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Tag Archive | "Sue Wolfe"



N-Sunshine-logoResidents, teachers want answers from school board; others supportive of changes

By Judy Reed

“Why have four administrators left since Dr. Laura VanDuyn was hired as Superintendent two years ago? Why has the culture at Cedar Springs Public Schools changed?” Those are the questions that many residents and school employees are asking the Cedar Springs Board of Education, while many other residents and school employees say they are supportive of the changes.

The Board of Education heard both kinds of comments from a cross-section of residents and employees at Monday night’s standing-room only board meeting. Overflowing attendance has become the norm recently, as people on both sides of the issue yearn to have their voice heard.

The administrators in question have all resigned: assistant superintendent of teaching and instruction Steve Seward in fall of 2014; Cedar Trails principal Jennifer Harper, early 2015; associate superintendent of finance David Cairy, fall 2015; and most recently, athletic director Autumn Mattson, in February, 2016. Her assistant AD Tyler Wolfe resigned in December.

Of those that resigned, Harper was given a salary per her separation agreement, and was not allowed to talk about why she left. That led some people to speculate she was forced out. The Post talked to Dr. VanDuyn about it at the time, and told us it was an ongoing personnel matter. “We can’t reveal the nature because it is a personnel matter. But I think it’s important to say that it’s not a matter that has to do with criminal conduct or the safety of students.”

Van Duyn said Harper was put on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. “We have clearly followed our district’s legal counsel in the matter,” she said.

At Monday evening’s meeting, teacher Sarah Holtrop spoke in support of the superintendent. “I’ve served under five different superintendents and five different principals,” she said. “I don’t feel it’s fair to blame Dr. VanDuyn for the resignations of four administrators. They could have chosen to accept her as superintendent. Personally I have found Dr. VanDuyn to be compassionate and caring.”

Teacher Lisa Schmidt also offered support, noting that change is difficult, and that Dr. VanDuyn is well-liked by many staff members in the district.

Resident Sam Gebhardt also offered his support to the superintendent and the board. “I graduated from here, raised my family here. I like the direction we are going right now. You hear a lot of negative comments, but a lot of people like it, too,” he said.

Former teacher and coach Ted Sabinas, who taught for 34 years and coached for 37, asked the board to look into why so many teachers and administrators are fearful for their jobs if they speak up or question how the district is being run.

Longtime teacher Mary Graf—a 39-year veteran—gave an impassioned speech to the board about her concerns with the changing culture in the district. She said she had heard remarks that the problems they are facing are because people are resistant to change, but she strongly disagreed. Graf noted that she had seen a lot of change over the years and hadn’t always agreed with it, but one thing remained constant, until now. “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?” she asked. (Read her entire letter on here).

Teacher Josh Cooper spoke on behalf of the teachers at the High School, and showed support for their administrators, Principals Ron Behrenwald and Anne Kostus, and said they were deeply saddened at the loss of former Dean of Students and Athletic Director Autumn Mattson. He also talked about all the good things happening at the high school.

Resident Lee Mora asked the board when they were going to address Mattson’s appeal to the board for an exit interview. She had asked initially for an exit interview with the board of education, and since that is routinely done with human resources, was told by HR she could have an exit interview with them, but not with the board. She declined and appealed to the board. As of Wednesday, Mattson said she had not received a response from the board.

Mora asked the board why they wouldn’t want to gather all information possible from an administrator who had served there 14 years. Board president Patricia Eary told Mora that their legal counsel had said exit interviews were not to be done by the board, because they have only one employee—the superintendent.  (Read Mora’s letter on here).

Board trustee Michelle Bayink asked if they could possibly discuss some of these issues at the next board workshop, but Eary said she thought the agenda for that workshop was already set. Resident Sue Wolfe told the board she hoped they would discuss some of these concerns.

The Post contacted Board president Patricia Eary this week, and asked her whether the board was planning to address these concerns, whether at the next workshop, or through some other means, such as round table discussion with the board, superintendent, representatives of buildings, and the community. We also asked whether they would be responding to Mattson’s appeal; whether they wanted to know why these people left; and what did they think was the best way to restore unity in the district?

“The board employs one person and that is the superintendent,” said Eary. “The only exit interview the board would conduct would be with our one employee. In regard to the exit interviews for all staff members except for the superintendent, there is no right granted to anyone to have an exit interview in this state. Our school district does offer exit interviews and they are conducted by the Human Resource Department. The offer was made to Mrs. Mattson to have an exit interview with the HR Department.”

Eary offered a general response for the other questions.

“The Board of Education is committed to providing an excellent education for every child in the district. The Board of Education is committed to high expectations for excellence in all we do as a district. We hold ourselves and all others accountable and expect every person to work with integrity in all positions, whether the position be superintendent, teacher, administrator, support staff or coach.

“The Board is listening to the community and is responsive to their concerns and will continue to be in communication with the community in the days and weeks ahead.

“We believe our leadership team shares our commitment to our students and staff. Together we are confident the children and families are going to receive a great education at our district.

“The Board of Education would like to express our deep appreciation for the outstanding and dedicated staff. The teachers, administrators and support staff work very hard to provide a high quality education for our students. They do so during a time when education and expectations to meet high standards is continually changing. We are proud of our staff members.

“Finally, we would like to thank the many volunteers, parents and community members who continue to partner with us to serve the many students of Cedar Springs. We appreciate all who shared with us their concerns, suggestions and affirmations over the last several months.”

See several letters to the editor about this issue here.

Tell us—how do you feel about this? How do you think unity should be restored? Send your letters to the editor to us at news@cedarspringspost.com, and follow the guidelines (including word limit) on our Voices and Views page.

