Endorsements from East Lansing Public School Staff and MSU College of Education supporting the 2017 Bond

Hello Public Response readers, and others,

About a week ago I recommended to Tali Hylen that she consider submitting to Public Response a list of endorsements from East Lansing Public School Staff and MSU College of Education supporting the 2017 Bond.
Thank you for this submission Tali - Jim Cuddeback

There are 14 short endorsements/images below for your review including family, staff, and educators all in action as supporters of the 2017 Bond.

Nancy Cuddeback and I are supporting this bond for the simple reason that our community needs the proposed new physical improvements to our schools.  We want to make sure that our neighbors and their children and grandchildren will have the necessary educational spaces & tools to work and learn with.  Nancy and I see everyday from our grandchildren, that new shoes definitely encourage kids to run faster and this newness increases their learning enthusiasm - it goes off the chart.

Maggie Veith Moore an ELHS math teacher (see #13 below) said it in another way, "As a teacher in the 'new' East Lansing High School I have been asked over and over again how passing the new bond will impact student learning. After working in two old buildings earlier in my career, I can tell you that nicer spaces = higher performance. A modern 'commons area' keeps our academic hallways quiet with a focus on learning. Bringing my students into the beautiful "Hub" results in more professional presentations than staying in the classroom. Are you more productive in sweats or in nicer clothing? It's the same unquantifiable but important difference. Our elementary students deserve better learning environments. I'm proud to support this bond."

Voting is how we make change here and by voting YES the community will be flowering!

Jim and Nancy Cuddeback
710 Virginia
East Lansing


In addition to public endorsements from politicians Gretchen Whitmer, Sam Singh, Erik Altmann, Curtis Hertel, Mark Meadows, Ruth Beier, Eric Schertzing and Rick Jones, the YES for Excellent Schools committee has gathered several endorsements from ELPS staff and professors within the MSU Department of Education. The ELEA (East Lansing Education Association) has also endorsed the proposed school bond. 

Please take the time to read the below thoughts from the people who are affected by the conditions of our buildings and/or who’ve researched the impact on education that facilities can have.

1. ELPS Elementary Building principal endorsement: Sarah Scott (Marble), Amy Webster (Pinecrest), Tracey Barton (Donley), Andy Wells (Whitehills), Lorraine Ware (Glencairn).

“East Lansing Public Schools are committed to nurturing each child, educating all students, and building world citizens. Our administration and staff recognize and appreciate, daily, the care and support of our community stakeholders. Each day hundreds of students, from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, enter our hallways where they are greeted by caring teachers and staff. However, our hallways, classrooms and learning spaces were designed for students of the 1950's. Much has changed in education over the last 60 plus years, yet our elementary buildings have remained the same.

Our students use lockers covered in rust to hang their belongings. They eat in cafeterias that do not have kitchen preparation space and are served their meals from folding tables. The restrooms in our buildings are old, dingy and inadequate in size. Our heating and cooling and plumbing systems require parts that are no longer made or so difficult to locate, taking days to repair. There is a shortage of space in many of our buildings, requiring some staff members to work in small spaces with poor lighting and no windows.

Finally, all buildings share similar parking and traffic congestion concerns. Car lines for picking up and dropping off students are congested, dangerous, and frustrating for not only our parents, but also community members who live in the surrounding areas. For all-school events and evening performances or activities there is simply not enough parking for families and staff.

Over the last 60 years East Lansing has grown and developed into a community in which its residents are proud to call home. It boasts a Big Ten University, contemporary museums, prominent businesses and restaurants, and a variety of modern state-of the-art entertainment centers. It is now time for our East Lansing elementary school buildings to reflect not only our successful community, but our new generation of learners as well.”


2. From Donley teacher Katie Kinne-Ballard

"I've been seriously thinking about how exactly I would like to share my thoughts via this forum. Most people that know me, regardless of shared interest, know that I share my thoughts on other forums without hesitancy. I do admit that that speaking out on YES! makes me a bit nervous because of the factors that are at stake, however it makes me more nervous to think of what might NOT happen if this bond doesn't pass.

