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Change direction of school district by voting Nov. 8

Change direction of school district by voting Nov. 8

As we approach this upcoming November 8th election for Cedar Springs School board, I encourage everyone to learn about the current state in our district and the candidates running for two open board seats.

Our district’s integrity and our commitment to our children’s education, the teachers and each other matters.  We have endured much change over the last two years, some of it positive and some of it destructive. This is our home; it is where we chose to raise our children. This is something we all have in common.

The divide in our community is heart wrenching to experience. I have tried to seek information and understanding on the actions of our new leadership and Board of Education. Instead of conversation and communication, we are met with resistance and disregard. Walls have been built instead of bridges.

November 8 gives us the opportunity to change the trajectory. Who we vote into these seats matters. The board must be involved and active in building relationships, being strong stewards of our district, our budget and our success. They need to be brave, engaged and thoughtful members that are not afraid to challenge, negotiate and lead. Healthy debate is good and necessary. Accountability with checks and balances is critical. Our leadership needs to practice these qualities.

Ted Sabinas and Mistie Bowser are two candidates with a passion for getting involved and building us back to the education powerhouse we were.

Ted has rich experience from being a teacher and coach in our district for over 30 years. He is known as a balanced, smart, intuitive leader who is not afraid to work through the tough issues with grace, respect and accountability.

Mistie is a passionate mother who is centered on our kids and the well-rounded education and life experiences they get here. She is committed to tackling the tough challenges ahead and celebrating the successes. She has a proven commitment to serving our community.

I trust both of them and hope you will, too. Please join me in getting to know Ted and Mistie. On November 8, I hope they can count on your YES vote.

Laura Davis, Algoma Township

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School board approves deputy on campus


By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education showed Monday evening that school security is high on their priority list, when they approved a partnership with the Kent County Sheriff Department to have a School Resource Officer on campus (SRO) 40 hours a week for the upcoming school year.

Building relationships with students to prevent problems and increasing campus security are just two of the things that a SRO would do. Sgt. Jason Kelley noted that there had been 168 calls on school property since the beginning of 2015. “These are reactive—someone called us. We could lower that number and intervene before something happens,” he explained.

Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn reminded everyone that there are 4,000-plus people on campus every day, when you include students, staff, and parent volunteers.

“Security has been on everyone’s mind, especially with recent developments,” said trustee Joe Marckini.

The Kent County Sheriff Department offered to fund 30 percent of the program.

The outstanding cost to the district would be approximately $76,000, after the Sheriff Department’s contribution. The cost would cover wages and benefits for 40 hours per week for the deputy; all standard issued deputy equipment; a Kent County Sheriff car, fully equipped, fueled and maintained; and all police training and supervision.

VanDuyn explained that because of a layoff at the high school of a security officer, the net cost would be about $40,000 to the district for the program.

Marckini wanted to make clear that them hiring the SRO is not why the security officer was being laid off.

“No,” said VanDuyn. “We’ve had bomb threats and intruders on campus this year. This is a very difficult decision. We are looking at our emergency plan. We have worked hard, but we can’t have everything in our budget. We are moving toward a whole new model,” she explained.

The SRO will be based at the high school, but visit other buildings. Cedar Springs Middle School, located on 16 Mile, will keep their security officer.

The school and the Sheriff Department will work together on the process of choosing the deputy. The Sheriff Department will accept letters of interest from deputies, then narrow the field down to those they think might be a good fit for the district. School representatives will then interview the deputies, and forward their decision to the Sheriff Department for final approval.

There are currently six schools actively involved in the program, each with their own officer—Northview, Kenowa Hills, Kent City, Forest Hills, Lowell, and Byron Center. Caledonia also just approved joining the program.

