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Tag Archive | "superintendent"

From the Superintendent’s Office


Superintendent Scott Smith

As we are now in the month of October, it is safe to say that we have successfully reached the point in the journey where we can remove the “new” label when referring to the 2018/19 school year for Cedar Springs Public Schools.  It is no longer necessary to say the “new school year” in our conversations.

The successful establishment of routines, at home, on the bus, at lunch, at recess, and in the classroom, has made this possible.  The incredible efforts of our students, families, and staff have contributed to the establishment of new norms around attending school.  These norms will create the foundation for our success moving forward. Routines at home and school help contribute to stability for students, families, and staff.  

For some, getting up in the morning may not be as easy as it was in previous weeks as the “newness” of the school year wears off.  It is important to recognize the impact that regular school attendance has on the academic growth of students regardless of their age.  Cedar Springs is thankful for the opportunity to partner with other schools in Kent County in our efforts to improve school attendance for our students.  

The initiative, called “Strive for Less than 5”, encourages students to do their best to miss less than five days in any given school year.  Chronic absenteeism is often a factor when students fall behind their peers academically.

Families in Cedar Springs can help support this initiative through the establishment of regular routines at home.  Routines that involve sleep, eating, play, reading, and other homework are essential for our students to be at their very best each day.  Another way families can support students is to help build excitement at home around the things their students are doing at school. Each of our buildings uses multiple channels to communicate with families around what is happening at school.  To continuously improve in the area of communication with families, if we are not meeting your needs as a family in this area, please let us know so we can take steps to assist you in your efforts as you do your best to support our amazing students.

With respect and appreciation,
Scott B. Smith, Superintendent

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Board approves Superintendent contract


 

New Superintendent, Scott Smith

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education approved the contract of their new Superintendent, Scott Smith, at their regular board meeting on Monday, June 25.

“The Board of Education is pleased to culminate months of work, by approving a 3-year contract with Scott Smith as our superintendent, with a unanimous board vote of 7-0,” said Heidi Reed, board president. 

“The entire board is thankful for the support and input from staff, students, parents and community members during this process.”

The board extended an offer of employment to Smith, who is currently an assistant superintendent at Hudsonville Public Schools, after a rigorous day of Smith meeting with eight different focus groups, dinner with the board, and then a second round interview with the board at 7 p.m. June 18. 

Gary Rider, of Michigan Leadership Institute, led the search to replace former superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn, who resigned in March. The board hired interim superintendent Mark Dobias to fill the vacancy until the end of the June.

“We are grateful to Gary Rider, our search consultant; Mark Dobias, our Interim Superintendent; and all of our building leaders and staff who assisted during this time of transition in our district,” noted Reed.

Smith’s contract starts July 1 and will cover the 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21 school years. His salary will be $150,000 for 2018-19. His salary the following years will depend on if he is rated effective or highly effective. If he is rated effective for 2018-19, his salary for the following year will not be less than $153,000. If he is rated highly effective, it will not be less than $154,500. If he is rated effective in 2019-20, his salary the following year will not be less than $156,500. If rated highly effective, it will not be less than $159,500. He also may be eligible for one percent or two percent stipend based on whether he is effective or highly effective.

The district will also help with moving expenses, not to exceed $10,000, if Smith should decide to move into the district, which he has said he would like to do. He and his wife, Sarah, currently live in Hamilton.

Smith will be in the office starting Monday, July 2.

“We are excited to get started with Scott (Smith) and continue the important work of our district, which will benefit our students,” said Reed.

You can download a copy of Scott Smith’s contract below: 

Superintendent Scott Smith Contract – 2018-2021.pdf

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Cedar Springs chooses new superintendent


 

Scott Smith has been selected as the new superintendent

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education voted 7-0 Monday evening, June 18, to extend an offer to Scott Smith to be their new superintendent.

Smith currently serves as an assistant superintendent at Hudsonville Public Schools.

The offer came after a rigorous day of Smith meeting with eight different focus groups, dinner with the board, and then a second round interview with the board at 7 p.m. The news was given to Smith by board president Heidi Reed shortly after 9 p.m. via speakerphone, accompanied by loud applause from the approximately 50 staff and community members present for the interview.

