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School Board Recognition Month

January is School Board Recognition Month – an opportunity for us to celebrate the great things happening in our schools and the dedicated volunteer school board members that serve the Cedar Springs community.

With dwindling resources our school board members face some of the toughest challenges of any elected officials.  School board members are regular citizens, like you and me that have an extraordinary commitment to the children of our community.

Thomas Jefferson recognized the importance of a quality education as a cornerstone of our democratic society.  “Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.”

Today, our school board members are entrusted with the important work of shaping the education of our youngest citizens.  They dedicate countless hours to creating the mission, vision and goals that drive our schools.  They are dedicated to creating a school culture where collaboration and continuous learning are valued and displayed throughout our system.  The seven members of the Cedar Springs Board of Education do this work by always keeping children as the center of their work and decision making.

It is easy for us to forget the sacrifices our Board members make every day in dedication to this work.  In addition to the hours of meetings, board members take time to prepare for each meeting; they serve on numerous community boards and committees, attend countless community functions and pursue ongoing professional development so that they may keep abreast of the latest issues facing our schools.

Please join me in saluting the men and women who serve as members of the Cedar Springs Board of Education. Take a moment to express your gratitude for this important service to our community.

Brook Nichols 9 Years of Service

Joe Marckini 6 Years of Service

Todd Hanson 4 Years of Service

Jeff Gust 3 Years of Service

Matthew Shoffner 3 Years of Service

Shannon Vanderhyde 3 Years of Service

Patricia Eary 1 Year of Service


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Ron McDermed, Cedar Springs Superintendent


The month of January was designated School Board Appreciation Month. It is a great time for our community to show appreciation and understand how local Board work together to prepare our students to be tomorrow’s leaders.   School Board members establish a vision of our educational programs, they design a structure to achieve that vision, and ensure schools are accountable to the community.  They are strong advocates for continuous improvement in student learning. The job is tough, the hours are long and the thanks are few and far between.   Now is the time to thank them for their untiring efforts.  Thank you Brook Nichols – President, Joe Marckini – Vice President, Matthew Shoffner – Treasurer, Todd Hanson – Secretary, Patricia Eary – Trustee, Jeff Gust – Trustee, Shannon Vanderhyde – Trustee.

School board members are ordinary citizens with extraordinary dedication to Cedar Springs Public Schools.  Thank you Cedar Springs Board of Education members.  We appreciate all they do!

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School board bits

School to seek sinking fund millage for repairs
The Cedar Springs Board of Education voted Monday evening, December 12, to hold a special election on February 28, 2012, to seek a one-mill “sinking fund” to help finance repairs, renovations, and remodeling.
The school has been forced to cut millions of dollars in expenses the last few years, due to cutbacks in funding from the state of Michigan, which means  some repairs have been put on hold.
One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value of property. If the taxable value is $50,000, the cost would be $50 for the property owner. The millage would last 10 years and then cease.
“We’ve tried to maintain the buildings and roads the best we can, but there are things that need to be done,” said Asst. Superintendent David Cairy.
Road repair is one of the items that a parent group came up with. “We have a lot of miles of road on the campus,” noted Cairy. Other items include replacing boilers in the old buildings, improving parking at Cedar Trails, improving safety and security at building entrances, eventually replacing the turf on the football field, and other items.
Cairy emphasized this millage would not be for new construction, just repairs. “We are at a point (financially) where we really need it,” he said.
The school had put this proposal on the ballot last year but it was defeated. They decided to try again because they need the money, and because they said many parents had contacted them and said they didn’t know about it last year when the election was held.
Board votes no on OK conference realignment
The Cedar Springs Board of Education unanimously voted NO Monday evening on the realignment proposal from the OK Conference. Under the plan being proposed, Cedar Springs would be part of a new division—the OK Bronze—made up of six teams—Cedar, Forest Hills Northern, West Catholic, Greenville, Northview, and Forest Hills Eastern. They would play non-conference games in weeks one and two, crossover games with the Green and Gold in weeks three and four, and conference games in weeks five through nine.
“We are in a 8-team conference that has worked well for us,” said Suprintendent Ron McDermed. “Some teams are quite aways away.”
Principal Ron Behrenwald agreed. “It’s more transportation costs, more time on the buses. From a student standpoint, it’s not the best option,” he said.
School districts across the area are also voting on the proposal. Athletic Supervisor Autumn Mattson said that there is some talk that the proposal may not pass by the 2/3 vote needed, and that they would know for sure on Monday after the last two districts vote. She said it’s unknown whether they would leave things the way they are if it’s defeated, or go back to the drawing board. “It’s never happened before,” she said.