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School board bits

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education met again on Monday, March 28. The meeting started with the board adding an agenda item to read a board statement, which was passed. Trustee Michelle Bayink asked to add an agenda item for discussion on comments from the last meeting, but it was not seconded, and died for lack of support.
Several people read letters or made comments to the board.
Bruce Marvel, an educator in another district, whose children attend Cedar Springs, asked the board, What are you? He noted Board president Eary’s statement about them only having one employee, and then asked why the contracts begin with the words “The Board of Education of Cedar Springs Public Schools and ____ enter into a contract”? He also asked if the board only has one employee, why did they tell the staff in the October 12 meeting, “if you don’t like it, you can take you services elsewhere”? (See an edited version of his letter on page 5)
Jan Wallace, a former member of the Board of Ed for 12 years, and said they were always transparent and accountable to the community. She noted the difficulties they overcame (a failed BOE recall, teacher’s strike, major budget issues) and how they healed with the support of the entire community and staff. She questioned Board president Patricia Eary’s statement about them only having one employee—the superintendent; and took issue with her previous statement about it not being an “open, public meeting…we are here to do the work of the board.” Wallace said the pubic is an important part of that work and has a right to speak. (See an edited version of her letter on page 5)
Tammie Drake, a school of choice mom, also spoke about communication has dissipated in the district. She said the board and superintendent are expected to listen, be curious, and act when needed. She said that we once were leaders and now people are asking what’s going on in Cedar Springs. (See her edited letter on page 6)
Teacher Libby Metiva also spoke. She asked that the board honor the request by trustee Michelle Bayink to address concerns by the community. She also asked who are the good ol’ boys? She said that term has been used in conversations in the community, and she wondered if the board might be allowing personal feelings or prejudices regarding good ol’ boys to influence their decisions as a governing body. She also tried to explain that the issue they are currently facing is not about the inability to embrace change. She listed several ways that the staff has changed over the last several  years. Metiva noted teachers with 30-plus years experience speaking out because they are concerned. “Clearly our community is dysfunctional and divided,” she said. “What is stopping you from digging deeper? Aren’t our children worth it?”
Jamie Zywycki spoke and asked the board members to remember that they are trustees for the students.
First grade teacher Karen Gebhardt, who is in her 30th year of teaching, also spoke. She talked about the anti-bullying program “be nice” and importance of treating people with respect. “While we’ve expected our students to abide by this, with the administration and teachers it’s been harder,” she said. “The days of intimidation are over. It used to be that way at Cedar Trails but it’s not anymore.”
Many have questioned Board president Eary’s statement that they only have one employee—the superintendent. And while they may give the Superintendent the authority to hire and fire, according to the Michigan Association of School Boards website, under powers and duties of the local school board, it says that specific provisions in the revised school code assigns the board responsibilities such as employing a superintendent, other administrators, teachers, and support staff personnel. That job is seen each meeting when the board votes on the consent agenda to approve new hires or release employees.
For more on school board responsibility visit https://www.masb.org/your-local-school-board.aspx.

Cedar Springs Board meeting statement

The board read a statement during the meeting. “Let me first begin by thanking all of you for being present this evening as a part of this school board meeting. We recognize the interest in education by our community members, and value the opportunity to gather, listen to one another and consider the affirmations, questions and concerns of the community as part of our service as the Cedar Springs Public Schools board members.
As we have encountered change during the course of the year, we have heard affirmations, questions and concerns. We are proud that our community cares a great deal about the quality of education available for all our children. The Cedar Springs Board of Education cares a great deal as well. We are committed to proved an education of excellence for the children in the community.
The board is working with the Superintendent to ensure that wwe are in line with educational best practices and operations across our district. We are committed to being data driven in our decision making, as we continually serve our students and inform our community. We are committed to civility and respect, especially when there is a difference of opinion. These are the values we must uphold and model for all in our district, including our students.
We also stand committed to holding individuals accountable to work with integrity in their positions. Whether an individual is the Superintendent, a teacher in the classroom, a coach or a support staff member, we have high expectations and we expect excellence in all that we do. Valuing high expectations for ourselves sets the foundation for the best educational programs for children in our district.
The Cedar Springs Board of Education is listening to the community and is responsive to your concerns. We will continue to be in communication regarding a range of issues in the days ahead. We believe the leadership team shares our commitment and together we are confident that the children of Cedar Springs are going to continue to receive a great education.
The board and district leadership team appreciate the hard work done on a daily basis by staff and teachers in the classroom and on the grounds of the district. Effective teaching and learning is happening, and here are some examples:
*Long time teachers like Larry Reyburn at Cedar Springs High School who has always wanted to teach since his days as an FFA student at CSHS in the late 1960s.
*Becky Powell, who over the past 20 years has provided many hours of college preparation volunteer time with our CSHS students.
*The teachers at Cedar Trails who were recently commended for their implementation of Responsive Classrooms by a national trainer.
*Staff at our Cedar Springs Community Health Center, who support the physical and mental health needs of all students.
*The many other stories of exceptional adacemic success by our students such as Madison Skelonc, a 6th grader honored for scoring in the top 20 percent of the ACT of all college-bound high school students.
*Many excellent contributions in our various co-curricular programs.
*Our many volunteers who continue to partner with Cedar Springs, including parents and grandparents.
We live in a community where our students are learning and accomplishing great things. We live in a community that cares about education and our students. As a board, we are committed to continue this tradition of excellence going forward. Our community partnerships make a difference in our shared commitment to provide a high quality, world class education that ensures success for every child through exemplary teaching and learning.