“It is an incredible honor to receive an invitation to join the Cedar Springs team as its Superintendent of Schools,” said Smith. “This opportunity has been on my radar for nearly ten years. Cedar Springs has a rich history as a student-centered and teacher-centered school district nestled within a strong, supportive community. I can’t wait to get started doing this exciting work!”

Community members and staff gave feedback to the board about Smith after the focus groups and after both the first and second round interviews. Several board members noted that the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

 “We had tremendous feedback from staff, students, parents and community members during the process,” remarked Reed. “Scott had overwhelming support and was clearly a great fit for the candidate profile. He is very well prepared to be our next Superintendent and we look forward to having he and his wife Sarah become part of our community. The unanimous decision to offer the job to Mr. Smith is the result of several months of work by the board with support and input from staff, students, parents and community members. We are all excited to get started with Scott on the important work of moving our district forward.”

Contract negotiations will start immediately between the district and Smith, with the board voting that Reed and the lawyers for Cedar Springs lead that effort.

The board opted to forego a site visit, with several members explaining that they had already received a lot of input from members of the Hudsonville community and district. Reed noted that some of the people they had heard from were people that they would talk to during a site visit. Three of the board members—Traci Slager, Matt Shoffner, and Shannon Vanderhyde—all mentioned being open to the possibility of a site visit to add an extra layer of thoroughness to the search process, but were completely ready to move forward without it if the others were also ready to move forward. 

Before the vote, board members mentioned some of the things they liked about Smith, and all agreed that he was a perfect fit to the profile that they had developed with the help of search consultant Gary Rider and the results of the community survey.

Smith has served as Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources for the Hudsonville Public Schools for seven years. Prior to this work he served as the Middle School Principal for Hamilton Community Schools for six years, and as a Middle School Science teacher for Holland Public Schools for three years.  Mr. Smith holds a Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from Grand Valley State University, and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Earth Science both from Western Michigan University. He currently lives in Hamilton but noted that he will be looking to sell his home and find something in the area.

Cedar Springs is one of seven districts in Kent County who will have new superintendents for this next school year. The others are Caledonia, Comstock Park, East Grand Rapids, Sparta, Thornapple Kellog, and Wyoming.

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Board selects finalist in Superintendent search


Scott Smith

Community forums and second interview set for June 18

The Cedar Springs Board of Education conducted first round interviews Friday evening, June 8, in their search for a new Superintendent, and narrowed their field down to one finalist. Scott Smith, Assistant Superintendent at Hudsonville, will return for a second-round interview.

The board gave high marks to all three candidates who interviewed, but seemed to like Smith’s leadership style, community focus, and experience with a larger district. 

The other two candidates who interviewed were Karl Heidrich, of Stockbridge Community Schools, and John VanLoon, of Ravenna Public Schools.

A second-round interview is scheduled to take place at 7:00 p.m., Monday, June 18. (Please note this date is a change from that listed in the tentative calendar previously released.) The interview will take place in the District Office Board Room, 204 E Muskegon St., Cedar Springs, Mich.  

“The public is strongly encouraged to attend,” said Search Consultant Gary Rider. “Feedback from the audience has already been very valuable to the Board in the selection process.” Rider is the consultant that was selected by the Cedar Springs Board to facilitate the search effort.

Prior to the second round interview in the evening, focus groups will be held during the day on June 18 so that the community, staff, business, and government officials can all meet with Smith and give feedback to the board. There will be two community forums: one at 10 a.m. and one at 4 p.m. Both will be held in the District Office board room. Smith will have dinner with the board at 5:30 p.m., followed by the interview at 7 p.m. in the board room.

Scott Smith has served as Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources for the Hudsonville Public Schools for seven years. Prior to this work he served as the Middle School Principal for Hamilton Community Schools for six years, and as a Middle School Science teacher for Holland Public Schools for three years. Smith holds a Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from Grand Valley State University, and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Earth Science both from Western Michigan University.

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Board selects candidates for first round interviews


John B. VanLoon, Superintendent at Ravenna Public Schools.

