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Tag Archive | "Cedar Springs School District"

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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What is communication?


Communication is a two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, where participants exchange information, news, ideas and feelings. Communication is a means of connecting people or places. It is the backbone of any high-performing team. Trust is linked to transparency and two-way communication. This has dissipated from our district and community.

We all have passion and dreams for our children and their education. People want their concerns and opinions heard and respected, not ignored. We expect that our Board of Education and our Superintendent are going to listen, be objective, be curious, act, and adjust when needed. How we provide the foundation for our children’s education is critical and that is where the debate begins.

As a district we have been through ups and downs. Think back to the various millages (bond, operational, renewals, and sinking funds) needed over the years. Difficult times made us stronger. For the last 10 years, we have built our reputation to be leaders in education in West Michigan in progressive strategies for children’s learning. People were benchmarking us. Now they ask “What is going on up there in Cedar Springs?” and “How have you lost your way?” We need to get back to what is important, our children’s education. We achieve that through respect, teamwork, communication and trust. Vision can change, and if communicated clearly, people can understand and align.

We need to understand where we have been to understand where we need to go. This district was stellar and we were proud to be a part of it. Today we are lost, more focused on gossip, rumors, and attacking individuals rather than on what is best for our children. Our leaders need to lead; you need to choose to move this district forward in a way that respects the value of those that are here and move together into the future.

Board Members , we need you to step up, be brave, and courageous. Please seek out all the facts and documentation from all possible resources. Discussing all the information brought before you—the good and bad—must occur in order for our district to move forward. Hold each other accountable and make the tough choices and decisions that protect a quality education for our children. Each of our board members has an equal voice.

Tammie Drake, Cedar Springs School District

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School saves taxpayers money on bond sale


But must work on maintenance, balanced budget

By Judy Reed

There was good news and bad news at the Monday, March 14 Cedar Springs Board of Education meeting. The good news is that the board approved the sale of the 2016 Refunding Bonds, which will save taxpayers over $2,000,000. The bad news is that the school district has numerous deferred maintenance problems to address, and needs to solve those problems while trying to come up with a way to offset a $1.3 million shortfall in next year’s budget.

Sale of bonds

The 2016 Series A refunding bonds are being issued to refund a portion of the district’s 2006 refunding bonds, and pay a portion of the costs of issuing the bonds. They were sold at a true interest rate of 2.77 percent. This will reduce the school district’s interest and save taxpayers approximately $1,017, 252 through lower debt payments over the next 16 years.

The 2016 Series B bonds are being issued to refund some outstanding indebtedness of the district to the State of Michigan under the State of Michigan School Bond Qualification and Loan Program, and to pay a portion of the costs of issuing the Bonds. They were sold at a federally taxable rate of 1.98 percent. This will reduce interest and payment costs to the state, saving taxpayers an estimated $1,500,000, according to Rosemary Zink, Director of Business and Finance. The estimated reduction in repayments is based upon the current School Bond Loan Fund interest rate of 3.50%.

“Cedar Springs Public Schools’ Bonds were well received by the bond market,” said Brenda Voutyras, Managing Director with Stifel, the brokerage firm that helped with the sale. “We saw good demand and were able to take advantage of current low interest rates that resulted in a very nice savings for the District and its taxpayers.”

Deferred facilities maintenance

Matthew Losch, with Excel Consultant Group, LLC, completed an assessment of the Cedar Springs Public Schools facilities, which are valued at $50 million. He found several issues that need to be addressed, including some that would could cause the school to be fined by MIOSHA. He told the board, in his presentation, that he mainly looked at safety, efficiency, and effectiveness. “This report is not about a staff or person not doing their job,” Losch said in his report. “It is about a department structure or organizational system which requires improvement, positive change, and support. We want to make a great school district even greater.”

Losch said that one of the problems is that the maintenance department needs a managerial supervisor to work with Jerry Gavin, Director of Maintenance and Operations. He noted that Gavin is doing a great job, but needs someone to help oversee work assignments, regulartory compliance, project coordination, safety inspections, recordkeeping, and more.

Losch also said that their regulatory compliance requires serious work because there are various safety issues, and several written programs are not MIOSHA compliant. One photo showed a saw without a guard, which he said is a $1,500 MIOSHA violation. “If someone got injured, I can’t imagine what the blank check the board would be writing,” said Losch.

The district must also develop a preventative maintenance program. He supplied photos showing asphalt cracks, roof leaks, problems with door jambs, thermal insulation falling off, a fence needing repair, etc.

