Approval Would Fund Social, Emotional and Academic Needs

On May 2, voters in the Kent ISD region will be asked to approve a 0.9 mill tax for local school districts, generating $211 per student to maintain programs, improve services and meet other needs. School News Network is offering information on what the millage means for each of the 20 districts in the Kent ISD. Today we focus on Cedar Springs Public Schools. SNN spoke with Superintendent Laura VanDuyn.

How much would your district gain from the millage in the first year?

What would you spend the increased revenue on, and how would this help students?
Funds would help the district address the emotional-behavioral side of student life as well as the academic side, VanDuyn said. That could include hiring staff to help provide intervention support for students with mental health issues, students living in poverty and students who excel academically, she said.

The district has made recent efforts to address student mental health, such as Responsive Classroom and the be.nice initiative. But not every building is equipped with a counselor, which these funds could help provide, VanDuyn pointed out. The district would also consider adding Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), which helps align teaching strategies to promote positive behavior.

Superintendent Laura VanDuynOn the academic side, the district could consider a Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS), programming which helps make curriculum consistent from grade to grade, VanDuyn said, adding, “We would want to focus on how can we structure all of that to have consistency.” Specialists or teachers could be hired to implement these support systems, she said.

At the high school, the Early College program, a partnership with GRCC, could be expanded to allow more students to join. A new program considered would be Naviance, which provides strategies to improve college and career readiness.

If the millage were to fail, what changes or cuts would you have to make next school year?
VanDuyn said the district’s funding has been unchanged or flat since the 2007-2008 year, and balancing the budget has required more and more cuts.

“To do more with less has been very difficult,” she said. “If it passed, we would be able to enhance things we’re doing, that we wouldn’t be able to if that $723,000 doesn’t come to us. It’s not so much cuts as it is not providing those enhancements.”

Avoiding large class sizes has been a district commitment for the district that would be much harder to fulfill without additional funding, she said. Very few new programs would be considered without the funds, she added.

“If the millage passes it’s a game-changer,” she said. “Otherwise it’s bare bones.”

What objections have you heard, if any, from your community, and what is your response?
While she said the district has not been met with organized resistance to the proposal, VanDuyn wants the community to understand the millage would help address a specific list of needs.

“Every dollar is put to teaching, learning, kids and classrooms,” she said, adding that the county has a rare opportunity to fund schools in this way.

“This isn’t just about our district or someone else’s district. It means that throughout Kent County, I can be talking to people and say ‘Get out the vote.’”


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