomplishments from all areas of the District were presented. Dr. VanDuyn continually thanked the fine staff, students, parents and community for their collaborative efforts to produce such impressive results.

“Some highlights of the great work this year include:  high-quality professional learning for staff in math instruction, Responsive Classroom, Adaptive Schools and Cognitive Coaching; completion of strategic planning; a high school ‘silver’ rating by US News for two consecutive years as well as being selected by the College Board to be on the AP Honor Roll for the first time this year; high-quality special education professional learning and improved compliance ratings; implementation of new K-5 math curriculum; implementation of a counseling/mental health/crisis plan; the award of two State grants—one for early intervention and one for our first-ever robotics program; the well-deserved ‘lime green’ rating with the state of Michigan—that is a remarkable 2-level improvement in state assessment scores in just 2 years; many advancements in operations and business for effective and efficient practices.”

Newly appointed Board President, Matthew Shoffner, would like to see continued forward progress in the District and said, “Dr. VanDuyn came to CSPS with immense background and knowledge in educational leadership, along with a variety of experiences, which have begun to strengthen and temper us. I am committed to working alongside Dr. VanDuyn to continue to improve our great district. As we move ahead Dr. VanDuyn will gather survey data from all stakeholders to inform her and the Board of Education of the direction we all want to see for our CSPS. We look forward to using that data to continue our growth.”

Per standard practice, the Board also reviewed the Superintendent’s contract at the same time as they did the evaluation. A special board meeting was called for December 15, 2016 for the Board to discuss and vote in open session on the contract. The Board moved to make revisions to the contract that included firming up or adding language to meet the legal requirements, such as the definition/components of Michigan Revised School Code 1249b. One of the components under 1249b says that if the Superintendent has been rated highly effective for three years in a row, the evaluation shall be biennial, as long as the performance remains highly effective.

Additionally, the superintendent was granted three additional vacation days (to make it 28) and two additional sick leave days (to make it 12). “The superintendent contract was extended another year through 2020 as a result of her performance and commitment to our CSPS,” it said in the release.

According to the contract, Dr. VanDuyn’s salary is $152,796 for the 2016-17 year, $155,852 for 2017-18; $158,969.04 for 2018-19; and $162,168.42 for 2019-20. If the Superintendent’s contract is automatically extended for a year through 2020-21 as a result of being highly effective, her salary would be $165,411.78 for that year.

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Process for School Closings/Delay


 

When winter weather comes to Michigan, all school districts should have a process in place to determine whether to hold classes or not on any given day. At Cedar Springs Public Schools, there is such a process.

While the ultimate decision to open/close or delay the start of school lies with the Superintendent’s office, the process itself involves many steps. The process begins shortly after 3:00 a.m. The district’s transportation supervisor goes out and physically drives many of the roads in the district. The supervisor travels on paved roads, gravel roads, secondary roads, hilly roads, and city streets. Special notice is given to areas that have been known to be trouble spots of travel in the past. During this drive, a variety of weather and road conditions can be encountered as the Cedar Springs School district has such varied terrain. Conditions can, and do, change in a very short distance. In addition to the actual traveling being done, temperatures and the checking of weather conditions, weather reports, radar, and forecasts are also being checked. Shortly after 4:00 a.m., the transportation supervisor begins checking with peers in neighboring districts. All of the transportation supervisors have similar information specific to their own districts. The direction of storms and forecasts along with road and traffic conditions are all taken into consideration by the supervisors of the individual districts. The individual supervisors share their recommendations with each other as to what likely will occur within their districts.

After speaking with fellow supervisors, the transportation supervisor then contacts the Superintendent and provides her with his findings. By this time the Superintendent has also monitored weather conditions and spoken with area superintendents. After all of this data has been collected and shared, the Superintendent and Transportation Supervisor mutually can make the decision to open/close or delay the start of school.

The safety of our students and staff is always our highest priority when making these decisions. While a school bus is one of the safest methods of transportation out on the roads, it is always ultimately the parent’s decision as to whether or not to send a child out to school.

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Year in Review: Cedar Springs Schools adopt OK2Say program


 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Public Schools district accomplished a lot of good things in 2016, one of them being the adoption of the statewide OK2Say program, a student safety initiative that enables students to confidentially report criminal activities or potential harm directed at students, school employees, and schools. Attorney General Bill Schuette was on hand for the kick off of the program last spring.

Schuette told the students and The Post that it is about changing the culture from “don’t be a snitch” to “it’s ok to communicate to save a life.”