Department documents also need to be organized. Photos showed blueprints and other papers piled randomly on file cabinets and in storage areas. They also need to work on safety inspections, an annual review of the district’s emergency management plan, training and instruction, certifications, etc.

Losch recommended they plan for preventive maintenance, taking care of deferred maintenance, cyclical replacement, and capital repairs. Funding strategies could include sinking fund projects, grants, performance bonds, and utility company services and funding.

Long range financial projection

The board saw a long range financial projection for the school district last week, and could be looking at a possible shortfall of almost $809,000 this year, and $1,360,000 next year, with only $2,075,000 in the fund balance. By 2017-18, with declining enrollment, and no increase in state aid, the projection shows a shortfall of of almost $2 million with only $120,000 in the fund balance.

Donald Sovey, CPA, CFO, of School and Municipal Advisory Services, PC, gave the presentation to the board. He noted that the modeling is based on if things stay the same, and that the current projections would change as new facts become available, such as enrollment, retirement contribution rates, facility and equipment needs, staffing changes and related costs, and state and local funding levels. The state aid in the long range projections was based on the governor’s proposal for the 2016-17 school year. Some maintenance that has been deferred is included in the forecast.

Sovey said he sat down with the building principals and showed them their budgets. “Some of them saw it for the first time,” he said.

He also noted that he recommended a stop to purchasing of all budgeted items for this year. “If it’s not been purchased by now, they probably won’t need to,” he explained.

This is one of the most stable districts I’ve worked with, but there are still some challenges,” remarked Sovey. “The population numbers are shrinking some over the next few years, and state aid is tied to that. We need to eliminate surprises and upgrade documention.”

Sovey explained to the Post that there is a good accounting system in place, it just needs more refinement. “My job is to process, improve on, and tighten up procedures—to set up an accounting system to provide timely and useful information that can be used to make good decisions.”

He also noted that the audits at the school are always really good. “It’s a great district, and they’ve had some excellent people working there,” he remarked. “Finances in school districts are always a challenge, with the state aid remaining flat.”

Sovey said that the model forecast was done without seeing a new budget. “A zero-based budget is underway. This long range modeling can help us project what could happen if no changes are made. It’s not carved in stone. There may or may not be a deficit by the time the board gets done.”

 

Posted in Cedar Springs Public Schools, NewsComments (0)

Three arrested in after attempted break-in


Three suspects are in jail and another suspect is being sought after an attempted break-in at the Cedar Springs Public Schools Hilltop administration building early Wednesday morning, March 23.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, they responded to the call at 3:22 a.m. of several suspects trying to break in to Hilltop. A witness reportedly scared off the four suspects. It was initially reported that they could be armed with weapons, but detectives haven’t been able to verify that any weapons were used.

After an intensive search by the deputies on scene, two white males were taken into custody for questioning.

The two suspects admitted to breaking into at least two homes and at least six motor vehicles over the past month. According to Sgt. Jason Kelley, they took place in the City of Cedar Springs.

During the interview, the remaining two suspects were identified. One was located in the Cedar Springs area and taken into custody for questioning. This suspect also confirmed the break-ins.

Two adult males and one juvenile have been lodged in the Kent County Jail for charges ranging from Home Invasion 1st, Probation violation and Larceny from a Motor Vehicle. The fourth suspect has been identified and is currently being sought for questioning.

Names of the suspects are being withheld until after arraignment.

This investigation remains open.

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Were 70-80 students expelled from high school?


By Judy Reed

The rumor mill on social media and between students was in high gear this last week, with a tale of drug dogs, locker checks, and 70-80 students being expelled for having marijuana brownies at Cedar Springs High School.

The problem is that the rumor was not true, according to both police and the high school. As with many rumors, there was a grain of truth, but the details were greatly exaggerated.

According to Sgt. Jason Kelley, with the Kent County Sheriff Department’s Cedar Springs Unit, they were called to the high school on March 16 to investigate the possible sale of brownies made with marijuana butter. The school had already begun the investigation, and identified the possible juvenile involved. The investigating deputy continued the investigation and spoke with three juveniles, who admitted to making and consuming the brownies. It was discovered that one brownie had been sold to another student at school, and one brownie had been sold on a school bus. “No brownies or marijuana were located at the school,” reported Sgt. Kelley, who said they did not search any lockers or bring the dogs.