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Board urged to seek out the truth


A letter read to the Cedar Springs School Board on March 14 during the second public comment section of the meeting. 

Thank you, Mrs. Bayink, for “Speaking” and requesting the board discuss several issues at hand during the next board meeting. I believe I saw a head-nod of support to Mrs. Bayink’s request from Mr. Shoffner. Thank you both for being a voice of acknowledgment.

The Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) specifically notes under their publication titled “Characteristics of an  Effective Board Member” that they show “the willingness to express one’s own opinion and participate in discussions openly and honestly while encouraging and respecting the free expression of opinion by colleagues. “

Under the MASB’s publication titled School Board Members Job Description, the header and two of the six items read, “In addition to duties enumerated in the Michigan School Code, good governance imposes the following responsibilities on the board: 2. The board connects with the community; 6. The board takes responsibility for itself.

The educators and community members who are happy with the current procedures, decisions, and trends are certainly entitled to their opinions and should be treated respectfully. But don’t those that have questions and concerns also deserve to be equally heard, considered, and respected?

Mr. Sabinas read a section of the MASB “Your Local School Board” under “How do School Boards Make Decisions.” It reads, “When making decisions, school boards seek the advice and counsel of the district’s administrators, teachers and other employees, as well as input from the community and specialists with knowledge about the topic under consideration.”

Are you willing to follow the MASB’s recommendations?

How is your current strategy of “no response” working?

Do you feel you have provided more transparency and gained a level of trust over the last few months?

What does the continued increase in attendance (standing room only) at board meetings mean to you?

Do you trust, believe, and value the educators who you have known and have served our district for 10, 20, and 30 years when they tell you they are concerned?

While the projected deficit budget presented tonight looks bad…have you considered what it might look like with a significant exit of students from our district next year?

Please allow yourselves to opening and honestly discuss the questions and issues brought before you at the next workshop meeting.

Please follow the MASB’s recommended practices of seeking out the truth.

I believe the Open Meetings Act and School Policies do give you the right and I hope you believe there is a need to discuss the issues before you and most importantly look for collaborative solutions. Thank you very much.

Susan Wolfe, CSPS District 

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Teacher concerned about changes in school district


Dear Members of the School Board,

I would like to voice my concerns regarding the changing culture in our school district. I’ve heard the many remarks that all of these things that are happening and problems we are facing are because people are resistant to change. I strongly disagree. I have taught here for 39 years, worked under seven superintendents, and I have seen a lot of change. I haven’t always agreed with the decisions that were made. Conflicts sometimes occurred. We had a divisive teacher strike. We suffered a disastrous budget deficit when all bussing was eliminated. There was a year when all specials were cut. But through all of these challenges and difficult times, honesty and respect remained between the teachers, the school board, and the superintendent.

Never did I experience the finger pointing, dishonesty, and disrespect that is currently permeating our school district. How does this type of culture help our students?

