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Tag Archive | "Cedar Springs School District"

In support of Sabinas and Bowser

Dear Community Members,

I am a graduate of Cedar Springs Public Schools and taught in Cedar for 24 years before retiring in 2010. I loved my job. We were a close-knit group. We learned from each other, helped each other and were supported by our administrators. I worked on the negotiating team with board members and administrators collaboratively. We could talk openly, expressing any concerns we had.

Cedar schools were at the cutting edge professionally and academically. Cedar was known as the “best kept secret in Kent County.” Now other districts are questioning what is going on in our district and we have become the laughing stock of West Michigan.

Teachers continuously go through change; new leadership, new curriculum, new students.  They are not afraid of “Change.”

The change I currently see and feel in our district makes me sad and concerned for the future. We have lost excellent teachers and administrators. We have lost more than 50 employees since January 2016. Why? Our district is divided with their loyalties to each other and the direction the district is going. They fear saying anything because they don’t know whom they can trust and have watched the retribution time and time again. They are scared and don’t want to be the next one targeted as so many to date.

Currently the board has lawyers showing up at “collaborative” contract negotiations. We have paidconsultants supporting some of our new administrators. I wonder how much money has been spent on lawyer fees and consultants in the last two years.

We have students leaving our school system because of the conflicts in the community. Our fund balance is diminishing.

Our top three administrators chose to not live in our wonderful district and the superintendent does not even send her children to Cedar schools. What does that tell our community?

Is this really the direction you think is best for us to be heading? The best thing for kids?

I support electing Ted Sabinas and Mistie Bowser for board members. What they stand for and their vision is what Cedar schools need now!!


Concerned citizen for Cedar Springs Schools

Peggy (Nielsen) Hansen,

Nelson Township

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 A vote to preserve and improve quality of school system

As a parent and active volunteer at my children’s school I care deeply about the students and staff at CSPS. The upcoming school board election will have significant impact on the future of CSPS. We need to elect individuals who are dedicated to addressing the educational needs of the district, are financially responsible and whose only agenda is in preserving and improving the quality of our school system. That is why I am voting for Joe Marckini and Heidi Reed.

Liz Grice, Algoma Township

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Candidate will ask ‘Who benefits?’

The primary function of the Board of Education is to oversee the education of students in the community. I support electing Heidi Reed for a school board member on November 8. The Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) lists indicators of effective boards and board members and it is my opinion that Heidi Reed will:

Focus on Student Achievement-Focus on issues that will improve student achievement.

Accountability-Play an active role in committee meetings and work sessions. Visit schools and other community events and help shape a positive public opinion about the district.

Culture and Conduct of Board Meetings-Value differences of opinion and don’t let the differences denigrate into personality conflicts. Publicly support the Superintendent and staff.

Ethics-Ensure that commitments and directives are in the best interest of the entire board and district and not the individual board member. Create an environment that discourages micromanagement or undermining of the Superintendent.

Heidi Reed’s desire is to watch over the districts assets, focus on finances and help create a collaborative environment amid ever changing dynamics and requirements of education. Her priority is to keep kids first by asking, “who benefits?” She looks forward to being a trustee for kids and the community.

Kathy Corwin, Solon Township

Community Member and Parent of CSHS Student

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Presentation clarifies school board’s role

By Judy Reed

A special presentation at Cedar Springs Public Schools last week Tuesday, April 19, shed some light on what the community should expect from both the Board of Education and the Superintendent, and how the board operates under the open meetings act.

The presentation was given by Scott Morrell, a senior facilitator with the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB).

Recently there have been complaints from some longtime school staff members about a negative atmosphere at the school brought on by a new administration, and complaints from members of the community regarding board members not responding to concerns. Other staff and community members have voiced their approval of the current administration. People have spoken at board meetings, and sent letters to the Post. Many who are not happy with the way things are going, cite the resignations of four long-time administrators in the last year and a half.

Morrell said he had seen the letters in the Post, both positive and negative, and didn’t think either were helpful. “How many of them were about kids?” he asked.