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School board election May 3

Residents in the Cedar Springs Public Schools district will vote on Tuesday, May 3, to fill two board positions and vote on whether to accept a one-mill sinking fund levy to help fund maintenance of school buildings and grounds. The sinking fund would last 10 years, and cost a homeowner with a $100,000 property value $50 per year. It is a pay as you go plan, and there would be no finance charges or interest. School officials say that with proposed cuts in the state budget and increased costs, they are looking at a $2.4 million in cuts, and that without additional funding to support infrastructure, they will be forced to cut programs for kids. For a flyer on the issue, click link: Sinking Fund Flyer.
There are three candidates running for two positions on the Cedar Springs Board of Education. Running are two incumbents—Joe Marckini and Jeff Gust—and newcomer Mistie Bowser.

Joe Marckini

Joe Marckini, a journeyman sheet worker, has lived in the district 15 years. He is currently board president. He has also served as vice-president, treasurer and trustee. He has served as the board’s legislative liaison and a member of the National School Board Association (NSBA) Federal Relation Network (FRN).  He has earned through the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) a level one certification, award of merit, award of distinction, and an advocacy skill specialty award.
“I am seeking another term because I believe in providing all our students with a 21st century educational experience and look forward to working with our community to make this happen,” said Marckini. He noted that Cedar Springs Public Schools is a unique district, one that is collaborative and totally focused on student achievement.
Marckini said there were two major issues facing the district. “One is funding and the other is the new Nationwide Common Core Standards. I will continue to advocate on behalf of our district for full funding of both state and federal mandates. Although I commend our nation’s attention to educational issues (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)), I will continue to advocate the educating of the whole child when it comes to the implementation of the Nationwide Common Core Standards,” he explained.
Marckini said that he is not against sharing services or administrators with other districts to contain costs as long as it did not harm the district. “Our district is currently sharing services with Sparta and Kent ISD to save money. We are also moving forward with our neighboring districts in developing other possible shared services,” he said.

Jeff Gust

Jeff Gust, owner of Gust Construction, has lived in the district 43 years. He has served on the board for 16 months, and has owned or operated his own local business for 20 plus years. He has also coached in the school district for over 12 years.
Gust said he is seeking another term for several reasons. “I have three children who are currently attending CSHS or have graduated from CSHS, my wife is employed at the HS, and I wanted to have a say in the quality of their education and workplace,” he noted.
Gust said the major issue facing the district is funding from the state and federal governments. “We are on a very tight budget and it seems to be getting tighter every year. I think it is our job to ensure that the cuts we make are in the best interest of our students. We have an excellent teaching staff and support staff, along with administrators that all care about our students. We have been working with each of these groups on trying to make the right cuts that are in the students best interest,” he explained.  “We are currently asking for a sinking fund millage to be passed by our community that would be used for repairs to roads and energy upgrades, etc.  If the community sees fit to honor us by passing this bond we would have the duty to be good stewards of the money and spend it as wisely as we can.  I would like to be a part of that process.”
Gust noted that he is not against sharing services or administrators with other districts. “I am all for it if we can save money by doing it and provide the same or better services to our community and students. We would need to do this carefully as to not burn our employees out with the added responsibilities,” he said.

Mistie Bowser

Mistie Bowser has lived in the Cedar Springs district for 10 years. She currently is unemployed, but her previous job was as an account executive in business sales. She said she has at least 10 years of experience in participating on boards or committees. She was on the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kent County board, with the last 8 years holding the positions of Vice President and President. She also served on the Michigan Public Policy Committee that successfully got the blood alcohol content level of .08 passed, and is currently the spokesperson for this side of the state for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Bowser said she decided to run for the Cedar Springs School Board because she wants to ensure her four children get the best education possible. “I look forward to listening to my friends, neighbors and people in the community and sharing their ideas or opinions with the board so an educated decision can be given,” she said.
Bowser sees budget issues and class sizes as two major issues facing the district. “A couple of issues that I’m seeing is the obvious budget cuts and it seems that our students are the ones paying and I find it disheartening. I’m irritated by the size of classes that my kids are in and I feel that this is hindering our children. We need smaller class sizes,” she noted.
Bowser said she would have to research sharing services and administrators with other districts before giving an opinion.
Voters should vote at the city or township polling place where they usually vote. Polls normally open at 7 a.m. Call your local government agency for more information.

