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Tag Archive | "Mark Dobias"

School board reduces term length; four positions open

By Judy Reed

 If you’ve been thinking about running for a seat on the Cedar Springs Board of Education, you’ll have your chance in November. There will be four positions open—two full terms and two partial terms. None will be longer than four years, since the Board voted on Monday, June 25, to reduce the term served from six years to four years.

A previous board had voted several years ago to change term lengths from four years to six years after the state of Michigan passed a law regarding when elections could be held. They did it to avoid a 4-3 rotation every two years.

Interim Superintendent Mark Dobias had said he felt it might encourage more people to run if they reduced the amount of time to serve. He asked for input from the community on shortening the time frame from four to six years, and told the Post that he received 50-75 emails on it, and no one had voiced opposition. 

The seats up for grabs this fall include Matt McConnon’s seat, which will be a four-year term expiring in 2022; Brook Nichols’ seat, which will also be a four-year-term expiring in 2022; the seat occupied by Jeff Rivard, which expires in 2020; and the seat currently held by Traci Slager, which expires in 2022.

Anyone wishing to run for one of these four trustee positions may either file a petition no later then July 24, 2018, or pay a $100 filing fee by no later than July 24, 2018. You can pick up an election packet at the Kent County Clerk’s office at 300 Monroe Ave., in Grand Rapids, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call them for information at (616) 632-7640.

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Interim Superintendent impressed with Cedar Springs

Mark Dobias

Wants to be available for people to share their concerns

By Judy Reed

When Mark Dobias was asked to become interim Superintendent at Cedar Springs Public Schools at the end of March, he didn’t know much about the district. But after just one week on the job, he said he is very impressed with what he sees.

“When I look at the size of the campus, and the fact that all buildings are together; the administrative staff seems outstanding; I’ve met a lot of teachers and there seems to be great things going on in the buildings; I am very impressed,” he said.

Dobias grew up in Scottville, which is east of Ludington. He graduated from Central Michigan University with a Bachelors degree in Education and a Masters in Education Administration. He first became a special education teacher in homes for delinquent boys. Later he was a high school teacher in Manistee, then an elementary principal in Hart, and a Middle School principal back in his hometown of Scottville. He became Superintendent at Fennville in 2001, and was Superintendent at the Allegan Area Service Agency from 2008 to September of 2016, when he retired.

During his retirement, Dobias kept busy doing Superintendent searches, strategic planning, and human resources work as a part-time consultant for MASB (Michigan Association of School Boards). He came out of retirement to become interim Superintendent at Cedar Springs.

“It was a good time for me. I was able to clear my calendar, and I was ready to get back into it. When you work in schools as long as I have, it’s good to know you are appreciated, that people think you can still make a difference. I was flattered to be asked, and I am enjoying it,” he said.

He remarked that his reception here has been outstanding. “I’ve been made to feel very welcome. If people see me wandering up and down the streets of Cedar Springs looking confused at where I’m going, please stop and say hi,” he added with a chuckle.

Dobias explained that his mission at Cedar Springs is to provide stability as the district transitions to a new Superintendent. With that are three steps: one, to do what he can to end the year on a good note; two, to help do what he can to begin the year on a good note; and three, to provide an avenue for people (staff, students, and community) to share their concerns and frustrations.

“I want people to have that opportunity to talk, so I may set up some office hours in various buildings,” he said. “I want to make myself available.” He said that people are more than welcome to call his cell phone (269) 532-0543, which he has posted on the school website, or email him at Mark.Dobias@csredhawks.org.

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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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