Supporters defend Cedar Springs superintendent after fiery town hall

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. -- Hundreds of people gathered at a town hall Thursday to discuss Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Laura VanDuyn. Many were calling for her resignation, accusing her of bullying, intimidation and forbidding collaboration in the workplace.

While some want to see her departure, others say VanDuyn has been an exceptional addition to the district since she came there three-and-a-half years ago.

Her supporters say VanDuyn continues to strengthen the district, and claim people calling for her resignation never gave her a chance.

"I think their accusations are the same as they were three years ago and I think they're not giving her a chance at all," said Liz Grace, a parent of two Cedarview Elementary students.

Grace calls the accusations against the superintendent ridiculous.

“She cares about her staff, the students especially. She puts students first with every decision she makes within the district," Grace says. "I was the co-president of the PTO for 3 or 4 years. She was the first person who actually said ‘Thank you for what you’re doing.'"

Grace says she's seen the positive impact VanDuyn has made throughout the district, including adding counselors in places they weren't before.

"Which is extremely important for students to have a safe place to go, which is maybe not their teacher or a secretary or something like that," she said.

Sally Petty, a grandmother of six kids in the district, says she thinks a lot of the concerns people may have with VanDuyn are personnel issues.  She also says it isn't correct to say that everyone who has left the district in recent years is because of VanDuyn.

"Some of these personnel issues with the people, they like to spout that there is 80 people quit the district. Some of them that have quit weren’t qualified for the jobs they’ve had, some retired, and others left because, you have to look at the school as a business, but it’s a business that cares about our kids," she said. "And people quit jobs and move away, but to sit there and say [those people] left because of the superintendent is false.”

Petty also says the community never gave VanDuyn a chance. She says the superintendent continues to receive good reviews from the school board, with many of the members not even being the people who brought her in.

Even with the backlash, Liz Grace doesn't think VanDuyn will resign. If she does, Grace says it will be a shame.

“I hope she doesn’t [resign]," Grace said. "For my sake, if she were to resign, and they go back to their old ways, I probably wouldn't stay in the district. It’s very unwelcoming to new people for the people who have lived in Cedar Springs their whole life and gone to school here."

FOX 17 reached out to Vanduyn for comment to discuss the accusations multiple times on Friday. On Thursday, she provided the following comment:

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.

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