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Tag Archive | "superintendent"

A DISTRICT DIVIDED


 

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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Thrive program to start in Cedar Springs


 

North Kent Community Services is thrilled to announce a new partnership with Cedar Springs Public Schools. Beginning in February, NKCS will offer its successful Thrive Empowerment Program on the Cedar Springs campus, thanks to a generous offer of classroom space from Superintendent Dr. Laura Van Duyn.

“This is an excellent opportunity to help women with children living in Cedar Springs achieve their livable wage and educational goals,” said NKCS Program Director Chérie Elahl.

NKCS launched the Thrive Empowerment program in September 2014. Since then, several women have obtained or are working toward obtaining their high school diplomas, some are furthering their post-secondary education, and others have found better paying jobs.

“One of our participants described Thrive as a family of women,” said Cherie. “Thrive is an opportunity for the group members to work on their goals without the distraction of everyday life and with the support of other women who are in very similar situations. It’s powerful and beautiful to see what happens when our participants start to believe in themselves.”

The program sessions include financial literacy, connections to resources in Kent County, and time to work on goals in a group environment. One of the favorite classes involves mindfulness for parenting; the participants learn how to parent without anger and have a calmer home environment. Thrive is open to all women with children who live in northern Kent County. There are no income guidelines. “Having participants from different walks of life really enriches the group dynamics as well as the Thrive experience,” explains Chérie.

To learn more about the Thrive Empowerment Program, contact Chérie Elahl at cherie.elahl@nkcs.org or at 616-866-3478 ext. 105. The new cohort will begin in February 2016. Make a New Year’s resolution to reach your goals in this life-changing program. Class sizes are limited so call soon!

 

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From the Superintendent’s Desk


Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Dear Cedar Springs Public School Families:

Happy New Year 2016!  We are so happy to have our schools teeming, once again, with our students, staff and families.  It is my hope you enjoyed a restful vacation from school and that you are ready to take on all the excitement this new year brings.

As we know, there will be challenges and celebrations throughout 2016.  Our positive perspective on what is ahead will lead us to continued growth and development at CSPS.  Please join me in embracing each challenge we may face in 2016 as we know it’s how we learn, grow and thrive. We’ll have many celebrations as we work together and witness the greatness our kids and staff will achieve in 2016.  I know we have some seniors already considering a celebration as the magic “2016” is the year they have been waiting for a long time!  Hold off on that seniors…you still have a lot of work to do!

As we kick off 2016 I want to thank a committed group of people who keep this district so strong…our PTO.  I have witnessed the incredible number of hours this group of parents dedicates to all our schools.  I have learned about the countless things they do to raise funds and support our needs and wants. Just to name a few:  they pay for and build playgrounds;  they provide meals and support to our staff during conferences; they ensure Santa Claus and cookies are a part of the fun at Cedar Trails; they organize and run our book fairs and supply our teachers with many books for their classrooms; they host ice cream socials to build community; they supply books for and help run our libraries; they cheer on all our kids as they walk the track for our annual PTO fundraiser.  Our CSPS PTO seeks to serve and they do so with a smile and great cheer knowing that they are building community at Cedar Springs.  Thank you, PTO, and Happy New Year to all of you from all of us at CSPS!

We have many exciting things happening as we enter 2016.  One of which is strategic planning.  If you are interested in providing feedback for that process, please let me know as we would love to have your input.  There are parent and community group meetings to be held in February in order to provide the Board of Education with input to help them establish the vision (where we want to go), mission (why we are doing what we are doing) and core values (how we are going to go about it) of our school distict.  Our CSPS Board of Education values all constituent group feedback and looks forward to setting the vision of the district for future progress for all.

It’s great to be back!  Together, let’s make 2016 the best year ever!

