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Tag Archive | "cedar springs public schools"

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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ROGER G. CAVNER


 

Roger G. Cavner, 80 of Sand Lake, died Sunday, August 6, 2017 at his home. Roger was born May 31, 1937 in Sand Lake, Michigan the son of Emmett and Nina (Tisdel) Cavner. He had worked at Helms Lighted Pictures, Brick & Block Layer, Kelvinator, Cedar Springs Public Schools and was a custodian at Tri-County Schools for 29 years retiring in 2002. He had served as sexton for East Nelson and Punches Cemeteries for many years. He enjoyed working at the West Michigan Whitecaps as an usher from 2002 until now. Surviving are his wife, Joyce (Parker); children, Dawn Seif, Mark (Kim) Cavner, Brian (Susan) Cavner; grandchildren, Jessica (Andrew) Mercer, John Seif, Lauren (Chad) Williams, Brent and fiancee, Katie Esakson, Stephen, Matthew and Aaron; one great-grandson and one on the way; sisters, Kathleen (Leonard) Woodman, Patti (Philip) Starr; mother-in-law, Martha Parker; in-laws, Gerald Parker, Lucinda (Max) Cole, Reta (Charles) McKee; several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother, Charles; father-in-law, Wendell Parker; son-in-law, Timothy Seif; grandson, Ryan Doyle; sister-in-law, Beverly Parker; nephew, Kevin Cole. The family greeted friends Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at the Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs where the memorial service will be held Thursday 11:00 a.m. Pastor Chuck Smith officiating. Interment East Nelson Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to Meijer Heart Center.

Arrangements by Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs

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Parent files lawsuit against Cedar Springs Public Schools


 

By Judy Reed

The mother of a Cedar Springs graduate filed a lawsuit in Federal Court last week against Cedar Springs Public Schools and several administrators regarding how they allegedly handled an assault that occurred in 2014.

The lawsuit claims that the defendants’ “indifferent response to a student-on-student sexual assault on school premises and subsequent sexual harassment” violated Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding, as well as denied the student’s right to equal protection under the fourteenth amendment.

According to the lawsuit, in the fall of 2014, the student had a locker next to another student, simply known in the lawsuit as “JD.” The suit alleges that JD began to slam the door of the lockers into the plaintiff. A school official that witnessed it then allegedly told the plaintiff that JD likely had a “crush” on the plaintiff and was merely flirting. No action was taken to curb the locker-slamming.

The plaintiff then notified an administrator that the incidents were occurring and she wanted JD to stop. The administrator allegedly told the plaintiff that it was “horseplay” and that there was nothing the district could do.

The lawsuit then states that on October 9, 2014, the plaintiff was at her locker, leaning towards the interior when JD slammed the locker door into the plaintiff’s head. He then walked away, laughing. The suit says that the locker door hit her head so hard that she experienced immediate pain and started crying. The girl went to her next class, and the teacher sent her to the office. Officials gave her ice for her head, but did not seek medical attention. An official reviewed video footage, but said it was blurry.

The girl’s mother arrived at school but was not allowed to see the video. She became frustrated with the lack of cooperation from school officials and was escorted from the premises. She then took her daughter to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with acute head trauma, having sustained a concussion. She received a CT scan two days later, and another in January 2015. She was also diagnosed with vestibular dysfunction, including dizziness, fatigue and some memory dysfunction. She also began suffering from headaches.

The plaintiff’s parents said they attempted to contact the Superintendent about their daughter’s safety, but she did not return their calls.

School officials initially said plaintiff could move her locker, but ended up having JD move his. She still saw him throughout the day, however. The parents then filed a complaint with police against JD and he was charged with assault and battery. JD then allegedly began spreading rumors about the plaintiff, and bullying her. Plaintiff reported this to school officials, but the suit says no steps were taken to stop the harassment.

The plaintiff says she still suffers physical pain, as well as emotional and psychological distress.

The Post emailed the Superintendent VanDuyn about the case and the effectiveness of current anti-bullying programs, but she did not respond to our request for comment.

