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Tag Archive | "Katy Austin"

Cedar Springs Superintendent resigns


Many of those demanding the resignation of the Superintendent marched to Cedar Springs High School from the Hilltop building Monday evening. Photo by Aleshia Smith.

by Judy Reed

After several years of complaints from teachers and community members against Cedar Springs Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn, the Cedar Springs Board of Education voted Monday evening to accept her resignation.

The main complaint was of creating a hostile and toxic work environment, with a turnover of 70-plus employees in the last three years. Several complaints of bullying had also been lodged against her in the past but dismissed by the Board of Education.

Many who had voiced comments against the Superintendent at previous board meetings felt the board was not listening or did not care. That fueled a movement that recently grew in the community to get their voice heard.

A sea of red shirts sporting the logo “#ResignVanDuyn” filled the auditorium at Cedar Springs High School before the regularly scheduled board meeting Monday night. Many also held signs with the same logo. The group, made up of parents, teachers, and other community members, had come to demand that either the board put the Superintendent on immediate leave pending an investigation, or that they negotiate with her to resign. They also had petitions for the recall of three board members.

Some supporters of the Superintendent came with signs that read “B kind to VanDuyn.”

Signs in support of Superintendent VanDuyn. Post photo by J. Reed.

As the board members filed in at the start of the meeting, one person was conspicuously absent: Dr. VanDuyn.

Board president Heidi Reed announced that the Superintendent had been excused from the meeting. After making some introductory statements about the board, they made a motion to go into closed session to discuss “a personnel matter.” After more than an hour of deliberation, they reconvened and made a motion to accept the resignation of Dr. Laura VanDuyn.

Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn.

Cheers filled the auditorium as the motion was announced. The vote passed 5-1, with Board trustee Tim Bauer the lone no vote. Trustee Shannon Vanderhyde was not present.

Bauer, who was appointed earlier this year to fill an empty seat, said he felt it was wrong. He noted that many of those wearing the red shirts had probably went to church on Palm Sunday. He then compared them to the angry mob that had crucified Jesus when they didn’t get their way. A Facebook post by Bauer Tuesday morning speaking of judgment on those that wore the red shirts caused more furor and scrutiny by law enforcement. He later announced on Facebook he would resign at the next board meeting.

Board Vice President Matthew Shoffner gave one of the most heartfelt speeches from the board. “I hoped for something better and that has not come about. I hoped for unity and I hoped for this community to be brought together. That is still my hope. I hope that we can do this together,” he said.

Katy Austin, one of the founders of the “Cedar Strong” movement, was one of those thankful that the board finally heard their voice. “I’m incredibly thankful to each and every person who helped the community be heard. I’m excited for the future and I can’t wait to see our kids soar,” she said.

Dr. VanDuyn will remain at Cedar Springs through the end of the week. An announcement from Board President Heidi Reed said VanDuyn would also continue as an ad-hoc consultant through June 30, 2018. 

Reed noted that the Superintendent still has many supporters in the district.

“During her almost four years with our District, Dr. VanDuyn’s leadership has blessed our district with talent and new ways of thinking while challenging us to rise to a higher standard.

“Dr. VanDuyn’s top priority has always been the children and creating the best environment to promote academic growth and development. Her exceptional beliefs and leadership built a strong foundation for our journey to excellence. The board is thankful for Dr. VanDuyn’s dedication and service to CSPS and we wish her well in future endeavors,” she said.

The board appointed Mark Dobias, former superintendent of Allegan Area Educational Service Agency (AAESA) and Fennville Public Schools as interim Superintendent. He is scheduled to start on April 9. “Our strong building leadership coupled with his operational background will assure a seamless transition as we begin the search process for a permanent replacement,” said Reed.

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School board bits


By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education heard several presentations Monday evening, February 26, and heard from several people during the public comment time. We will cover a few of them here and continue next week.

Reading Now Network

The board heard from Dr. Barb Johnson and several teachers about the success of the Reading Now Network program and the implementation of the I-ready program. According to Johnson, several years ago reading scores in Michigan were falling. So two to three years ago, Kent County Superintendents looked at 14 schools that were doing well in reading. They narrowed the list down to five, then looked for the threads that were common in all the districts that helped them do well. They then joined with other districts and got a $12.5 million grant from the Michigan Department of Education in November. 

All the children now have chrome books and are working on the I-ready program. Most are required to read 45 minutes daily on it during the school day. And there are fun games to help assess how they are doing. Since using the I-ready program, reading scores in most all elementary grades have improved greatly from last fall to this January. You can see the entire presentation on the board meeting video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ADR-JOiEwo&feature=youtu.be.

Public Comments

The board heard comments from several people Monday evening. The heard first from Tami Elliston, who said she’s had children in CSPS for 12 years. She said she has waited for three long years for the board members to act on multiple complaints from community members, current and former staff members, students, and other board members regarding Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn. Elliston spoke about a recent issue of between the school and The Post regarding distribution on the school campus and the school page no longer appearing in the Post. (It’s now in the Advance.) She also mentioned that the Post binds all the papers into a book each year, and presents it to the Cedar Springs Historical Society, and now those school pages will no longer be a part of Cedar Springs history.

Elliston asked why the Hilltop admin building was given a secure entrance before buildings that house students. She also brought up the manner in which an investigation against a teacher was recently conducted. She asked the board to remove the Superintendent before she causes anymore damage to the community.

Teacher Virginia Valentine expressed concern about the lack of a Dean of Students, and there only being one principal for 1,000 students when one of the two are gone.

Katy Austin, of Solon Township asked the board to hold a no confidence vote on the superintendent. She reminded them who they work for, and who they serve—the public. She said that when Dr. VanDuyn was hired, she (Katy) was excited, but the change has went 180 degrees in the other direction. She noted that educators are leaving, and the ones that stay are afraid to speak up for fear of repercussions. “I’m here to give a voice to the voiceless. There is something wrong and it is your job to make it right. It isn’t a witch hunt or a good old boys club being bitter that their guy didn’t get the job. It is me pleading with you to do something! Even if only 10 percent of what I said is true it’s enough to finally take action,” she said.

Band Director Adam Borst shared about the band trip to Disney World.

Sue Wolfe asked about what they were changing in the board operating procedures, and asked a question about the data on the citizen survey.

You can see the entire board meeting video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ADR-JOiEwo& feature=youtu.be.

Next week: Citizen Survey

Posted in Cedar Springs Public Schools, NewsComments (0)


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