Warmly,

Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

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State of the School District Cedar Springs Public Schools


 

Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Featuring Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn

Please join us to celebrate the fine students, staff, families and community of Cedar Springs Public Schools.  All staff, families and community are encouraged to attend.  Superintendent VanDuyn will provide a report on current and future initiatives of the school district as well as respond to questions from attendees.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Hilltop Community Building
3rd Floor, Board Room
December 10, 2015

6:30pm

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School hires consultant to oversee business office


 

With former associate superintendent Dave Cairy moving on to another job, Cedar Springs Public Schools has hired Donald Sovey, CPA, owner of School and Municipal Advisory Services P.C., to oversee the business office and spearhead the search for a new associate superintendent of business.

Sovey was introduced to the Cedar Springs Board of Education last Monday, November 9, at its regular board meeting. Sovey introduced Tom Tebeau, of T2 Professional Business Services, who will help with some of the accounting and budget amendments that will need to be done. His services will be billed at $100 an hour.

Besides hiring Cairy’s replacement, Sovey plans to do a long-term financial outlook; develop a proactive financial leadership team; make sure staff  are properly trained and keep them trained; establish fiscal sustainability goals; install best business practices for finances and operations; and more.

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From the Superintendent’s Desk


Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D.

Dear Cedar Springs Public Schools Families:

There is nothing more rewarding to me than being a servant leader – here to serve students, staff, parents and this great community.  To that end, I am pleased to share that we, the CSPS educators and support staff, focus our work each day on serving our nearly 3500 students.

The very heart and soul of our work and desire to serve is teaching and learning.  Although I am in school buildings all the time, the last 3 weeks provided an extra special time at our schools as we conducted “instructional rounds.”  Our district office administrators collaborate with building administrators, teachers and instructional coaches to visit classrooms and observe excellent teaching and learning.

Instructional rounds are explained by educational researcher Robert J. Marzano as “…the most valuable tools that a school or district can use to enhance teachers’ pedagogical skills and develop a culture of collaboration.”  We, at CSPS, couldn’t agree more!

I can share with certainty that our fine educators value the instructional rounds as we collaborate around focused data collection, dialogue and self-reflection.  That leads our staffs to setting goals for continued student success.

It has been an absolute joy to be in each of the classrooms we visited.  Our teachers teach with clear intention, consistency in standards and solid strategies to engage students.  Our students are actively engaged in learning and collaboration as they demonstrate skills and concepts they are learning.  Teachers and students alike focus on assessment of learning, which is impressive to witness!

In addition to our educators focusing all work on students, there are countless examples of how our support staff truly supports teaching and learning.  The hard work and dedication they demonstrate in their day-to-day work is clear.  What is not as well-known is the compassion and commitment they give behind the scenes to ensure educators and students are supported in their work of teaching and learning.  At CSPS, we appreciate the collaborative spirit of our highly valued educators and support staff.

I’ll say it again and again, it is an honor to serve as your CSPS superintendent.  Please know I maintain an open door to any and all who would like to talk.  A hallmark of my career has been being approachable to all students, staff, parents and community members.  It’s that servant leadership philosophy that I hold dear in all aspects of my life.  Please do call, write or drop by for a visit at any time.  I would love an opportunity to get to know you and learn how I might support your wishes or to answer any questions you may have about any topic, such as instructional rounds!

Warmly,

Laura VanDuyn, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools

Office:  616-696-1204 ext. 1001    Cell: 925-899-3111

Email: laura.vanduyn@csredhawks.org

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Happy with school superintendent


 

As a follow up to Lyle Perry, Jr.’s comment last week, Superintendent VanDuyn’s letter in the post was outstanding! I am very excited and hopeful about the direction I see her taking our school district. It was also very encouraging to hear the school board members voice their support of Dr. VanDuyn and all she is accomplishing at this week’s school board meeting. As a parent with four children in the district I would also like to thank Dr. VanDuyn, the administrators, teachers, and support staff for the way the lock down situation was handled on Monday. I think you all did a great job, thank you for keeping our kids safe!

Jenny Skelonc, Sand Lake

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Tri County’s Cumings a  candidate for top spot at Northview


 

Five candidates, including the current superintendent at Tri County Area Schools, were selected by the Northview Public Schools Board of Education to interview as potential replacements for Superintendent Michael Paskewicz, who will retire from Kent ISD on June 30, 2015.

