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Tag Archive | "Matt Shoffner"

School board member files complaint against Superintendent


 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education meeting held Monday evening—where at least 10 people spoke against Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn during public comment—culminated with trustee Ted Sabinas stating that he was filing a complaint against her for bullying.

Sabinas read his complaint aloud during board comments and then gave it to Board President Matt Shoffner to process.

“During the board meeting of April 24th, I believe that Dr. VanDuyn made an inappropriate calculated statement in an effort to discredit me,” said Sabinas. “Her statement is clearly a violation of our Neola policy 1662 Anti Harassment. Making this comment by stating someone else originally made the comment cannot be considered appropriate.” He also asked for her to be put on immediate leave and an independent compliance officer be hired to investigate the complaint.

His complaint refers to the April 24 board meeting, when they were discussing the possible privatization of transportation, and Dr. VanDuyn made a comment about the bus drivers feeling stalked or intimated by Sabinas.

Prior to that meeting, Sabinas had attempted to attend a meeting between the bus drivers and administration to learn more about the privatization and speak to staff but was locked out of the building. (He had been given permission to attend during March’s board meeting by Board president Matt Shoffner but that was later rescinded.)

At the April 24 Board meeting, bus driver Becca Fisk was speaking about the bus driver vote and how it was done. Sabinas said that he had heard that there was more than one vote by the bus drivers. He said he was told that the vote was initially no, and that the Superintendent and Jerry Gavin (the transportation supervisor) then had a private meeting, and then went back into the meeting with the drivers and told them that if they didn’t privatize, Mr. Gavin would be done in June; but if they did privatize, that he would then work for Dean’s Transportation for 5-7 years. He said he was told that another vote was then taken and it had passed, out of loyalty to Mr. Gavin.

It was then that Dr. VanDuyn made the statement that Sabinas is filing a complaint about.

She said she could speak to this. “There was an issue—we had bus drivers who were very uncomfortable because they didn’t want you to enter their meeting, and you were insisting you would be at their meeting, and you had your truck backed in, and they felt stalked or intimidated by you sitting in the parking lot and so we had to check and see if things were safe for our drivers.” She then looked at Becca Fisk. “You can attest to what you said about anyone being in the meeting other than Ken, Jerry and I with the departments.”

“And so Jerry and I did step out,” she continued, “and talked about whether you (Sabinas) were still there, this was a problem for our drivers, and Becca you can attest to…”

At that point she was interrupted by VP Brooke Nichols, who said she thought they should stick to the agenda.

Dr. VanDuyn responded with, “Ken, Jerry, and I know what happened in the meeting and what the votes were.”

Sabinas said in his complaint that “for Dr. VanDuyn to make bullying comments towards one of her employers shows a total lack of respect for the board and is an act of insubordination. If we allow these types of actions by the district leader we are telling the staff and students that it is completely OK to make bullying and harassment comments to anyone they encounter. The example that Dr. VanDuyn chose to demonstrate does not represent the core values of our district.”

Sabinas asked that Dr. VanDuyn be placed on immediate leave of absence and be restricted from school activities until an independent compliance officer can be hired and rule on the harassment and bullying complaint.

According to the Board’s policy, the Superintendent is the compliance officer that would normally investigate complaints. But Sabinas said he consulted with the legal division of the Michigan Association of School Boards, and they advised him to request an independent compliance officer.

“You can’t have her or a close associate investigate a complaint about her. I know we’ve had other complaints about the Superintendent that she or someone who works for her has investigated. The school lawyer is also not the right person because he has the needs of the school in mind,” explained Sabinas.

Earlier in Monday’s meeting, there were many public comments supporting Sabinas and condemning Dr. VanDuyn’s statement about stalking. Staff also spoke about fear of speaking up about things, saying that they had felt intimidated and manipulated, and were afraid of being targeted or reassigned. Several speakers asked for an investigation into Dr. VanDuyn.