Karl Heidrich, Superintendent at Stockbridge Community Schools.

Scott Smith, Asst. Superintendent at Hudsonville Public Schools.

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education met Friday evening, May 18, at 6 p.m., to review over 29 applications for the Superintendent position.

The board started in open session, but then went into closed session to review the applications. They were not allowed to deliberate in closed session; they were only allowed to ask questions of Gary Rider, of the Michigan Leadership Institute, who is leading the search. They then moved back into open session, where Rider led the board in narrowing down their choices. 

The board decided on three candidates to interview in a public meeting on June 8, in the Hilltop board room:

Karl Heidrich, Superintendent at Stockbridge Community Schools, will interview at 5 p.m.

Scott Smith, Asst. Superintendent at Hudsonville Public Schools, will interview at 6:30 p.m.

John B. VanLoon, Superintendent at Ravenna Public Schools, will interview at 8 p.m.

The board also discussed the importance of feedback from parents, students, staff, and the community during the process, and began to develop interview questions. “We hope parents, members of the community and staff will attend the interviews,” said Cedar Springs Board President Heidi Reed. “It will be very important for the Board to have their input during the process.”

Heidrich has been Superintendent at Stockbridge Community Schools, a school with just over 1,400 students located between Lansing and Ann Arbor, since May of 2014. Prior to that, he was high school principal at Stockbridge from 2000 to 2013; and assistant high school principal there from 1999 to 2000. From 1995 to 1999, he was a teacher and athletic director at Deerfield Public Schools. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Hillsdale College in 1995; a Masters of Education in Educational Administration in 1997 from the University of Toledo; a Specialist of Arts in Educational Leadership from Siena Heights University in 2004; and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at Eastern Michigan University.

VanLoon has been Superintendent at Ravenna Public Schools, a district with just under 1,100 students, since December of 2008. Before that, he was high school principal at White Hall District Schools from 1999-2008; and from 1996-1999, he was middle school principal at Comstock Park Public Schools. He has also been past president of the Muskegon Area Superintendent’s Association; is Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA) Region III president; and a member of education and community organizations. He graduated from Hope College in 1987 with a Bachelors degree in mathematics; received his Masters in Educational Leadership from Grand Valley in 1996; and will receive a degree as an Education Specialist from GVSU in 2019.

Smith has been Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources at Hudsonville Public Schools, a district with about 6,600 students, since 2011. He also serves as the Director of the Community Education program, and the Directors of Aquatics, Early Childhood Education, Fine Arts Auditorium and Technology all report to him. He is also the Assessment Coordinator, and partners with the Asst. Supt. of Curriculum and Instruction. Prior to becoming Asst. Supt. at Hudsonville, he was a middle school principal at Hamilton Community Schools from 2001 to 2011, and an assistant Jr./Sr. high school principal there from 1995-2001. From 1992-1995, he was a middle school science teacher at West Middle School in the Holland Public Schools District. Smith received his Bachelors degree in Mathematics/Earth Science from Western Michigan University in 1988; a Masters in Educational Leadership from Western in 1995; and an Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Grand Valley State University in 2010.

Smith also was one of the five candidates chosen for a first round interview for the Cedar Springs Superintendent job in 2014. 

The Post became aware that Smith was initially invited to apply for the current opening by Board president Heidi Reed, and spoke to both Reed and Smith about it, since consultant Gary Rider has been adamant that there is no outside contact between the board members and candidates.

According to both Reed and Smith, it happened within days of the board receiving the resignation of Laura VanDuyn, before they hired Rider to do the search. “I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong,” said Reed. “I don’t know him (Smith).” 

Smith agreed. “I wouldn’t know Heidi Reed if I was standing next to her,” he said. 

Smith said he got a call on his phone on March 31 and didn’t recognize the number. It was Reed. He had just went through a difficult Superintendent search with Hudsonville, and found out that they had decided to hire Doug VanderJagt, from Rockford (who coincidentally, applied for the Superintendent position at Cedar Springs in 2009). Reed had heard that he didn’t get the job and encouraged him to apply at Cedar Springs. He said she had said she wasn’t sure if the board was going to hire a search consultant or do the search on their own, and they talked about the validity and transparency hiring a consultant would bring to the process. Once he heard that the board had hired Gary Rider of the Michigan Leadership Institute to lead the search, he went to him right away and explained what happened. 