One person in the audience asked him, “You don’t think those letters were positive, encouraging?”

Morrell said no. “Some were positive but many were hurtful. That’s not looking at what’s best for kids. When we have scores that aren’t where we want, it’s easy to have peripheral stuff going on…Once we start focusing on adult issues, neither side wins.”

Another community member pointed out that some of those issues are affecting the kids. Another said that four administrators had left.

Morrell noted that the administrators won’t share why they left because they are looking for another job. “There are two sides to every story and the truth is usually somewhere in the middle,” he said. “At some point, we’ve got to let some of this stuff go. Change is hard. You could have staff leaving every year as expectations get harder. It’s not that they are bad people. Sometimes it’s just a bad fit.”

He remarked that he is also concerned about where Cedar Springs is headed, and that he wants the district to succeed. “I also have skin in this game. If it fails, I’m also partly responsible. I interact with the board.”

Morrell did a presentation for the board in the fall, and he also does classes that the board members take. He has been a board of education member elsewhere in Michigan, and served on the MASB board of directors. And he does not envy the board members in Cedar Springs. “As an outsider reading those letters, I’m glad that I’m not on this board,” he said.

According to Morrell, the board is in charge of developing policy that governs the district, setting the vision for the district, and adopting the budget. The superintendent is in charge of managing the day-to-day operations of the district, such as hiring staff, managing the budget, implementing the vision and policies that the board adopts, and communication with the board.

The board is also responsible for maintaining two-way communication with staff, students, and members of the community. However, while a board meeting is an open meeting that the public may attend, it is not a public meeting with the community. We are basically watching the board do their business. And while the public may have an opportunity to speak, the board does not respond.

They don’t do dialogue with the public,” explained Morrell. “If they answer one question, and nine others don’t get anything, they would be mad at the board.” He noted that instead, comments are referred to the superintendent to handle.

Morrell explained that the board also cannot do exit interviews. If a staff member is let go, they can appeal to the board under the law. “The board approves resignations and terminations because they are the legal entity, but they may not see why (someone was terminated) unless a grievance reaches them.” He also explained that the board cannot grant a closed session or hearing before the board for a resignation. “Boards don’t do exit interviews because they don’t hire (except for the Superintendent). Their hands are tied—they have to follow policy and the law. They have been advised by their attorney not to do exit interviews.”

Former Athletic Director Autumn Mattson had requested an exit interview with the board after she resigned and was turned down.

Dr. VanDuyn explained that the school has started doing exit interviews with human resources, and that the Superintendent or Asst. Superintendent can sit in when requested. “People can also write or speak to the board, or come to a board meeting and speak during the public comment time and share,” she said.

Morrell noted that when people speak at the meetings, that they shouldn’t be throwing people under the bus. “You (the speaker) are liable, not the district. You could be guilty of libel if it’s not true,” he explained. “And even if it’s true, you still have to be careful, because it could be violating staff members’ rights.”

A resident asked if a former administrator was identified as someone who made a mistake, was that ok? “Some people saw that as an attack on a person,” he said.

Morrell said that was ok. “It’s not an attack on a person, it’s on the process. There will be times it has to come out,” he said.

He also addressed whether letters read at board meetings and requested to go in the minutes should be recorded. “No, because it’s not a board action,” he explained. Morrell said that minutes are not recorded word for word. There is roll call, when the meeting was called to order, motions voted on, etc.

He also covered when the board can go into closed session, how to know when a board is in trouble, and other ins and outs of the system.

But the bottom line was that everyone has their own job to do, and the board of education sets the tone. “As the board goes, so does the district,” said Morrell.

IT works best when everyone swims in their own lane. It takes a community to educate our kids. But we can’t do each other’s jobs. It’s when the district works best. We need to start working collaboratively, working together.”

For a copy of the powerpoint presented at the meeting, visit csredhawks.org.