“OK2SAY has made a difference. We are stopping violence in its tracks and making school a safer place for our kids,” said Schuette. “Credit for the program’s success is directly attributable to the thousands of student ‘heroes in the hallway’ who stepped up and took ownership of their roles in keeping their schools and classmates safe.”

Students can confidentially submit tips anytime by using the OK2SAY mobile app, online, email, texting, or by calling trained program technicians. Upon receipt of a tip, specially trained OK2SAY technicians address the immediate need and forward the information to the appropriate responding law enforcement agency or organization. Tips go to schools, local law enforcement agencies, community mental health agencies or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The state program, which started in fall 2014, just happened to be inspired by our current Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Jo Spry, before she came to Cedar Springs. Schuette honored Spry during the program with a special license plate in a frame that reads “OK2SAY.” Spry did not know that was going to happen.

“It’s truly a passion of mine to make sure students in all of our schools are safe,” said Spry. “OK2SAY is a wonderful program, and I will be eternally grateful to the legislators, community groups and the attorney general that stepped up to see it through.”

School resource officer

In order to beef up security for the 2016-17 school year, the Cedar Springs Public School district partnered with the Kent County Sheriff Department to bring a school resource officer to the school campus. Deputy Tom McCutcheon, who began his career with the KCSD in 1993, was chosen to fill that role. He spent many years as a D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Instructor, speaking in many different school districts, including Cedar Springs.

The Post asked him why he wanted the SRO position in Cedar Springs. “I hope to be a positive influence to the young people there,” he explained. “A lot of people think of security, and students feeling safe. But it’s more. I want to be a part of the school. It’s like what being a community policing officer is; you try to be proactive. If there is criminal activity going on, and people look up to you and trust you, you can help reduce a lot of that.”

The position will be jointly funded by the school and the county. 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.

Accreditation

Cedar Springs announced in May that they had earned their North Central Accreditation through AdvanceEd, a global leader in providing continuous improvement and accreditation to over 32,000 institutions worldwide.

The district went through a rigorous and detailed review last school year that culminated with an external review team conducting a 3-day on site, after which they awarded the district the distinction of this national accreditation.

“We are thrilled, of course,” said Cedar Springs Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn. “We have such a great district. The process really goes on all year. But this visit is where the rubber meets the road. It’s when they see the things that they’ve heard about all year long.”

“It is so evident that you really care about your students and should be proud of your district, from the top all the way down,” said presenter Vicki DeMao, of AdvanceEd.

The five-person team from AdvanceEd interviewed 120 stakeholders in the district, consisting of the superintendent, board members, administrators, teachers, support staff, parents/community members, and students. They also visited 32 classrooms in all seven buildings and observed students.

The report showed what powerful practices (or strengths) that the district had in various areas, and what ways they could improve.

The school district must go through this process every five years. They were last accredited in 2011, and it was good through June 2016.

Cherry Health Center

If a student gets sick at Cedar Springs Public Schools, they don’t have to wait to be picked up by a parent and then wait for an appointment with the family doctor. Instead, with a parent’s permission, they can be seen right on campus the same day at the newly renovated Cherry Health Center.

The Cherry Health Center, located at Red Hawk Elementary, celebrated their grand reopening on Tuesday, October 18, with a ribbon cutting, speakers, tours and refreshments.

“Cherry Health first opened in 2015 with a limited amount of medical and behavioral health services in a temporarily constructed space at the school, while campaign funds were raised to build out a fully functional health center,” explained Tiffany Aldrich, Director of Communications for Cherry Health. “The ribbon cutting and open house was to share the fully constructed health center with the community, which now also includes dental services.”

Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn said that Cedar Springs Schools serves a population of 48 percent low socio-economic students. “To have this is important. We now have dental, medical, and behavioral health, with DHS right next door.”

Services are provided regardless of ability to pay, but insurance may be billed when possible. Students must have parental consent on file to be treated.

“Any student ages 3-21 can be seen in the health center, regardless of whether or not they attend CSPS,” said Aldrich. “Therefore, if a student attends CSPS, a charter or private school, or is homeschooled, they can come to the health center.” Those younger than three must be a sibling of a student using the health center.

The health center offers on-site Medicaid enrollment assistance, well- child checks, immunizations, same day appointments for acute issues, referrals for more serious illness/injuries, hearing and vision screenings and more.

The health center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information or to make an appointment call (616) 696-3470.

