Traverse City Record-Eagle

Election 2012

September 21, 2012

TCAPS board member to face challenger

TRAVERSE CITY — Thomas Grigal wants to bring a little dissension to the decision-making process of the Traverse City Area Public Schools' board of education.

Grigal, a stay-at home dad and student whose oldest child will enter TCAPS next year, will challenge incumbent Gary Appel, who seeks a second four-year term in the Nov. 6 general election.

Both candidates have links to education. Grigal's wife is a TCAPS teacher and he's studying secondary education. Appel, a former teacher, manages educational consultants for a national nonprofit assigned to the Michigan Department of Education.

"The funny thing is Gary Appel is awesome, but he just happens to be the guy up this year and I want the job," Grigal said. "I offer a different vision and different perspective."

Grigal decided to run after he and others in April asked the school board to preserve the art curriculum in early elementary grades.

"They nodded, said this is a very hard decision to make and did what they wanted to do anyway," Grigal said. "Right now there's not enough dissension among their conversation to have a good discussion. There's no dialogue."

Appel said the district accomplished a "huge amount" over the last few years in a difficult financial environment. He cites expansion of the Montessori program, the re-opening of Bertha Vos as an International Baccalaureate program, and the teaching of Spanish from kindergarten through high school, plus a wide range of other, smaller programs to widen educational offerings.

"I think we are on the right track, and I'm invested in seeing the school district continue to grow, continue to expand," Appel said. "We are a full service, comprehensive school district. We want to maintain that and we want to grow it."

But Grigal said that growth has come at the expense of other programs. The district trimmed art for Spanish, made sports a pay-to-play activity, and doesn't provide transportation to Montessori or Bertha Vos, making it difficult for working parents to take advantage of the programs.

"Cool, wonderful programs ... but you can't get there unless you drive there," Grigal said. "The big point is disparity across the services offered."

The two also disagree on a proposed $100 million tax increase over 10 years to reconstruct three elementary schools, build a $26 million performing arts center at Central High School, and replace technology and buses.

"We look to the long-term, and we put in the pieces that we need in order to maintain the district that the community expects," Appel said. "We have a huge amount of support in this community and I expect the millage is going to pass."

Grigal said the board is asking for too much in the current economy.

"The board had different choices they could have made for lower millages, and for some reason they chose to go all in, and that's a lot to ask of people right now," Grigal said. "I think when you are asking for all of it, I think you are really going to push some buttons."

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