“I had been working with Gary on another search, and I know there are specific protocols, and I know there is a need for transparency,” said Smith.

Rider contacted Reed about it and the rest of the board was also made aware of the issue.

Reed regrets the incident and said that people don’t need to fear she’s pushing through a candidate. “I’m just one vote. I don’t hold that much sway over the board,” she said. 

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Superintendent profile posted


By Judy Reed

After compiling the feedback from citizen surveys and working with board members to narrow down the results, Gary Rider, Regional President of the Michigan Leadership Institute, finalized the candidate profile for what Cedar Springs wants in a new Superintendent last Friday, May 4, and attached it to the job posting.

According to Rider, he received over 300 responses to the online survey, which was posted on the Cedar Springs Public Schools website. It closed on April 28.

He then sent the data to the board, and once they had digested the information, he asked each board member to give him their top 10 items for what they think is needed in the next Superintendent. 

“From those 70 responses I then try to group common themes and compose a first draft of the profile,” explained Rider. “It usually ends up consisting of between 16-20 proposed points. I then ask the Board to tell me what modifications they may want me to make, what changes in wording they may prefer, and if they think I am close to what they want in a candidate profile. I also ask them to rank order the profile points so that the final draft in some way shows the most critical needs toward the top of the list.”

The profile consists of 16 points.

  • An excellent communicator skilled at listening, speaking, and writing who will engage all stakeholders and clearly explain rationale for decisions.
  • Someone whose first priority is the needs of our students. 
  • A collaborator and team builder with the ability to empower others who will ensure the voices of staff, students and the community are heard.
  • Someone who has a track record of successful experience in the classroom, as an administrator, and as either a Superintendent or Assistant Superintendent.
  • A fair, honest, honorable, wise, accountable and humble leader who demonstrates the highest standards of integrity.
  • Someone who will clearly demonstrate their commitment to and engagement in, both the school district and community.
  • Someone who can build trust, heal relationships, and unite our students, staff and community.
  • An impartial decision maker and problem solver.
  • An advocate for both academic and extra-curricular excellence who is committed to best practice.
  • Someone fiscally responsible who will transparently and accurately communicate the financial status of the district to students, staff, the community and the board.
  • Someone with outstanding interpersonal skills who is approachable and friendly.
  • A strong leader in both the school district and community who will continue to build on the effective programs already in place.
  • Someone who can develop a shared vision and strategic plan that engages all stakeholders and can skillfully execute and follow through with plans of action.
  • Someone who is both compassionate and caring that will value all people and points of view.
  • Someone who will join the board in a pledge to commit to the appropriate roles and responsibilities of governance team practice.
  • Someone with a minimum of a Master’s Degree in an education related field who will demonstrate compliance with the requirements of state Superintendent certification within appropriate time lines. 

The application deadline is May 16, and the board will screen candidate applications in a special meeting on May 18. The time has yet to be determined.

First interviews will take place in special meetings on June 7 and 8, with second interviews June 26 and 27. The board can then either make their decision after the second interview, or conduct site visitations on July 10 and 11, with a final vote on July 12.

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Board chooses firm to lead superintendent search


By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education took their first step toward finding a new superintendent when they voted 5-0 in a special meeting Tuesday evening to have Michigan Leadership Institute (MLI) facilitate the search.

The board heard presentations by both the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) and MLI. The costs were comparable from both agencies ($6,500 plus expenses). Gary Rider, regional president of MLI, will lead the search and said his expenses (mileage, copying) would not go over $800 since he lives nearby (Comstock Park).

Rider was a former Superintendent at Thornapple Kellogg, and also worked in the West Ottawa and Kenowa Hills School Districts. He said that MLI is made up of former Superintendents who cover regional districts where they served, so they know many of the Superintendents and/or administrators out there.

Rider went through what process he would use, including an online survey for the staff and community regarding what they wanted to see in a new superintendent, as well as face-to-face meetings with focus groups. From there they would create a profile of what they were looking for. The community would also be involved in the actual interviews by giving written feedback after each one.