According to Anne Kostus, Academic Support Services Director at the High School, they do searches in the high school periodically, but didn’t this time. “The incident was reported by students,” she explained. She verified that three students brought the marijuana brownies to school and distributed it.

Three of the students are being disciplined for distribution, and two of the three for possession,” she said. “We are following our board adopted policies for discipline. We have high standards, and they need to be held accountable,” she explained.

Kostus noted that the students were honest about what happened. “These are good kids who made a bad choice,” she said. “I hope people treat them with compassion.”

She added that this kind of thing doesn’t happen often. “We rarely have this problem,” she said.

Posted in NewsComments (1)

What is a leader?


Leadership. An effective leader is a person who does the following:

1.Creates an inspiring vision of the future.

2.Motivates and inspires people to engage with that vision.

3.Manages delivery of the vision.

4.Coaches and builds a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision.

Reflecting on the last 18 month, this does not describe the approach and behaviors exhibited by our current board and administration.

The “how” we do things is equally as important as the “what” we do. A hostile working environment is not an environment that provides quality education for our children. Our administrators and teachers need to feel valued and accountable to delivering there best each and every day. What our teachers and administrators have had to endure while working through this “change” is unacceptable. Intimidation, fear, being demeaned in front of peers, being disregarded, no collaboration and retaliation for speaking up or against a situation to name a few. The disrespect, lack of listening and disregard for the community’s concerns is unacceptable. Countless attempts to ask questions, to seek information, to ask for accountability and action, and nothing happens. No questions, no conversation among the board at the open meetings about anything. This path and these actions need to change, for the health of our district and for our children’s education. The only way forward is together.

The best ideas and our greatness as a district over decades has come from trust, collaboration, high expectations for students and staff, welcoming our differences and working together to give our children the best education possible. This is what makes the most powerful positive “change.”

As a community, we are passionate and united by one thing and that is the education of our children in this district. The board and the superintendent are ultimately responsible for that and their behavior and choices matter. We are losing talented people in this district that have made a tremendous impact and were part of making us great, and I am sure if nothing changes we are sure to lose more teachers, administrators and students.

Any good leader is not afraid to listen, adjust, take action and move forward courageously. This path we are on is not leading us to continued greatness, it ls leading us to failure, bankruptcy and utter embarrassment within the region and state.

Are you prepared for that to be your legacy?

Sincerely,

Laura Davis, Algoma Township

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A different point of view


I see things differently than some of the writers in the Post.

I am highly encouraged that our CSPS School Board and Dr. VanDuyn are reviewing administrative practices at CSPS. In Michigan there are increasing school requirements and competition in the education arena.

The School Board is being questioned and threatened by a group or individuals, who feel they have been wronged. Personnel details cannot legally be disclosed or publically discussed. This school board is essentially the same and was acceptable to most, until they did not promote Mr. Cairy to superintendent.

#PeopleHaveLeftBefore

FOIA information shows 1.5 years before Dr. VanDuyn was hired, two administrators and one teacher received separation agreements or severance pay. This supports change happens in education, regardless of who is at the helm.

#CurrentDedicationandTalent

We currently have many talented/accredited/acclaimed hardworking employees and students in CSPS!

#SpeakUpPositive4CSPS

Increased attendance at CSPS school board meetings is also support for the positive changes taking place, A few:

*Beach Back Pack reinstated/volunteer based

*GATORS reading staff expanded

*Class sizes reduced in elementary

*Human resources for staff assistance & policy

*Increased communication district wide from Dr. VanDuyn.

#ProtectingOurInvestmentforKids

*Building maintenance is moving to a preventative system. We have deferred maintenance to overcome.

*New budgeting system. Building principals now see their building finances and will contribute to decisions made for their building.

*Bidding processes will now be public, timely, including complete scopes of work.

*50+ active credit card accounts reviewed—business consultant recommended less than 5 is appropriate.

I see the CSPS school board members (the majority who are present for all meetings), are doing their job, aware of personal conflicts of interest, mindful of board fiduciary responsibility and making informed decisions to move our district forward.

Working together we can go from good to great, with the leadership of Dr. VanDuyn.

Go Red Hawks!