The School did implement several anti-bullying measures the last couple of years, including the OK2Say program, a peer listening group, and partnered with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office to employ a full-time deputy on campus.

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Regional enhancement millage passes


 

N-VoteBy Judy Reed

School districts in Kent County will get $19.9 million more this year in revenue after voters in Kent County approved a regional enhancement millage for the Kent Intermediate School District in a special election Tuesday, May 2.

According to Kent County’s Election magic report, 16.44 percent of the County’s registered voters turned out to vote. With all 230 precincts reporting, the proposal passed 39,996 yes to 34,193 no.

Most of the precincts in our area of northern Kent County voted against the proposal, with the exception of one precinct in Algoma Township, and two in Courtland Township.

The regional enhancement millage proposal of 0.9 mill ($0.90 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) will last 10 years and cost an average homeowner $6.70 per month. It is expected to bring in $19.9 million for the 20 districts and spread out on a per pupil basis. It will bring Cedar Springs Public Schools $723,000 the first year.

According to the school district, Cedar Springs would use the additional revenue for:

  • Continued expansion of the Early Middle College program and access to other college and career opportunities.
  • Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Academics and Behavior.
  • Professional Development for continued best practices in instruction and student support.
  • Enhanced afterschool and summer school learning opportunities.
  • Comprehensive Counseling and Mental Health Programs.
  • Technology Infrastructure and software enhancements.
  • Maintaining or lowering class sizes.
  • Improved assessment tools.
  • Plus, this proposal will expand career training and technical course offerings to give students real life, on-the-job training and a head start on their careers.
  • It will also give students exposure to the world of work and partnerships with business that prepare them for college and careers.

By law, every penny generated from this proposal will be distributed to local school districts to maintain existing programs and improve services offered to students. All spending will go through an independent financial audit every year, with spending disclosed on a public website to ensure transparency and accountability.

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Schools of Choice 2017—2018


 

Cedar Springs Public Schools participates in both the Kent Intermediate School District Schools of Choice Plan and the Section 105c State plan.

Students residing in Kent County may apply for Schools of Choice through the Kent County Schools of Choice Plan April 10 – May 12, 2017.

Students residing outside of Kent County may apply for Schools of Choice through the Schools of Choice 105c Plan April 10 – May 12, 2017.

Contact the Registrar at 616.696.7317 with any questions.

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School board votes to privatize transportation


CSPS-logo-vertical

By Judy Reed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Don’t forget to vote May 2 on regional enhancement millage


N-Voter-registration-web

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs and the surrounding areas have one thing to vote on in the upcoming May 2 election—a Kent Intermediate School District Regional Enhancement millage. The “Strong schools, strong communities” proposal will ask voters in all 20 KISD public school districts—including Cedar Springs—to consider an enhancement millage proposal of 0.9 mill ($0.90 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for 10 years. If passed, it would start this summer, and cost an average homeowner $6.70 per month. It is expected to bring in $19.9 million for the 20 districts and spread out on a per pupil basis. It would bring Cedar Springs Public Schools $723,000 the first year.

According to the school district, Cedar Springs would use the additional revenue for:

  • Continued expansion of the Early Middle College program and access to other college and career opportunities.
  • Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Academics and Behavior.
  • Professional Development for continued best practices in instruction and student support.
  • Enhanced afterschool and summer school learning opportunities.
  • Comprehensive Counseling and Mental Health Programs.
  • Technology Infrastructure and software enhancements.
  • Maintaining or lowering class sizes.
  • Improved assessment tools.

Plus, this proposal will expand career training and technical course offerings to give students real life, on-the-job training and a head start on their careers.

It will also give students exposure to the world of work and partnerships with business that prepare them for college and careers.

By law, every penny generated from this proposal will be distributed to local school districts to maintain existing programs and improve services offered to students. All spending will go through an independent financial audit ever year, with spending disclosed on a public website to ensure transparency and accountability.

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