He reminded the board that they each represented the entire community—not just a specific segment—and that they needed to get this right. “Your process is critical. If you don’t do this right, a bomb will go off in this community,” he warned.

Rider told the board that there was a reason he wanted to lead the search here—he has a personal stake in it. Rider said he has two son-in-laws who were best friends in school and who both graduated from Cedar Springs, and their families are still here.

“If I don’t get this done right, I won’t be welcome at Thanksgiving dinner,” he remarked.

Board members liked that they met who would lead their search, as opposed to MASB, who would appoint someone. They also liked the passion he showed and felt they could trust Rider to give more guidance.

One area where some of the board didn’t seem quite as comfortable was with the timeline Rider presented. He gave them an estimated timeline of 9 weeks, with selection of a Superintendent mid-June, so as to get someone in place by July. Trustee Traci Slager questioned more than once whether moving that quickly was the best thing.

Vice President Matt Shoffner said he liked the timetable, but that the correct process is huge. “I think there would be some leeway if we wanted to extend it a couple of weeks,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we’re not comfortable with who we get, we can push it back. Or even with community feedback, we can hear and respond.”

Secretary Brook Nichols also said she thought there was some wiggle room on the timetable. “I’d rather take our time and be thorough,” she said.

During public comment time, Sue Wolfe told the board she was happy to hear the open dialogue between the members. She also cautioned the board that with so much going on—board member and administrative slots to fill—that maybe they should slow the process down.

Teacher Libby Metiva also told the board that she was proud to see the way the board interacted, with the tone being light and the comments insightful. “No one monopolized the conversation,” she said.

 In other board news, trustee Tim Bauer, who was appointed in December, resigned his position on the board. He was not attendance, but did send a letter of resignation. The board voted to accept it, 5-0. Treasurer Shannon Vanderhyde was not in attendance.

Bauer had announced late last month he would resign, after public outcry over comments on his personal Facebook page and at the March 26 board meeting condemning those who wanted former Superintendent Laura VanDuyn to resign.

In his resignation letter, he said that it has been both an honor and a challenge to be appointed a board member. “Believing that I have fulfilled in a short time period my calling from God in this position, it has been made clear that I am now to resign.” He went on to quote an article by Craig D. Lounsbrough titled “Consequences: We are the Cause.” He said it encapsulated what he wanted to say. You can view Bauer’s entire letter on our website at www.cedarspringspost.com.

The board has 30 days to fill his position. As of Wednesday, April 11, no announcement had yet been made on when they would start taking applications for it.

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Cedar Springs Superintendent resigns


Many of those demanding the resignation of the Superintendent marched to Cedar Springs High School from the Hilltop building Monday evening. Photo by Aleshia Smith.

by Judy Reed

After several years of complaints from teachers and community members against Cedar Springs Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn, the Cedar Springs Board of Education voted Monday evening to accept her resignation.

The main complaint was of creating a hostile and toxic work environment, with a turnover of 70-plus employees in the last three years. Several complaints of bullying had also been lodged against her in the past but dismissed by the Board of Education.

Many who had voiced comments against the Superintendent at previous board meetings felt the board was not listening or did not care. That fueled a movement that recently grew in the community to get their voice heard.

A sea of red shirts sporting the logo “#ResignVanDuyn” filled the auditorium at Cedar Springs High School before the regularly scheduled board meeting Monday night. Many also held signs with the same logo. The group, made up of parents, teachers, and other community members, had come to demand that either the board put the Superintendent on immediate leave pending an investigation, or that they negotiate with her to resign. They also had petitions for the recall of three board members.

Some supporters of the Superintendent came with signs that read “B kind to VanDuyn.”

Signs in support of Superintendent VanDuyn. Post photo by J. Reed.

As the board members filed in at the start of the meeting, one person was conspicuously absent: Dr. VanDuyn.

Board president Heidi Reed announced that the Superintendent had been excused from the meeting. After making some introductory statements about the board, they made a motion to go into closed session to discuss “a personnel matter.” After more than an hour of deliberation, they reconvened and made a motion to accept the resignation of Dr. Laura VanDuyn.

Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn.

Cheers filled the auditorium as the motion was announced. The vote passed 5-1, with Board trustee Tim Bauer the lone no vote. Trustee Shannon Vanderhyde was not present.

Bauer, who was appointed earlier this year to fill an empty seat, said he felt it was wrong. He noted that many of those wearing the red shirts had probably went to church on Palm Sunday. He then compared them to the angry mob that had crucified Jesus when they didn’t get their way. A Facebook post by Bauer Tuesday morning speaking of judgment on those that wore the red shirts caused more furor and scrutiny by law enforcement. He later announced on Facebook he would resign at the next board meeting.

Board Vice President Matthew Shoffner gave one of the most heartfelt speeches from the board. “I hoped for something better and that has not come about. I hoped for unity and I hoped for this community to be brought together. That is still my hope. I hope that we can do this together,” he said.

Katy Austin, one of the founders of the “Cedar Strong” movement, was one of those thankful that the board finally heard their voice. “I’m incredibly thankful to each and every person who helped the community be heard. I’m excited for the future and I can’t wait to see our kids soar,” she said.

Dr. VanDuyn will remain at Cedar Springs through the end of the week. An announcement from Board President Heidi Reed said VanDuyn would also continue as an ad-hoc consultant through June 30, 2018. 

Reed noted that the Superintendent still has many supporters in the district.

“During her almost four years with our District, Dr. VanDuyn’s leadership has blessed our district with talent and new ways of thinking while challenging us to rise to a higher standard.

“Dr. VanDuyn’s top priority has always been the children and creating the best environment to promote academic growth and development. Her exceptional beliefs and leadership built a strong foundation for our journey to excellence. The board is thankful for Dr. VanDuyn’s dedication and service to CSPS and we wish her well in future endeavors,” she said.

The board appointed Mark Dobias, former superintendent of Allegan Area Educational Service Agency (AAESA) and Fennville Public Schools as interim Superintendent. He is scheduled to start on April 9. “Our strong building leadership coupled with his operational background will assure a seamless transition as we begin the search process for a permanent replacement,” said Reed.

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Rude comments and spending money


 

We attended the Cedar Springs School Board Meeting on March 26 and made several observations.

Our first observation came when the school board president Heidi Reed stated that the school board pays an outside consulting firm (from Ohio) for school policies. While it might be common practice to pay a consulting firm for crafting of school policies, is it the best practice? How much of the community’s money was spent on this out-of-state consulting firm? We believe that our local school policies should be determined by those who live here, not in some other state. We have no problems with getting ideas and inspiration from any and all sources, but community members should determine our local policies. How about having a public forum with debate and discussion of what policies we would like to have in our local school district? We can see what other communities are doing, but this is our school district, serving our children, and our community. If our school board members are unwilling or unable to make policies that fit and form our local community, perhaps they should not be serving on the board.

We got the impression that Ms. Reed was attempting to absolve herself and the board from having any personal responsibility for unpopular policies.  

Over the past several years, public comments and statements made by board members and the superintendent seem to reflect a view that spending public money is good. Instead of focusing on results or finding the best value for taxpayer dollars, the board and superintendent appeared to try to solve problems by spending money.

We were also shocked and offended by comments made by board president Reed and board trustee Tim Bauer. Ms. Reed made a comment that seemed to be a personal attack on those members of the community that spent their own money, time and resources on yard signs and t-shirts. She said that she wished that effort had gone to supporting the kids who are going to The Odyssey of the Mind competition. The audience reaction to her statement was shock, immediately followed by comments. At that time, another board member demanded that the audience “respect the board president.” The audience should respect the position of board president, but the board president should respect members of the audience and community as well. While she’s entitled to her own personal opinions, we feel that this comment was inappropriate. 

We had serious concerns regarding Trustee Tim Bauer, but those are now moot since he announced his resignation.

The board approved paying an interim superintendent $600 per day plus mileage. We would like to see how that figure was reached and the rationale behind it. Is this the best value for our tax dollars?