Heidi Reed, City of Cedar Springs, CSPS Sinking Fund Committee & School Board Meeting Attendee

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Resigning is a choice


Letter read at March 14 Board of Education meeting

My name is Sarah (Welch) Holtrop and I am writing this letter out of concern for the students, staff, administration, and school board. I have lived in Cedar Springs my entire life. My parents were both teachers at Cedar Springs. They devoted their lives to their students. After graduating from college, I also began my career as a teacher in the Cedar Springs district. My husband and I raised three children in Cedar Springs and they attended Cedar Springs from preschool through the 12th grade. I have been teaching in Cedar Springs for the past 32 years. In those 32 years, I have had the opportunity to work for 5 different superintendents, and 9 different principals. I have shown respect for them all and that is the way it should be. Over the years I have attended many board meetings and for the last two years I have attended almost all of them. In that time the board hired a new superintendent…Dr. Laura VanDuyn. The vote was 5-2 in favor of Dr. VanDuyn. I continue to attend board meetings in order to be certain I am informed. I am breaking my silence because I do not feel it is fair for individuals to stand up and verbally blame Dr. VanDuyn for being the cause of the resignation of four administrators. This accusation is unfair, as all of these individuals have resigned. All of them could have accepted Dr. VanDuyn as their new superintendent, and worked alongside her to serve the students of Cedar Springs. However, instead of doing so, for one reason or another, they have chosen to resign. I have heard many ask the board why the administrators have resigned. Instead of asking the board over and over again why, ask these individuals exactly why they resigned.

In our careers we are continually faced with change, and like it or not, we have to accept it. An administrative change is not a reason to end a long-term career. Personally, I have found Dr. VanDuyn to be compassionate, caring, and concerned (for the well being of both students and staff.) She is working tirelessly for the Cedar Springs School district. She offers opportunities for all staff members to meet with her. She actually listens to concerns. She values the employees of the district. In her short time serving the district, she has a growing list of accomplishments. Restoring the counseling to Cedar Trails and Beach, and lowering class sizes are a couple of recent examples. In conclusion, I think it is time to accept the fact that our administration has changed. It is certainly not the first time and we need to move forward with our new leaders. They deserve our kindness, support, and respect.

Sarah (Welch) Holtrop, 1st Grade Teacher, Cedar Trails

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Our community is the one who loses


The story of “Cedar Springs Athletic Director Resigns” has been weighing on my mind since it began swirling around the news and social media. I have been debating with myself on whether I should comment or not, but I believe as a former student of the Cedar Springs School District and part of a family that has resided in Cedar Springs for many years, it is important for people like me to speak up. It is concerning to me that the current administration (Superintendent and Board of Education) is not leading in a way that will allow the school district to continue to be successful in maintaining a level of excellence in the classroom and in the many extra-curricular activities. To see someone that has worked so hard and made such an impact on both the school district and the community leave because of the current climate is really very sad and our great community is the one who loses. Autumn has done an amazing job with the students at all levels and has built a winning and successful sports program at Cedar Springs. Doing this takes time, devotion, hard work, integrity and an unwavering need to not give up when things get tough. Unfortunately, it seems those are the very things at stake and it is up to the community to find out why before we get too far off course. I may no longer live in this community but still consider Cedar Springs my home and my school. I want to see this community be successful and a leader in the area and I believe that the students at Cedar Springs deserve this as well. Please ask the tough questions, stand up to the pressures of being bullied and mistreated, dig down to find the answers, and think about the students. Autumn, congratulations on your huge success with our athletic program and the many ways you have shown great leadership. You have been a major influence on so many and your impact will be felt forever at our school. I wish you the best of luck on your new adventures. Cedar will most undoubtedly not be the same without you there.

Nathan Wallace, Cedar Springs Graduate, Class of 2000

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We Want Your Opinion!


What grade would you give the Cedar Springs School District?

If you could change one thing, what would that be?

With all of the issues facing public education these days, it’s important that we hear from all of our community.  Active parents regularly meet with teachers and district administrators to provide their input, but not everyone has the opportunity to attend a board meeting or join the PTA for their building.

That’s why we’re inviting you to express your opinion on the questions above and others in a survey by going to http://bit.ly/zkM37N.

Last year, legislators cut school funding back to 2005-06 levels and required all employees to pay a portion of their health care.  They lifted the cap on charter schools and are now considering creating an unlimited number of “cyber academies” that would allow students to earn a diploma online, and many more education reforms.

Amid all of these changes, we at Cedar Springs Public Schools are doing all we can to provide the best possible education for your children.  We’ve made some adjustments, but not without working diligently to maintain programming for our students.

We want to know what you think about the challenges facing our schools, and what you consider essential for our students to receive a good education.

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

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