I've been teaching for over 20 years in this amazing district. I immediately want to share all of our needs, but I HAVE to start with everything we already have. I am blessed and privileged to be a member of ELPS. I have been a part of teaching and learning with the students of Whitehills, Glencairn and Donley. Without hesitation I can honestly say that the very best thing about going to school each day are the amazing students... (especially mine -past and present).

It goes without saying that our district can NEVER make improvements on the amazing kids we are incredibly fortunate to have in our classrooms. The gifts, the struggles, but most importantly the reality our children bring to us are irreplaceable.

That being said, what we could do with updates in technology and updates in our facilities would be a dream come true. 21st Century Learning IS happening on a teacher income level. At this point in my teaching I'm so incredibly lucky to be a Donley teacher where teachers have a vision and on their own have created flexible learning spaces and PBL maker spacers. Please do not be disillusioned that they are state of the art because they are out of pocket and within the confinement of a very dated facility, that has NEVER been updated in my 20+ years.

Class size is at an all time high and trying to operate in small rooms that are designed for the 1970's classroom presents many challenges. Our kids need one to one technology, they need alternative learning spaces, they need to be able to work in groups with hands-on technology.

East Lansing Public Schools has the most amazing students and the most amazing staff. Our elementary buildings DESERVE 21st century updates, but most importantly our kids DESERVE these updates which Saying YES would provide!"


3. From Sean Michael Williams PhD, Director of Student Instructional Services
Ingham Intermediate School District and ELPS parent.

"In an age where you can Google just about anything, schools are now tasked to develop students who are collaborative problem-solvers. Small spaces are not conducive for instructional activities that foster cooperative learning. Our current elementary schools were not designed for educating children in the 21 century. This bond proposal is an amazing opportunity to build facilities that foster deep-creative thinking for all of East Lansing’s students. I hope you will all join my wife Molly and I and vote Yes on May 2nd! "


4. From Rob Voigt, who is now teaching at MacDonald Middle School.

"As an elementary teacher in East Lansing for almost 40 years, one might say that I have aged right along with the elementary school buildings I’ve worked in, including Marble, Whitehills, Pinecrest, and Glencairn Schools. Although I have a strong attachment to all of them, I’ve also endured the tests and trials caused by their dated design, outmoded architecture and lack of space. I, for one, would welcome the 'reboot' achieved by the proposed Bond proposal.

At Marble school in the 70s, I recall enjoying an hour and a half lunch period—during which most of the students walked home and back! But I also remember that the car traffic for drop-off and pick-up was next to impossible, always requiring an adult to direct traffic and run safety for children.

At the California-styled Pinecrest School, I recall the door in my classroom which led directly outside bringing a real chill to learning, letting in cold winter drafts along with the single pane windows. My students would read in the coat room—because there was always a need for more learning space—but with their coats ON!

At Whitehills School, as a Reading Helping Teacher in the 80s, I was assigned a closet in which to host small groups of children for reading study—there were no other available spaces.

At Glencairn School in the 90s I recall windows being boarded up for energy conservation, already low ceilings being lowered again, asbestos abatement, and, long before it was social media bait, lead being identified in the classroom faucets. Then, in 1992, some badly needed classroom space was added to Glencairn. It, however, built over the grand entrance to the front of the school (facing Southlawn) and relegated all foot traffic to the traditional “delivery door” off the parking lot. And that parking lot and drive—sitting just feet from classroom windows—delivered the unwelcomed smell of exhaust to occupants at all hours of the day. The new addition did boast a modern update to classrooms—an internet connection! But in that early day, the “world-wide web” was in its infancy: one internet connection was wired into each room—at the back—for individual 'student research'.

In my view, people invariably make the best of their situation… and I’m no different. I am grateful for my tenure in East Lansing Schools and have treasured my experience despite the hardships and limitations. But, given the chance, would I optimize the learning environment for students and teachers? Certainly!