Board member Heidi Reed spoke up and said that if there were an investigation, she would bring forth evidence showing that Sabinas had also bullied Dr. VanDuyn.

Sabinas said that he is not the type of board member that just takes what he is told by administration at face value. “I ask a lot of questions. I don’t rubber stamp things,” he explained. “People expect me to do what I say. I campaigned on being thorough, investigating, and talking to people.”

But Sabinas said that right now, it’s hard to do that. “I’m being blocked. Various staff members have said they were asked not to talk to me, and were told they would be fired. So they won’t talk,” he said.

He said it’s not routine in a school district that board members cannot speak to staff or ask them questions. “We have a lot of uniqueness going on here,” he said.

During Monday’s board meeting, Dr. VanDuyn listened but did not respond to complaints from residents and staff.

The Post emailed Board President Matt Shoffner on Tuesday, May 23, asking for a statement on what he was doing with the complaint, but did not have a response by Wednesday evening at press time.

The Post also emailed Dr. VanDuyn and gave her the opportunity to make a statement, but did not receive a response by press time.

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Board of Education votes in new board president


Matt Shoffner, right,  is the new president of the Cedar Springs Board of Education.

Matt Shoffner, right, is the new president of the Cedar Springs Board of Education.

The Cedar Springs Board of Education held its annual reorganization meeting on Monday evening January 9 and elected new officers to various positions.

Matt Shoffner was elected as board president for 2017. He has not previously held that position. Brook Nichols was voted in as vice president; former president Patricia Eary as secretary; and newcomer Heidi Reed as treasurer. Rounding out the board as trustees are Michele Bayink, Shannon Vanderhyde, and newcomer Ted Sabinas.

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School board hires new superintendent


red hawkBy Judy Reed

Associate Superintendent David Cairy received a standing ovation from 200 staff members, parents, and community members after his final interview Wednesday evening, but he didn’t get the votes from the Board of Education.

Instead, they voted 5-2 to hire Dr. Laura VanDuyne, a candidate from California, who has ties to the area and was looking to move back to Michigan. She has served as Executive Director of the State SELPA, Contra Costa Special Education Joint Powers Authority since 2010.

The decision angered and saddened many who were present for the interviews.

Trustees Shannon Vanderhyde and Jeff Gust were the two dissenting votes.

The board had the public fill out feedback forms after the interviews and turn them in, and the board sifted through them during recess. They then took a straw poll to see where they stood.

Vanderhyde said that she was saddened by the direction the board seemed to be moving in. She said that one of the comments on the feedback form stuck with her, that Laura would have a big learning curve. “I don’t want my three kids to have a big learning curve,” she said. “I want them to have the best of the best. With Dave, we can start tomorrow.”

Trustee Todd Hanson said he didn’t think there would be a huge learning curve, noting that staff would still be there doing a great job. “And if not, then maybe they are not as loyal as they say,” he remarked.

The remark brought a big boo from the crowd, and several people walked out.

Vanderhyde questioned why they bothered to get the feedback if they weren’t going to use it.

Trustee Joe Marckini said he must’ve gotten different feedback than Shannon, and that he was out talking to people. And if people didn’t like his decision, they could recall him.

Trustee Patricia Eary thought an outsider would bring a fresh perspective. President Brooke Nichols said she had a gut feeling about Van Duyne the first time she interviewed.

Those who voted for Van Duyne—President Brooke Nichols, Todd Hanson, Patricia Eary, Matt Shoffner, and Joe Marckini—all had good things to say about Cairy, but seemed to feel that Van Duyne had the skills to move the district forward.

Shoffner remarked that he felt the two of them working together—Van Duyne a global thinker and Cairy a detailed thinker—would make a good team.

After the official vote, the silence in the room was deafening. Trustee Shannon VanderHyde dissolved into tears.

Some members approached the board and thanked them for their work, while others left the room or talked quietly among themselves.

A committee will work on contract negotiations with Van Duyne, and then bring that back to the board for approval.

 

 

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