The candidates are Roger Bearup, assistant superintendent of the Lowell Area Schools; Allen Cumings, superintendent of the Tri-County Area Schools;  M. Scott Korpak, assistant superintendent of the Forest Hills Public School District; Thomas Livezey, superintendent of the Oak Ridge Public Schools; and Cherie Vannatter, superintendent of the Manchester Community Schools.

J. Michael Washburn, an independent consultant for Kent ISD and former superintendent of the Forest Hills Public School District, is assisting the Northview Board of Education in the superintendent search process. He also helped Cedar Springs in their search for a superintendent last year.

Bearup is to be interviewed at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 14; Korpak, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 15; Cumings at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 15; Vannater at 6 p.m. Friday, April 17; and Livezey at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 17. All interviews will be held in the Northview High School Media Center. Following are short bios for each candidate:

Bearup has led Lowell’s curriculum development, assessment and educator evaluation, among other things, since 2006. He was previously an elementary principal in Kent City, where he began his career as a second-grade teacher. He holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Western Michigan University and a bachelor’s in education from Central Michigan University.

Cumings has served his entire career in the Tri-County district, starting as a physical education teacher in 1998 and serving as successful men’s and women’s basketball and softball coach, a biology teacher, elementary principal, curriculum director and superintendent since 2011. He holds a master’s in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University and an undergraduate degree in education from Calvin College.

Korpak began his career in the Forest Hills Public Schools, where he served as a teacher, district science coordinator and principal before leaving to serve as superintendent of the Hamilton Public Schools for two years. He returned to Forest Hills as assistant superintendent of instruction in 2010. He holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Eastern Michigan University and a master’s in educational leadership from Western Michigan University.

Livezey was appointed superintendent of the Oakridge Public Schools in 2009 after serving as curriculum director and assistant superintendent in the district since 2004.  He previously served in several teaching and administrative roles in the Godwin Heights Public Schools. Livezey has a master’s in educational leadership from Michigan State University and an undergraduate degree from Olivet Nazarene in Kankakee, IL.

Vannatter held administrative and special education administration positions in the Saline and Manchester districts prior to becoming the superintendent of Manchester Community Schools in 2011.  She began her career as a special education teacher in Saline in 1984.  She holds a master’s in early childhood from Eastern Michigan University and an undergraduate degree in special education from the University of Michigan.

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New superintendent impressed with community pride


 

Dr. Laura VanDuyne

Dr. Laura VanDuyne

By Judy Reed

 

It’s now been five months since Dr. Laura VanDuyne, a Detroit, Michigan native, and her family moved from California to take over as Superintendent at Cedar Springs Public Schools. For them, she says, it’s like coming home.

“We love the cold weather, the snow. We longed for that—the seasons, the culture, the friendliness,” she explained. “We’ve been here five months and never looked back. It almost feels like you never left.”

VanDuyne was born in the suburbs of Detroit and graduated from Memphis High School, which is about 60 miles north of Detroit. So the west side of the state is new to her, but not to her husband, who grew up in Jenison, and remembers participating in the Red Flannel Marching Competition and marching in the parade in high school. In fact, she said he had grandparents who owned 40 acres on Myers Lake Road near 14 Mile—Roy and Elizabeth Reynolds.

VanDuyne said she met her husband eight years ago, after getting her doctorate. They had always planned to come back to Michigan; but after they had their two children—Izzy and Vance—she said they started making a concerted effort to get back here—where the grandparents are. “I had checked out the district, and it looked like a location we’d like to be. So when the opening came up, I threw my name in the hat and never expected to get the call, but I did, and here we are! It’s an amazing place,” she said.

After graduating from Memphis High School, VanDuyne went to the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she also taught. She then came back to the Midwest and received her masters in education administration from Minnesota State University, and a post-MA in educational leadership from St. Mary’s University in Minnesota. She was also a teacher and principal there. From there she moved to the San Francisco bay area, where she earned her doctorate degree from the University of San Francisco. She was a full-time principal there, and for the last four years, was executive director of the State SELPA, Contra Costa Special Education Joint Powers Authority. “That’s similar to an Intermediate School District superintendent,” explained VanDuyne. “I was responsible for overseeing 16 school districts—10,000 students—in regard to special education, such as funding and other things.”