Of course I don’t want to ignore the most important aspect of our schools: that an East Lansing education is about enduring relationships and meaningful learning… a treasured experience which will live on in the student’s personal and professional life.

But on the other hand, if some new brick and mortar can support and enhance that experience, I think we should do it!"


5. From Alyssa Hadley Dunn, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, Michigan State University.

"As a parent of a future East Lansing student, I am fully in support of the bond proposal. When my husband and I moved to the area for jobs at MSU, we heard from many current and former families that East Lansing schools are outstanding. Now, we need facilities to match that educational excellence and offer more opportunities for pedagogical innovation.

As a former teacher, I know firsthand how important facilities and resources are for establishing a safe and innovative classroom community. We have decades of research from around the country that facilities matter—not just to students and families, but also teachers. We know that teachers are more likely to stay in teaching and be more creative and engaged in their instruction if they are working in good conditions. Part of working conditions are, yes, teacher salaries, and I strongly believe that we need to pay teachers more for the hard work they engage in every day. But the bond proposal cannot be used for that important reform, and we should not let our desire to improve salaries limit our ability to also advocate for improved building infrastructure. Teachers have been making due with what they have, and they have been doing a great job at it. But they—and our children—deserve better than 'making due.'

Educational research, including my own work with teachers around the U.S., continues to show that teachers want to have a voice in making change in their schools, districts, and state. One way to do this is to offer teachers a key role in thinking creatively about what their ideal classroom space would look like. Indeed, one of my assignments for the future teachers with whom I work is to use research to design their future dream classrooms. Their classroom designs do not look like what we have now—not even close—nor does research support what we have now.

We also know that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions. Students of all ages learn better when they are allowed to work in collaborative, youth-centered, safe spaces like those we have an opportunity to develop if the bond passes.

For the teachers, current students, and future students of East Lansing Public Schools, I will be pleased to vote 'Yes' on May 2."


6. From Renee Russell VanRemmen, 4th grade teacher at Marble and East Lansing parent.

"As a teacher of 23 years in the district, the fact is, we need new buildings," "Updating is not cost effective. Our children are safe, but deserve better."

The HVAC systems are out dated and difficult to find the old parts to repair. My teaching partner and I spent 3 days with 60 children crammed in the library while a heater part was ordered, delivered from out of town and installed. The old lights sometimes burn when they go out and cause a horrible smell that lasts all day causing students to feel nauseous (I've had 2 in the past 2 years).

And unfortunately in today's world, one of the most important things for me is that we have a building that provides the security we need. We need a safe and secure entry, we need classroom doors that can keep intruders out. We need improved access for the handicapped, we need new plumbing systems. And as a luxury, it would be great to have a kitchen so teachers can do lessons we once were able to do with students before they were removed due to new regulations.

There are many things we would like, but there are many basic needs that should be met. Can we survive with the current buildings? Of course we can. Elementary teachers are great at making the best out of a bad situation. But again, our children deserve better!"


7. From Dorinda Carter Andrews, Associate Professor of Teacher Education and Assistant Dean of Equity Outreach Initiatives, Michigan State University.

"Our children have been attending Pinecrest Elementary for four years, and during that time we have seen and experienced some of the variety of challenges that the school faces with adequate facilities for educating all youth equitably.

As a former K-12 educator, now teacher educator and educational consultant, I am in full support of this bond that will provide not only enhance learning facilities for our elementary-aged children but will also facilitate implementation of more innovative pedagogies and practices by classroom teachers. My husband and I are happy to vote YES on May 2nd for more excellent schools in East Lansing."


8. From Tim Akers, East Lansing high school teacher

"There is no more important investment than in our children's education," "If we want them to succeed, we have to do everything in our power to provide them with the resources necessary to take on the 21st century. Our current elementary buildings need to be upgraded to make that a reality. Please vote YES on May 2."


9. From Assistant Professor of Educational Administration in the College of Education at MSU," Chris Torres, Glencairn parent.

