Petition for the removal of Superintendent Laura Van Duyn

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This petition serves as the community’s voice to remove Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent, Laura Van Duyn.  The atmosphere has become one of bullying, intimidation and pitting people against one another. Collaboration is no longer wanted and many educators feel trapped. Staff members who ask questions are reprimanded, reassigned or removed. The culture changed overnight.   The toxic atmosphere has led many quality educators to seek employment elsewhere. Surrounding top flight schools such as Rockford, Hudsonville, East Grand Rapids, East Kentwood and Grandville are now home to former staff.  Our district has seen over 75 staff members leave in three short years. Even if half of those people left because of the atmosphere, it would be problematic.

With the mass exodus of staff, changes to philosophy and different leadership, proficiency scores are dropping during Dr. VanDuyn’s tenure. Teachers continue to work tirelessly, but repeatedly face the elimination of programs and resources.  Instructional coaches have gradually been slashed one after another.  This is widely proven through research as the most effective way to develop teachers and is one of the only professional development models proven to impact student learning long term.  Another successful program known as GATORS, which provided students with intensive reading support, has been eliminated and replaced with interventions such as “the super switch.” Lab classroom experiences to develop teachers’ skill sets, and district instructional rounds, which provided crucial building/district wide data, have also faced drastic changes and major cutbacks. Staff members have advocated for such programs and are left feeling as though they do not have a voice in their students’ futures.

·        In 2016, only 45% of students were proficient in English Language Art at the end of third grade.  This is lower than the state and Kent County average.

·        In 2017, even fewer students were proficient in the same area.  Only 34.5% of students were proficient by the end of third grade, again below state and and Kent ISD averages.

·       On the most recent assessment results, Cedar Springs fell below the state and Kent ISD average of students proficient, as measured by the MSTEP, in all subjects, in all grades that take the test (3-8). We also fell below the State and County averages on the SAT College Readiness benchmark, the statewide assessment at the high school level.

Cedar Springs should not be a below average district, we do not have below average students and we do not have below average teachers and support staff.  There are many factors to this, all of which are problematic.  Our students deserve educational programming in which our staff have a voice.

Finally, we have lost our identity and history.  Dr. VanDuyn severed a twenty year relationship with the Cedar Springs Post. The Post served as a historical account of all things Red Hawk. She also dissolved a decades long relationship with a foreign exchange student program that brought the district hundreds of thousands of dollars. Our town, school, culture and civility have been torn apart.

In a recent survey taken by staff and parents, the question "Please suggest the single most important thing to improve Cedar Springs Public Schools" was asked. The most frequently given answer was to change the superintendent. The same question was asked of parents, and new leadership as superintendent was the second highest response, behind only improving school security.

With the toxic environment the staff has had to endure, the unusual mass exodus of staff, poor financial decisions and most importantly falling proficiency with students, we the alumni, taxpayers and citizens of Cedar Springs come to you with a clear and powerful message. We have lost confidence in your sole employee, Dr. Laura VanDuyn. We ask that you hear our voice as we the people of Cedar Springs request the immediate removal of Dr. VanDuyn as Superintendent of Cedar Springs Public Schools.