So how does that compare to being Superintendent of a 3,800-student district? “That’s the fun part of being here,” responded VanDuyne. “I always wanted to be a superintendent and I knew I wanted to be back at the local level,” she explained. And she hasn’t been disappointed.

“The board, the staff, the community, the parents are all working towards a better future for our kids. It’s such a close-knit community, and they are so proud. We have great innovative teaching, and the support staff is totally invested. It’s all about the children, and that is energizing for me,” she explained.

She noted that she is also impressed by the level of heartfelt interest by the Board of Education. “It’s all about the kids. I have not seen agendas, and that has left an impression with me. They have had to make some tough decisions.”

While some on the Board of Education thought it might be a large learning curve for her, coming from another state, VanDuyne said that hasn’t been the case. “This is the third state I’ve been an administrator in; making those changes are not difficult. They all have similar tenets, with some nuances in local legislation,” she noted.

VanDuyne said the biggest thing she has focused on is getting to know the teaching and support staff—faces, names, what they teach, etc. She said she likes to meet with every individual and get to know them. “That’s been wonderful; I’ve learned so much,” she remarked. “That’s where I’ve gleaned pride in the community.”

VanDuyne said she is big on input and grassroots information gathering. An example of that was the recent selection of a website vendor. She said they wanted something that would highlight the district, yet be easy to use for parents and staff. They had 30 employees and citizens from all areas of the school system—all people who would use the website—and had them watch four presentations from web vendors. They then selected the vendor, without input from either VanDuyne or Asst. Superintendent David Cairy.

“When you can bring bright minds together that’s powerful. They will do more, they will buy into it,” she explained.

VanDuyne also wants residents to know that her door is always open for them. “I answer my own emails, and take my own calls. I want a personal connection,” she explained. “I value face to face discussion—a handshake. I want to hear your concerns.”

VanDuyne said their family is enjoying being here with friends and family, something they have long looked forward to. And she noted that the community doesn’t need to worry about her going anywhere anytime soon. “I plan to be here a long time, to become an integral part of Cedar Springs and Red Hawk pride.”

 

 

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Cedar Springs Schools and GRCC partner to form Middle College program


Dr. Steven Ender of GRCC and Dr. Laura VanDuyn of Cedar Springs Schools.

Dr. Steven Ender of GRCC and Dr. Laura VanDuyn of Cedar Springs Schools.

By Judy Reed

 

Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn and Grand Rapids Community College President Dr. Steven Ender signed a letter of intent Monday evening to create the Cedar Springs Middle College for fall of 2015.

Under the program, freshman with at least a 2.5 GPA will be able to apply for the program, which would begin in their sophomore year, and provide the opportunity for them to earn both a high school diploma and an associate of arts degree in five years. The student will graduate high school and also earn an associate’s degree, without spending any money towards tuition.

It’s just the third program of its kind in Kent County. GRCC also partners with Wyoming, and Davenport partners with Kenowa Hills High School.

Dr. Steven Ender, president of GRCC

Dr. Steven Ender, president of GRCC

Utilizing dual enrollment/early college status, these students will continue to acquire high school credits toward graduating with a Michigan Merit Curriculum diploma, while also completing requirements toward an associate of arts degree. To do this, students will take fewer classes toward high school completion and more toward their college degree in each subsequent year. Due to the uniqueness of acquiring both certifications, the program would take an additional (fifth) year of high school.

Dr. VanDuyn said she was proud of the district’s students, of whom 72 percent go on to post secondary education, the same as the national average. But she said this program could be a big change for our community, noting that the program has about a 95 percent success rate of those going on to get their four-year degree.

Dr. Ender noted GRCC is celebrating 100 years of post-secondary education, and this is currently a program wave happening in post-secondary education. “It’s a price you can’t beat. You are clearly on the right track. And your students will definitely get a university education,” he assured the Board of Education.

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