"I moved to East Lansing recently with my wife and two children to take a job as an Assistant Professor of Educational Administration in the College of Education at MSU. As we toured schools last summer, I was thrilled to meet the people and teachers in our wonderful community but I vividly remember worrying about the buildings themselves. These worries were elevated after reading the report regarding the state of the facilities, especially when it came to things that were not immediately visible during my school visits that will likely require remediation in the near future.

As an elementary teacher in New York, I taught in a beautiful, spacious and well-resourced school but also purposefully moved to that building from a school that had few resources and inadequate space. For me, the difference in climate for both teachers and students was profound. My doctoral study, focused on teacher retention and working conditions in schools, showed me that these feelings are shared by teachers across the country and the world.

For instance one of my advisors, a former director of the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), wrote a paper discussing the impact of facilities on teacher morale/retention (see here: http://www.ncef.org/pubs/teacherretention.pdf). The paper concludes: “However, as our research here suggests, the benefits of facility improvement for retention can be equal to or even greater than those from pay increases. Furthermore, a major facilities improvement is likely to be a one-time expense, last for many years, and have supplemental sources of state or federal funding available. It could thus be a more cost effective teacher retention strategy than a permanent salary increase for teachers in the medium- to long-term. Indeed, in the limited research on facilities and retention in developing nations, facilities improvement has been found to offset low wages (MacDonald 1999; Oliveira and Farrell 1993). Our research suggests the same may be true in the United States as well.” This is consistent with trends in the research on the positive relationship between facilities and student achievement.

Based on my own experience as a teacher, what I know about our school facilities, and my knowledge of the research, I am left with one certainty: these buildings must be addressed in the very near future for the sake of our teachers and students and the long term health of the community. This is our chance to do so and that is why I will be voting Yes on May 2nd."


10. Dave Chapin, K-12 Educational Administration Assistant Professor at MSU and former EL superintendent

"We will be voting YES on May 2nd in support of our students, teachers and community."


11. From Katie Pike, Whitehills Music Teacher

"Five years ago, my husband and I bought a house in the beautiful Bailey neighborhood in East Lansing. We chose our home because of the fantastic community, the proximity to MSU, and most importantly because of the schools where we would send our future children. Three children later, I landed a job as a music teacher at ELPS and will be sending our oldest son to Kindergarten in the Fall with two more close behind. As a teacher and parent of elementary students at ELPS, I can proudly say that we are among the best schools in the area. However, our elementary schools are small and outdated.

Our new facilities will bring more opportunities to our students, create new community spaces where we can all gather together, and provide teachers with high quality classrooms. As a teacher and parent, I get to see all of the wonderful sides of ELPS and can't wait for what the future holds. Join the Pikes as we vote YES to the ELPS School Bond on May 2nd."


12. From Becki Spitzer, 3rd grade teacher at Marble Elementary School

"As I return to my classroom tomorrow morning I will start my day by running the faucet to flush the water that has been sitting over the weekend. I'm happy to do it, because my students deserve clean drinking water. As the day progresses and my students refill their water bottles, or head to the drinking fountain I will know my time was well spent. I would feel so much better knowing the water was flowing through new pipes."

I want my students to learn and explore in a building that is safe and comfortable. I've worked to create learning spaces in my classroom where I can work with small groups of children and provide enrichment or interventions based on their needs. I could offer more opportunities for small group learning if our building had small group rooms (the building plans include small group rooms). Having a consistent space available for volunteers to work with small groups would promote the opportunities for exploration we know is best for students."

As a parent of a Kindergartener, incoming Kindergartener, and a recent graduate, I want to know my kids can enter and leave our building safely. I've been late to pick up my son, not because I wasn't there...because I couldn't get into the parking lot. I've watched countless parents slamming on breaks to avoid pedestrians crossing our parking lot. We have wonderful crossing guards, safety patrol, and of course Mr. Price monitoring, but it is a design concern. We need a parent drop-off and pick-up location, a bus loop, and a pedestrian crossing area. My eighteen-year-old son attended Marble, and I remember discussing the parking issues during my first parent meeting. It has been almost fifteen years since that meeting, and I still have the same concerns.