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Power outages cause problems at school


 

Falling snow weighed down tree limbs Monday evening, causing them to break and fall on power lines, which led to power outages for several thousand people in Kent County on Sunday evening, December 4, and more problems on Monday morning, December 5, which resulted in students being sent home early from school.

According to Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, Operations director Ken Simon monitored the outage in the area Sunday evening/early Monday morning, and worked with the administration to ensure it was appropriate to hold school.

“There was not a problem at 5:00 a.m. this morning and therefore, school began as usual,” explained VanDuyn. “However, later in the morning, well after school began, power outages began to occur in several buildings. During those outages phones and computers were inoperable at those sites. The boilers at both Cedar View and Red Hawk became an issue as smoke was coming from them.”

Both schools were evacuated and the fire department was called was to investigate the cause of the problem. The students were eventually told to return to class at the direction of the fire department.

“Due to the fact that power issues continued and eventually affected every building, the safest manner in which to proceed was to send students home, as many related issues can arise in the absence of power ﴾i.e., loss of heat and ability to communicate﴿. Consumers Energy was working on the outage and shared an estimate of 4 p.m. for power restoration. We do apologize for the inconvenience.”

“I thank each and every one of you who worked through this today,” wrote VanDuyn in a letter to parents and staff, “including parents who had to return home to receive their children early or who had to pick up their children at an earlier time.”

She also thanked the transportation department for their quick response to come back in the middle of the day to transport students, and thanked the Cedar Springs Fire Department on their quick response for assistance. “We are always so well supported and it is greatly appreciated,” she said.

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Cedar Springs teacher wins Excellence in Education Award


Brett Burns poses for a photo with (left to right) Cedar Springs Middle School principal Sue Spahr, his daughter Cylie, wife Heather, and daughter Cassidy, after accepting his Excellence in Education award from Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo.

Brett Burns poses for a photo with (left to right) Cedar Springs Middle School principal Sue Spahr, his daughter Cylie, wife Heather, and daughter Cassidy, after accepting his Excellence in Education award from Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo.

A Kent County educator known for his dedication to helping students improve their math skills and for using technology and current events to help them grasp concepts and increase their understanding has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

The award winner, Brett Burns, teaches mathematics at Cedar Springs Middle School, part of the Cedar Springs Public Schools district. He also serves as the basketball coach for the eighth grade teams.

The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education awards in 2014 to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state during the school year.

Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district. One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.

Each winner also is featured in a news segment on the Lottery’s media partner stations:  WXYZ-TV in Detroit, FOX 17 in Grand Rapids, and FOX 47 in Lansing. The news segment featuring Burns aired Tuesday evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing and will air Thursday in Detroit.

Brett Burns talks with Michigan State University basketball coach, Tom Izzo, after accepting his Excellence in Education award.

Brett Burns talks with Michigan State University basketball coach, Tom Izzo, after accepting his Excellence in Education award.

For the Excellence in Education awards program, the Lottery has teamed up with Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo, who recently presented Burns with the award at the Breslin Center.

Burns said he was attracted to a career in education because “it gives me the opportunity to make a difference every day. When I first started teaching math, I had a lot to learn about how to educate middle school students. I have grown and perfected my craft, but I’ve never stopped learning. Every year, I have to change with the new group of students that enters my classroom.

“As I look back, I remember how I used to assign 20 to 30 math problems as homework each night that didn’t require much thinking from students about the how and the why of solving the problems. Now my assignments are much shorter, but incorporate deep thinking and exploration,” he said. “Math is one of the most difficult subjects for middle school students, so my goal every year is to change their mindset about math. By the end of the year, I want them to see that they can do math and can be successful. That’s not an easy job, but I love the challenge and look forward to it each and every year.

“I am willing to grow and change and learn who my students are as people first, before I ever teach them a math lesson. I make that a priority and my mission is to earn their trust and show them that I care about them as people. This creates a mutual respect between myself and my students and helps me to be more effective as a teacher. The students know that I truly care about them.”

A colleague nominated Burns for the Excellence in Education award, saying: “High energy, integrity, collaboration, leadership and high relationship are just a few words that describe Brett Burns.

“Every day, he arrives at school at about 4:30 a.m. and works diligently to review student work and prepare quality lessons. Setting aside this time allows him maximum efficiency, so when students arrive, he is totally focused on them. Mr. Burns can be seen fist bumping, joking, complimenting, and welcoming the students each day. The students form a huddle around him, smiles all-around.