NEXT WEEK: Long range financial outlook—could district be headed into the red?



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Cedar Springs now home of an Ironman


By: Sue Wolfe 

You can probably recall a handful of moments when you are in complete awe of something you witnessed or a person who held you in wonder and amazement. My husband Tim and I were recently privileged to such an occasion.

Sunday, November 17 was the date and Tempe, Arizona the location. It all began at 6:30 a.m. as the Cedar Springs resident, Chris Mabie, prepared to enter the 65-degree water of Tempe Town Lake as the first leg of the grueling Ironman competition. This 140.6 mile (a comparable distance from Cedar Springs to Northern Detroit) triathlon is considered the ultimate challenge of body, mind, and spirit.

The past 12 months have required Mabie, a wife, mother, and grandmother, to spend 4–5 hours a day 6 days a week in extensive training. At first glance, this attractive 5-foot 3-inch, 112-pound lady may not appear capable of such an extreme feat. However, the passing of her father, Jim Swanlund, in 2012 inspired Chris to bring awareness to Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). Jim was a warrior during his two-year battle with LBD. The disease is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, causing a progressive decline in mental abilities and ultimately death. To date, over $3,000 has been raised through Chris’s race. You can learn more about the LBD by visiting www.FirstGiving.com/fundraiser/ChristinaMabie/IronmanArizona or you can send a check directly to Chris Mabie and she will forward it to the fund.

Competitors must meet the individual event cut-off times and ultimately complete the race within 17 hours from the official start. Only 3,000 entrees were allowed at the Arizona Ironman with all slots being filled within 40 seconds after it opened online, one year prior to the race date. Other entry requirements include work experience at an Ironman event. This year’s Arizona race included athletes from 36 countries and every state in our nation. One lady completed her 51st Ironman event while another man in his 80’s joined the race.

The race day gun fired at 6:50 a.m. for the approximate 30 professional level triathletes and the remaining 2,707 started at 7 a.m. after entering the water in preparation for the 2.4-mile swim. This is always the most dangerous scene as swimmers spar for space and air. The black wetsuits with arms completing circular movements in the water reminded me of a massive school of flying fish. Chris described the swim as “brutal.” She finished this first leg in 1 hour, 22 minutes, and 17 seconds landing her in 24th position within her rank (females 50-54).

Upon exiting the water, she quickly entered a tent to remove the wet suit and jump into appropriate clothing for the next leg.

With the clock ticking, athletes must find their bike, helmet, fluids, and food for next several hours. Chris knew she must consume about 300 calories an hour along with adequate water to keep her body expelling the level of energy required.

As her husband Tim, mom, mother-in-law, sisters and their families, along with Tim and I, stood waiting at the bike shoot to shout a few encouraging words, Chris found us and started shouting “Hi!” with a big smile on her face, waved, and then picked up her speed. I felt exhausted just from watching her swim! Chris on the other hand looked alive and excited for her upcoming 112-mile bike adventure through the Sonoran Desert. Mabie Fans positioned themselves at various spots for a quick glimpse of Chris along the limited viewing areas of the bike trail. She finished this leg in 6 hours, 6 minutes,, and 13 seconds at an average speed of 18.35/miles per hour which moved her up to finishing that leg in 19th within her rank.

The third and final leg mandates a full marathon or 26.2 miles on foot! Yes, a full marathon! Just try to imagine this after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles! The same transition site was used for the swim to bike also allows for the bike to be parked, shoes changed, and a starting point for the run.

Chris was given encouragement from short spurts of communication with her hubby and family along with posters made by friends from back home held up for Chris to see. The race was broadcast live online allowing friends and family to follow Chris every step of the way and to include a full visual view at the finish line.

Wearing #1219, Chris continued to look strong and confident when we were gifted with her smile during the run. Her husband, Tim, ran alongside her for a few minutes to hear her say, “Doing great and will be ready for dinner at 8!” The almost perfect weather conditions, of 79 degrees, sun, and a slight wind factor, were definitely in the competitor’s favor. (If there is such a thing as “favor” in something like this?)

Temperatures did drop as the sun went down and the excitement of another “Chris sighting” held us captive. We all knew she was doing better than her estimated times. And then, out of the darkness and around the last bend, we saw our “Cedar Springs Wonder Woman” rounding the 25-mile marker. She had been averaging a running speed of 9.47 minute miles. She finished the footrace in 4 hours, 16 minutes, and 33 seconds. She had finished this Ironman under 12 hours or to be exact … 11 hours 59 minutes, and 18 seconds. She finished 11th in her rank of 89, 162 of the 745 women in the race, and 862 of the 2,707 total women and men triathletes.

Impressive to say the least! With her father’s legacy in her heart and surrounded by her family, Chris finished the race standing strong and beaming with joy. I stood there looking at her in total amazement wondering, “How in the world did she do this?” She gave out hugs to all her supporters and then asked, “Want to go get a burger and drink?” I am thinking to myself, shouldn’t she go back to her room, lay down for few minutes, and just rest? But no, we gladly followed her and heard some funny stories of her day.

Ironman Chris Mabie, you are an inspiration and an example of what can be done through hard work, dedication, and believing. Thank you for providing me with what I consider a miraculous occurrence. Your courage is encouraging! You are one of those “Life-Enhancer” as described by Walt Disney. You dared to explore your potential and not be controlled by doubt or fear. You implemented and executed a well-defined plan and succeeded. You allowed yourself to be all that you were intended to be. Yet, through it all you remain humble. Chris Mabie, you are amazing! Congratulations on your new title of Ironman! Does this give Cedar Springs our one and only Ironman?

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