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School board bits: Bond funding & open meetings

Bond refunding question

Two weeks ago, the Post ran an article about the Cedar Springs Public School district and the fact that they were able to save the taxpayers money by the refunding of bonds, Series A and Series B. This should be good news for taxpayers. However, some have questioned the process and whether the Superintendent was conducting financial business for the district without the Board of Education’s knowledge.

The reason for this question has to do with a comment made at the March 14 board meeting, where the board adopted the ratification resolution. Several writers to the Post have noted that Board President Patricia Eary asked, “What do we have to do to make this happen?” To which Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn answered, “I’ve already signed.”

A delegating resolution that the board approved at the December 14 board meeting authorized the Superintendent to accept and execute the bond purchase agreement with the Underwriter, which she did on February 19. The board says that the ratification resolution on March 14 was an additional (but not mandatory) step to show transparency and support for the process.

See the entire statement from the Board about the bond refunding on page ??.

Role of the school board and the open meetings act

For those who have questions about the role of the Board of Education and how it should operate under the Open Meetings Act, there will be a special presentation on Tuesday, April 19, from 6-9 p.m. at the Hilltop Community building, in the 3rd floor boardroom. The presentation will be given by Scott Morrell, of the Michigan Association School Boards. The public is invited to attend.

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Board of education works for the community

I am a past member of the Cedar Springs Board of Education (BOE) serving for 12 years as a trustee, VP and President.

When elected to the BOE, we had just experienced some very difficult times in the district, including a split BOE with a fractured agenda, a failed BOE recall election, major budget issues and a teacher strike. We began to heal with a devoted BOE and Superintendent whose first concern was the students and the quality of their education. Over time mutual trust was restored and we moved the district forward, including the construction of new buildings to accommodate our growing enrollment. None of this would have been possible without the support and cooperation of the entire community and staff. Our school district was respected in the community as a place where people wanted to raise their kids. It is heartbreaking to me and many of those who did the hard work, to watch the effects of a divisive climate in our community, and to know ultimately the ones who will suffer will be the students.

Comments by the board president like, “we only have one employee,” are shocking! Who is the employer of all the other employees? The Superintendent is only one of the many employees the BOE is responsible for. Comments like this do nothing to build trust and community.

When high paid consultants present at a BOE meeting, no one asks a question? No discussion? Shouldn’t our district employees be able to prepare reports/presentations like the “Budget Projections” presented at the March 14th BOE meeting?

Why do three District Office Administrators live outside of the Cedar Springs school district? What a message that sends to the very people who pay taxes and their salaries! While we may not be able to require that the Superintendent live in the district, it is the right thing to do. Our administrators who live in other school districts pay taxes that benefit the school where they live not the district that pays their salary.

I understand that the BOE has been told, in a statement, not to talk to community and staff. They should be reminded that the BOE actually works for the community! When there is avoidance, people will think you have something to hide. Please do not let anyone silence you! Please have open discussion at the BOE table—yes, in open meetings. Ask questions, ask the hard questions—show leadership to the people who elected you!

Jan Wallace, Solon Township

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Don’t get down on teachers

Thank you for your paper. I enjoy it. I’m sorry to hear you’re all having problems with staff at school.

You know I would have stayed in school if it was not for rumors about me. I feel students are harder to teach now days because some people do not get after their children enough. One of the reasons I left Cedar Springs is people coming up to our trailer in Cedar Springs Mobile Estates. They threatened my life and my children’s. Then they used the C.B. radio to say terrible things.

There is something definitely going on in Cedar Springs. I hope our teachers and school staff does not have problems that they have to be ashamed about. Our schools there in Cedar Springs had good teachers when I went there. I wished I would have stayed in just for them working so hard trying to help me.

Just remember some kids are mean and say things that hurt sometimes.

I wish you would not get down too hard on our teachers. They have a hard enough time with students.

I hope in some way I can help because I love Cedar Springs but just cannot live there.