We have lost some of the most outstanding educators I have ever met. These include Steve Seward, Jennifer Harper, Dave Cairy, and Autumn Matson. These leaders inspired me to grow and change in my teaching. I am so lucky to be in a profession that I love and to have had the support of so many brilliant educators. Frequently we had teachers from other districts visit our schools to observe our many innovative programs that were initiated by Steve Seward.

Sadly, these leaders are gone. What is even more troubling is the blaming and slandering of these exemplary people. For so many years, these people gave their heart and soul to help our students, and this is how they are treated?

We will continue to lose the best educators in our district to other schools where their work is valued and respected. I miss these people deeply. I miss their enthusiasm. I miss their words of wisdom and encouragement. In teaching, you need this. This makes you better. When you positively impact teachers, you impact students. If you think these vacancies won’t affect our students, you are wrong. They already have.

This is not positive change. Sometimes change can be destructive. We have worked so hard for so many years to be an exemplary school district. Our students deserve nothing less.


Mary Graf, teacher

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What’s happening to our school board?


To the Cedar Springs Community,

I am a concerned parent and community member. At Cedar Springs Public Schools, we prided ourselves on evolving our school district into one of the best in Kent County. The pillars of success that we are known for include Cognitive coaching, Adaptive schools and Professional Learning Communities dedicated to ensuring our teachers and administrators are trained and proficient in delivering and enhancing our children’s learning. Our children’s education was our number one priority. But the state of our district has changed and there are behaviors and patterns that cause concern for our future.

According to the Center for Public education, the school board is supposed to serve their communities in several important ways:

  • First and foremost look out for students.
  • When making decisions about school programs, incorporate their community’s view of what students should know and be able to do.
  • Be accessible to the public and accountable for the performance of their schools.
  • Ensure that students get the best education for the tax dollars spent.

It is increasingly apparent that our leadership is acting in their best interests and beliefs vs. the community’s.  Parents, teachers and administrators have brought forward example after example—written and verbally—of concerns, mismanagement and actions not in alignment with the excellence we have achieved and come to expect in Cedar Springs. The board has not demonstrated the behaviors expected of a board:  willingness to listening, understanding the issues fully, and then acting on behalf of our children and community and what is best for their academic success. They have gone to great lengths to defend and protect their direction and new leadership, despite the feedback they are hearing. Discussion at board meetings has been misrepresented in the published minutes; they have sent numerous signals through behavior and words that our concerns don’t matter; there has been no communication on the academic strategy of our district; and they have undervalued our teaching staff. When is enough, enough?

Three of our top performing administrators have left in the last nine months—Steve Seward, Jennifer Harper and now Dave Cairy. Why?

Our focus and resources dedicated to the cognitive coaching discipline have been cut by four positions in the last year, while the data shows the overwhelming impact and value it has given to our teaching staff and student outcomes. Why?

These are just a few of the big questions. We need parents to be aware, ask questions, be informed on what is going on and help to hold the board and our superintendent accountable. Form your own opinions.

We have worked way too hard as a district to come this far and allow it to slip away. Come to the board meetings, be curious and let your voice be heard.

Laura Davis, Algoma Township  

Post Scripts Notice: The Cedar Springs Post welcomes letters of up to 350 words. The subject should be relevant to local readers, and the editor reserves the right to reject letters or edit for clarity, length, good taste, accuracy, and liability concerns. All submissions MUST be accompanied by full name, mailing address and daytime phone number. We use this information to verify the letter’s authenticity. We do not print anonymous letters, or acknowledge letters we do not use. Writers are limited to one letter per month. Email to news@cedarspringspost.com, or send to PostScripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

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School Board Recognition Month

CSPS-2015 Board of EdJanuary 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.

School board members are regular citizens, like you and me,  that have an extraordinary commitment to the children of our community.

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 by always keeping children as the center of their work and decision making.

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-10 Years of Service

Joe Marckini-7 Years of Service

Jeff Gust -4 Years of Service

Matthew Shoffner -4 Years of Service

Shannon Vanderhyde- 4 Years of Service

Patricia Eary -2 Years of Service

Michelle Bayink-First Year of Service

Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.Superintendent, Cedar Springs Public Schools


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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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