I urge you to consider the building plans for your neighborhood school. The plan for the school I teach at includes some wonderful improvements. I am hopeful my students and my children will have the opportunity to learn in an alluring space."


13. From Maggie Veith Moore ELHS Math teacher and parent of four children currently at Marble Elementary

"As a teacher in the 'new' East Lansing High School I have been asked over and over again how passing the new bond will impact student learning. After working in two old buildings earlier in my career, I can tell you that nicer spaces = higher performance. A modern 'commons area' keeps our academic hallways quiet with a focus on learning. Bringing my students into the beautiful "Hub" results in more professional presentations than staying in the classroom. Are you more productive in sweats or in nicer clothing? It's the same unquantifiable but important difference. Our elementary students deserve better learning environments. I'm proud to support this bond."


14. From Jen Van Der Heide, Assistant Professor Department of Teacher Education at MSU

"As a parent whose son moved from a newly-renovated school in Columbus, Ohio to Pinecrest Elementary, I have seen first-hand how much harder it is for our elementary school teachers to use the space in their classrooms to teach with effective practices such as differentiated grouping, literacy and math stations, and flexible seating. They do an amazing job with what they have, using every single bit of space (including piling boxes and bins on top of cupboards), but they have likely reached the limits of their creativity.

When I was earning my doctorate in Education, one of my professors (a leading educational psychologist) said, 'Space invites people to participate in different kinds of activities and behavior.' As a former high school teacher and now teacher educator, I truly believe this statement. Because I want teachers and students to feel invited to participate in the best teaching and learning possible, I will vote yes for the bond on May 2nd.”


15. From Terah Venzant Chambers, educator/parent/bond committee volunteer

"My husband and I chose to come to MSU because of the community East Lansing offers,” says Terah Venzant Chambers. "In particular, we were drawn to the public schools here that are both academically excellent and wonderfully diverse. As an associate professor of educational leadership at MSU, both of these factors are obviously important to me. Now four years later, our son has just started kindergarten at Glencairn and is thriving with his peers and teacher. I have been involved in ELPS as a parent volunteer, panelist on last year’s achievement gap panel, and regular school board meeting attendee. So, when the call came out last summer for volunteers to serve on the community bond committee, I thought I might add a valuable perspective and threw my hat in the ring.

The 22 of us who served on the bond committee represent a diversity of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds. We are educators, architects, parents, retirees, business people, economists – in sum, we are a microcosm of East Lansing itself. The night of our first meeting I feared that we would never come to consensus around an outcome because our perspectives were just too disparate. But week after week we met, studied various reports and projections, and listened to financial, architectural, educational, and construction experts as well as one another. For me, the moment that solidified my thinking came during the tour we took of all the schools with maintenance supervisor Brian Reeve. The tour that was supposed to last a couple hours and cover all six buildings ended up taking the entire day. We talked to teachers, students, and principals and heard them all asking for a plan that addressed safety concerns, provided much needed storage, and, most importantly, offered learning environments that aligned structurally with – not against – their current instructional methods.

I quickly learned that school construction is a complex process with numerous moving parts. We worked hard for weeks to come up with what we felt was the right plan based on the needs of the whole community, but particularly our students and teachers who are in these buildings every day. In the end we came together to unanimously support a plan for buildings that not only meet the needs we have now, but will allow us to provide another 40-50 more years of the high quality education for which our community has become known.

I have a level of confidence with this plan that comes from months of studied effort. I became part of the Yes committee so that I could help inform the community about this plan. It does not offer everything for everyone – no plan could – but I honestly believe the plan we proposed to the school board and the larger community represents our best opportunity to address our deteriorating infrastructure while at the same time provide modern educational environments that will enhance what our teachers and district leaders are already doing.

Investing in our children’s future makes a statement about what we value and, I hope, will draw more families to our city and further enrich our community. If you also believe in strong communities with strong public schools, join me on May 2nd and vote YES for excellent schools.”