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Don’t forget to vote for school board May 4

By Judy Reed

Residents of the Cedar Springs Public Schools District will head to the polls on Tuesday, May 4, to vote on who will fill several open seats. Four candidates are running for two four-year terms and a one-year partial term. The two four-year seats currently belong to long-time trustees Carolee Cole and Norton Johnson, who will not be running again. The one-year seat is currently held by Jeff Gust, who was appointed when Pamela Conley resigned earlier this year. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Jeff Gust

Jeff Gust, 42, is running for the one year term. He was born and raised in Cedar Springs, and he and his wife, Barb, have three children: Jason, 18, Brooke, 17, and Jacob, 14. All attend Cedar Springs Public Schools. He is president and owner of Gust Construction in Cedar Springs. He has a degree in Construction Mgt. from Ferris State University. He has been athletics booster treasurer for the last three years, and served on the board of education for the last three months.

Why are you running for school board?

“Since being appointed to the vacant seat in March, I have enjoyed and learned so much. I would like to continue to serve on the board and see some of the tough issues we have been dealing with completed,” he said.

What is the main strength you bring to the board of education?

Jeff said he thinks the main strength he brings to the board would be his strong background in business dealing with many of the same issues facing the school district.

What do you see as the major challenge facing education in Cedar Springs and how would you address this challenge?

Jeff said the major challenge is working with the state to provide a better way of funding public schools, and balancing their budget in a way that is  in the best interest of the students.

Donna Cotton

Donna Cotton, 41, is running for one of the four-year terms. She has been married to Rick Cotton since 1988, and has five children and one grandchild. She graduated from Cedar Springs in 1987, and her two oldest children graduated in 2008 and 2009. After being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, she attended Davenport University and graduated in 2003 with an accounting degree. She currently works for Michigan Family Resources (Head Start), and with her husband owns Stripe It Parking Lot Line Striping & Seal Coating.

Why are you running for school board?

“I have always tried to volunteer for the school district when possible. I am running for school board because I am interested in helping the community. This community helps make me the person I am today, and I feel this is a great opportunity for me to give back to them.”

What is the main strength you bring to the board of education?

“I feel being a mother and small business owner I have to juggle a lot of different responsibilities, and I feel that the experience I have received from this would be a strength I could bring with me to problem solving,” she said.

What do you see as the major challenge facing education in Cedar Springs and how would you address this challenge?

“The thing that comes to mind is budget cuts that we’ve had to deal with,” said Cotton. “Times are hard on everyone right now in one way or another. I feel we need to sit back and look at the picture as if it’s not the big problems, but maybe if a lot of little things could change it would help the big problems work out.”

Shannon Vanderhyde

Shannon Vanderhyde, 32, is running for one of the four-year seats. She grew up in the Rockford area, and says she has always loved this area. She substitute taught in Cedar Springs schools many times and was impressed with the school district. “My husband and I bought our house here one week before we were married. We have been living here for 7 years now, and we still love it,” she said. Vanderhyde worked as a teacher for 3 years before deciding to stay at home with her three children. She currently has a daughter in Kindergarten and a daughter in 4 year old preschool at Cedar Trails, and has worked with the Cedar Trails PTO. She works at the Cedar Springs Public Library and likes working with the public. She is the Youth Services Coordinator there, and is responsible for the storytimes.

Why are you running for school board?

“My primary reason for running for the Cedar Springs Board of Education is that I want to be involved in the distribution of the little money we are getting from the state. It is very easy for me to sit at home and complain about the way things are run and decisions that are made, but I think it is important to act, rather than complain.  It’s time for me to start being involved,” she said.

What is the main strength you bring to the board of education?

“I think that the main strength I bring to the board would be my open mind and varied background,” said Vanderhyde. “I have been a teacher, my parents are teachers, and my husband is a teacher. I have relatives who are on school boards. We have family friends who are in administration. I can see problems and issues from most perspectives and am able to think logically about things.”

What do you see as the major challenge facing education in Cedar Springs and how would you address this challenge?

“I think it is obvious that the main challenge of the Cedar Springs district is the lack of funding coming in from Lansing. We can ask for more, go to Lansing and argue for more, form committees to solve the problem, but we need to focus our efforts here and try to work with the money we have.” She also thinks they need to refocus on early childhood programs. “We have wonderful teachers, support staff, and administration at Cedar Trails; however, from year to year the program changes. This is frustrating not only to the parents who have had children in the program, but also the teachers..I would like to focus on creating an early education program that is not only wonderful, but also consistent.”

Matthew Shoffner of Rockford, is running for one of the four-year seats, but did not respond to our questions.

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