“Mr. Burns has dedicated many hours to improving math achievement at Cedar Springs Middle School. He has collaborated with a vertical team of sixth grade through 12th grade teachers to align instruction with the Common Core standards and the latest research on thinking mathematically. He also works to incorporate technology and current events into instruction to deepen engagement and conceptual understanding,” the nomination said.

“Mr. Burns breaks his groups down in collaborative teams, working in small groups with them to question, prompt, and cue them, not give them answers and direction with their struggles. Frequent emails to parents keep them informed of student opportunities to improve their mastery of the standards.

“Outside of the classroom, Mr. Burns pours his energy into coaching basketball for the eighth grade students. He continues to inspire and build relationships with students, encouraging them to break through barriers in their thinking that stop them from exceeding their own goals.

“His dedication to the students, staff, parents, colleagues, and community inspires everyone to be selfless in their work.”

Burns earned a bachelor of arts degree from Sienna Heights College and has been an educator for nearly 20 years, all with the Cedar Springs Public Schools.

Outstanding public school educators may be nominated for an Excellence in Education award at http://bit.ly/ExcellenceInEducation or through the websites of the Lottery’s media partner stations.

Excellence in Education award nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:

Excellence – Their work consistently helps students and/or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement.

Dedication – They consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed.

Inspiration – Their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.

Leadership – They demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts

Effectiveness – The nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.

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Another vote for Reed and Marckini


NOTICE: The Cedar Springs Post welcomes letters of up to 350 words. The subject should be relevant to local readers, and the editor reserves the right to reject letters or edit for clarity, length, good taste, accuracy, and liability concerns. All submissions MUST be accompanied by full name, mailing address and daytime phone number. We use this information to verify the letter’s authenticity. We do not print anonymous letters, or acknowledge letters we do not use. Writers are limited to one letter per month. Email to news@cedarspringspost.com, or send to PostScripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

* We only print positive letters about candidates one week prior to the election.

 


 

 

Another vote for Reed and Marckini

Dear Community Members of Cedar Springs,

I am voting for Heidi Reed and Joe Marckini because I believe in healthy change and district advancement. We all want Cedar Springs Public Schools to grow and for our students to succeed. Change is essential for growth.

I am the daughter of David and Heather Wolfe. Both of my parents were born and raised in Cedar Springs and graduated from Cedar Springs Public Schools. I was born and raised in Cedar Springs and also graduated from Cedar Springs Public Schools. I love our district, and am proud to be a lifetime Red Hawk. I want to see our district succeed, and the election of our board members is a key component to that success.

The Michigan Association of School Boards outlines Indicators of Effective Board Members. Heidi Reed and Joe Marckini possess all of the traits valued by the association. They both have decades of experience collaborating with people of all different backgrounds and viewpoints. Our district thirsts for additional board members who are willing and able to work well with others.

Heidi Reed is focused on staff morale and student achievement. She is an advocate for curriculum that supports children of all learning styles and backgrounds. She is an active community member and can be found at nearly all fundraisers and events within our community. Heidi has seen the issues our community faces first hand, and will use her voice to ask questions consistent with the present issues.  She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, and will be a warrior for our school board.

I am excited about the direction our district is heading. I choose to look forward, and think positively about our district’s future. I choose to believe in, and support our leadership. Cedar Springs Public Schools’ students deserve the best.

Please join me in voting to make kids our district’s top priority by voting Heidi Reed and Joe Marckini.

Bayley Wolfe, Nelson Township

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Clarification on School Financial Review story


 

In last week’s story on the Rehmann Report, a financial investigation into the athletic department at Cedar Springs Public Schools, a clarification needed to be made regarding credit card limits and per purchase limits on p-cards.

This story has been updated online to show this clarification. Here is the part we clarified below:

The report also recommended lowering both the credit limit and purchase limit on p-cards, noting that they are mainly for small transactions. The AD had a credit limit of $20,000; the supervisor a limit of $5,000; and TV production of $35,000.

Many colleges and universities don’t have credit limits that large. For example, Cornerstone University p-card holders have a credit limit of $3,000 with a per purchase limit of $1,000; and Western Michigan University has a credit limit of $5,000 with a purchase limit also of $5,000.

The Rehmann report recommended lowering the purchase limit for Cedar Springs p-card holders to $50 to $100 for the majority of the cards.