Darlene Kay Rhineberger Fuller, Big Rapids

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A House divided against itself will not stand

Due to recent events in our school district, many friends now stand divided. Our family relied on many of these past administrators, teachers, and community members as we faced a horrific event that almost took my life. They rallied beside me and my family as I recovered from a massive stroke. Prayers went up on my behalf, a refrigerator full of food was delivered to our home, gift cards filled our mailbox, our driveway was plowed, our laundry was done, and volunteers took me back and forth to therapy. Even my children’s teachers stayed after school to offer an encouraging word or a shoulder to cry on. The list goes on and on. I couldn’t even begin to thank everyone for their support! The Cedar Springs School and community were there for me and my family. They did this because they cared.
Years later, there are new people that have moved into our community. Some of them have had to face unbelievable heartache and circumstances much greater than mine. They have experienced a new set of administrators and teachers that have shown their family the same remarkable love and support that we were shown.
Being a school employee, my heart is torn. Why are there so many harsh words being said towards our school board, a group of volunteers that is working for our school district and our Superintendent? Hearing of their credentials, the school board has hired some highly qualified individuals. Recently, they have completed a Strategic Plan to offer a new vision and mission. I was excited to be on that committee and am looking forward to what the final decision will be. I have not experienced the hostile environment people are talking about.
Are we going to be a community divided or united? We can’t expect the students we work with to get along with each other and show respect if we don’t show respect toward one another ourselves. How about that Habit Of Mind that says “Be thoughtful and considerate of others” that we teach our students? It’s okay to disagree. My concern is the manner in which we are modeling our disagreements to the students we work with. Let’s be a school and community that’s united in a common cause greater than ourselves; the well-being of our students!

Shelley Bauer, Parent As Teachers/New Beginnings Alternative Ed.

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What are you?

I would like to begin by saying thank you to each board member for your willingness to be on the board. It is often a thankless job that requires much of your energy and time. With that said, I ask the Board of Education, “What are you?”

During the Public Comments portion of the Board of Education meeting held on March 14, 2016, Lee Mora asked the board in his comments why Autumn Matteson had not been granted an exit interview. After he finished, board president Patricia Eary made a comment that the board did not grant the exit interview because “they had been advised by the board’s attorney to not grant the interview.” Patricia Eary then went on to say that the board did not give exit interviews to people who were not their employee. Patricia Eary ended her comment by saying, “The only employee of the Board is the superintendent.”

If that is true, then why do all the contracts begin with a line such as “The Board of Education of

Cedar Springs Public Schools and _____ enter . . .?” In other words, the Board of Education is the employer.

In the same meeting on March 14, when the school’s attorney was discussing moving some of the debt from one area to another to gain a better interest rate, a question was asked at the end of his presentation by Patricia Eary wondering what the Board needed to do to move in that direction. Dr. Van Duyn made a comment that “I already signed.” This amazed me! Not one board member questioned the fact that Dr. Van Duyn was making financial decisions for the

district. Although I agree 100 percent that the district needed to change the funding, I am appalled that the Board would so easily let others make decisions and fulfill their responsibilities for them.

So I ask the question again, “What are you?” Are you the board member that swore an oath to fulfill all the duties and responsibilities of the office? Think long and hard before answering as your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear a thing you say.

Bruce Marvel, Nelson Township

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Community encouragement

In a world of terrorist attacks, diseases, life threatening illnesses, devastating earthquakes and tornados….what if every day WE EACH strive to become a better person.  Having had a student in CSPS since kindergarten, students have been taught Habits of the Mind and Be Nice. On April 14, high schoolers will be taught about OK2SAY, a comprehensive communication system that empowers students, parents, school personnel, community mental health services  programs, and law enforcement officials to share and respond to student safety and school violence threats. I pray that our community will soon move forward with each of us focusing on being the best person we can be and think about the type of influence we are being.  I am proud to be a part of CSPS as an employee, parent and community member. I believe there are great things happening in our district and am blessed to be a part of it. 

Kathy Sue Corwin, Solon Township, Proud to be a Red Hawk

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