As a final thought, perhaps we should consider adding another board member. This new member would be elected by and from the district’s teachers to provide direct representation of those who teach our children. The new position could either be a full voting member, or an advisory member depending on statutory and regulatory requirements. 

Chris and Emily Scott

Solon Township

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Staff and others share reasons for wanting Superintendent to resign


By Judy Reed

Over 500 people filled the meeting room and foyer of Solon Township Hall Thursday evening to hear the personal stories of both current and former staff and board members of Cedar Springs Public Schools and how they have been affected by the policies of Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn.

Several of the speakers were in tears as they told their stories in public for the first time, despite fears of retaliation.

VanDuyn was hired to be Superintendent four years ago, but a movement within the community to get her to resign or for the board to give her a vote of no confidence has been steadily growing. An online petition has garnered just under 1,900 signatures, and paper petitions with signatures will be presented at the next Board of Education meeting on March 26.

Mary Graf, an elementary teacher for 41 years, said she has worked for seven superintendents and several principals over the years. She said there would always be change, but also there has always been mutual respect and collaboration with the administration. She remarked that now there is no collaboration, and that teachers now feel repercussions if they don’t completely agree with something or question anything. She said that happened to her last spring during a PLC on reading. There was a lot of tension in the room, and she said she tried to clarify how the teachers were feeling. The next week she received a letter from her administrator saying she had been unprofessional. Graf said her administrator had not even been in the meeting. When she met with him about it, he told her he was forced to write the letter.

Jan Wallace

Former board member Jan Wallace spoke about consultants, noting that the district had spent $300,000 over 15 months. “Do you wonder why our district has to consult outside experts so often?” she asked. Wallace added that $115,000 of that was spent on the Orange Frog program, “which teaches the staff to learn to be happier.” She felt they could have used that money on the deteriorating roads on campus. 

Wallace explained that when she was on the board, they looked at privatizing busing, and met with the staff to talk about it. “This board didn’t do that. They had a consultant come in to help,” she said.

Former board member Ted Sabinas talked about being locked out of the meeting on privatization of transportation; the fact that once he was on the board, staff and administrators told him they were not allowed to talk to him; and that all three elementary principals, two assistant principals, and the athletic director had all left in the last three years. He also noted that the Superintendent received a 3 percent raise while the staff did not receive a raise.

Joan Boverhof

Long time teacher Joan Boverhof spoke about the relationship between the teachers and administration eroding. She said that the board, administration and teachers union used to work together as a team but that was not happening now.

Teacher Brett Burns, who also president of the teachers union, said the union has been trying to repair the relationship with the board but they aren’t listening. He likened it to a child coming to him and saying he was being bullied and him ignoring it, and then the same thing happening again, and him not doing anything about it. “I am begging,” he said. “We are hurting. When are you, the community, and the board going to acknowledge that we are human?”

Secretary Mary Gardner was in tears as she shared an ordeal she faced about being forced to administer shots. She steadfastly refused, as she has a fear of needles. It was something nurses used to do. She finally got a lawyer involved.

Teacher Erin Cairy spoke about taking leave just before school started. She said the administration never reached out to her. Although she emailed a letter to be sent to the students who were supposed to be in her class and their parents, it was never sent. She also emailed asking how she could help the new teacher, but that went unanswered. She said she returned this year, and many questions she’s asked about programs, such as iready, have been taken as being negative.

At one point during the meeting, moderator Todd Norman asked the group how many were hearing these stories for the first time. Almost half the room raised their hand.

Teacher Libby Metiva said that the board of ed has said things that have wounded, but they have also been manipulated. “How can we help them? All of you are influencers. I’m asking all of you to help empower and influence the board members to take back Cedar Springs.”

Superintendent VanDuyn gave the Post a statement about the petition. 

“As superintendent, it is my promise to the community to make the best decisions I can to ensure our students have an exceptional educational experience while keeping our district financially stable. Our students should have a top notch school system to develop and grow. I am saddened by this petition as I am fully committed to making CSPS the best place it can be. My daily motivation and priority continues to be serving the students and families of CSPS.”  

To watch the entire video of the community meeting, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68xfuX_Ulsw&feature=youtu.be

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