We apologize for any confusion. You can find the entire story on our website at http://cedarspringspost.com/2016/09/22/financial-review-of-school-shows-tighter-control-needed/.

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Financial review of school shows tighter control needed


csps-hawk-logo

By Judy Reed

UPDATE Sept. 23, 2016: The section on p-card credit limits and purchase limits has been revised to reflect more accurate information.

A 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 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.”

According to the report, Rehmann Corporate Investigative Services was contacted on December 11, 2015, by the Thrun Law Firm (representing CSPS) to request a review of financial transactions and internal controls at Cedar Springs Public Schools. The review included forensic accounting analysis and interviews. Additional investigation involved purchase or “P-cards” issued to 13 unique employees, and a more detailed review of all transactions impacting the football team’s agency account during the 2015-2016 school year.

The results of the Rehmann report, which was printed in June, was initially suppressed from the public under attorney-client privilege. The Cedar Springs Board of Education voted on August 8 to make it available to the public. According to the board minutes, the vote passed 7-0. No video was available for that portion of the meeting, but according to the Superintendent’s office, there was no public discussion about its contents.

The Post asked Supt. VanDuyn why they decided to release the report now. “People would ask whatever happened with that investigation, and we are accountable to our constituents, so decided to release it,” she explained.

The report explained that purchases made using the p-cards are generally allocated to a specific fund. At CSPS there is a general athletic department fund, a general fund for each team, and an agency fund for each team (which is generally restricted to funds raised through boosters and other sources). The report said that according to their investigation, there does not appear to be any consistent practice with regards to when purchases should be paid using agency funds instead of general funds, nor when a general athletic department expense account is charged for a purchase instead of a team account. It said there also didn’t appear to be any consistent methodology for allocating expenses between more than one team when there was shared expenses.

The report also indicated that during review of p-card purchases and receipts, that in only a few instances was the reason for the purchase adequately documented, and little indication that the purchase had been reviewed and approved by anyone (such as a supervisor). Detailed receipts could not be found for purchases in some instances. One such instance they mentioned was a credit card purchase in July 2013 by then Athletic Director Autumn Mattson from Daktronics for $8,437. The company sells scoreboards, audio systems, message boards, etc. The report said that no detailed receipt was attached to the credit card statement, so they couldn’t ascertain what the purchase was.

VanDuyn said that many of the instances referred to happened before either she or Finance Director Rosemary Zink took office. She did say, however, that she has confidence in the accounting department. “They do make sure there are receipts, they are very strict about that,” said VanDuyn.

The report noted that “based on our limited review of the purchases initiated on the p-cards for the Athletic Department under the control of Autumn Mattson, we did not note any purchases that were inherently inappropriate. In many instances, the lack of a detailed receipt hindered our ability to review what was purchased and make a determination with regards to its appropriateness.”

The Post asked why the yearly auditor would not find the discrepancies that the forensic auditor had. “The difference between an annual audit and this one is that the annual audit is making sure you are spending federal money the way you are supposed to,” explained VanDuyn. “They might do random samples of two credit cards. They don’t go through all the transactions detail by detail.”

There were several exhibits attached to the original report that included the policy and guidelines for the p-card holders, and referenced purchases. The school did not release those exhibits. “We only released the executive summary,” explained Van Duyn. “The rest would’ve been problematic. We wanted to protect the confidentiality of those employees,”

The Post asked if there were guidelines that all the p–card users have, and was told all p-card holders have to sign off on them. We asked to have them sent to us but the guidelines didn’t seem to be readily available.

Another problem noted was that the different departments keep track of their budget on an Excel spreadsheet, while the accounting department then gets together with them every so often to reconcile the account. The investigator was not able to reconcile an error in the athletic department’s Excel spreadsheet for funds available for the football team at the end of 2014.

The report said it was important to note that the accounting department maintains the agency funds for the various teams and other groups at CSPS. “As a result, we believe that it would be difficult for a member of the athletic department to misappropriate funds once they had been remitted to the accounting department for deposit in to the bank. During our meeting with Coach Kapolka, he was provided with a copy of the invoices and other expenditures pertaining to the football team for his review. During this analysis, Kapolka did not indicate that any of the expenditures were inappropriate.” They felt the accounting records were more accurate than the athletic department records.

The report made a variety of recommendations. One was limiting the number of p-cards. CSPS currently has in excess of 70 p-cards, which they said means that the accounting department has to spend too much time reviewing statements and tracking down receipts. “The school is also at a heightened risk for financial loss due to the number of cards in circulation in the event of an abusive or tempted employee,” it said. They recommended cutting it down to 10, and to make as many purchases as possible through the accounts payable process.

The report also recommended lowering both the credit limit and purchase limit on p-cards, noting that they are mainly for small transactions. The AD had a credit limit of $20,000; the supervisor a limit of $5,000; and TV production of $35,000.

Many colleges and universities don’t have credit limits that large. For example, Cornerstone University p-card holders have a credit limit of $3,000 with a per purchase limit of $1,000; and Western Michigan University has a credit limit of $5,000 with a purchase limit also of $5,000.

The Rehmann report recommended lowering the purchase limit for Cedar Springs p-card holders to $50 to $100 for the majority of the cards.

Other recommendations included employees getting approval before purchases; including an explanation on why items were purchased using the p-card; developing and implementing clear guidance on when general funds should be used and when agency funds should be used; using a corporate Amazon account instead of individual accounts; requiring the submission of detailed receipts; and more.

Dr. VanDuyn said they haven’t implemented any of the recommendations yet. “We will look at all the recommendations from the Rehmann Report. It’s up to us to go through them and see what works for us. We are looking to review them and see which things we will address,” she said.

So what’s the bottom line? “It basically says we need to clean up our business practices. We want accountability and have high expectations of all of our employees,” remarked VanDuyn. “Anytime you can work hard to make things better, it’s worth it.”

The Post asked for a statement from former AD Autumn Mattson regarding the report and the information it contained. “I was aware that CSPS was reviewing their financial processes and procedures. And after reading the report, I can see that no illegal activity was found. I wish CSPS the best of luck as they implement the recommendations that were in the report,” she said.

Anyone wishing a full copy of the report may file a Freedom of Information Act with the school.

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Cedar Springs Schools focus on suicide prevention


csps-hawk-logoBy Judy Reed

The excitement of the beginning of a new school year for Cedar Springs Public Schools was muted this year as the district is experiencing a disturbing trend—three student suicides in less than a year. One happened in August 2015, one in May 2016, and the most recent in August 2016. Each one has left the families, students, staff, and community reeling—and asking, “Why is this happening?”

According to the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, Suicide is the third leading cause of death in children ages 15 to 24, in Kent County.

“We want this to be exposed,” explained Dr. Laura VanDuyn, Superintendent at Cedar Springs Public Schools. “You don’t realize how many may be contemplating it. It’s really scary.”

In May, Van Duyn began to work on pulling together experts in the field and agencies that could help with prevention and treatment.

They district had already implemented the OK2Say program earlier in the spring, which is a Michigan program created by Cedar Springs Curriculum Director Jo Spry, as well as a peer listening group, to help combat bullying, violence, crime, and suicide. According to VanDuyn, OK2Say has saved lives in the district.

“There have been several calls in the last couple of weeks,” said VanDuyn. “Our new school resource officer has personally escorted three children to the hospital after getting tips through the program.”

But this year, the district is doing even more. The experts in the field that VanDuyn contacted in the spring had their first meeting on September 1 to meet each other and begin to come up with a plan to respond in a crisis situation, as well as how to educate staff and students on suicide prevention. Included in the group was Arbor Services Kent School Services Network, the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, Cherry Health, school mental health counselors, psychologists, and more.

“Our goal is to create a model on how to best utilize the services everyone offers to best serve kids,” explained VanDuyn. “We will meet again to define our roles and what each can offer.”

Other things they will do is expand the b.e. n.i.c.e. program to high school (in addition to middle school); teach the Live Laugh Love curriculum in some of the higher grades (from the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan) and also offer the Healthy Kids series, three free events.

They also have an event coming up next week that they hope the public will attend. They will be showing the free movie “Hope Bridge” on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. The movie is about a young man whose father commits suicide. (See ad on page 2.) Christy Buck, Executive Director at the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, will also be on hand to speak at the event.

The school district is also encouraging people to attend the “Walk to fight suicide” at Millenium Park on Sept. 18 at 1 p.m. For more info you can visit afsp.org/walk.

“It would be great if we could get a big showing from Cedar Springs,” said VanDuyn.

She said that she has been overwhelmed by the amount of community support she’s getting from people calling and asking what they can do, and saying that they will help in anyway that they can.

And VanDuyn is determined to do something to help stop kids from considering suicide as a solution to their problems. “All of these kids were unique. They were good kids. The only way to work towards stopping this is to expose it,” she said.

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