Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 9, 2013

TCAPS reviews Cousins

BY MICHAEL WALTON
mwalton@record-eagle.com

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools’ Board of Education will release their annual evaluation of the district’s superintendent during a meeting tonight.

TCAPS board members recently met in closed session — part of the time with Superintendent Stephen Cousins present and part of the time without him — to discuss Cousins’ performance over the last year. A written report compiled by board President Kelly Hall and based on individual board members’ evaluations is up for a vote tonight.

“The majority of the board believes Steve Cousins is doing a great job executing the strategic plan that was approved by the board of education,” Hall said.

Cousins signed on with TCAPS through the 2015 academic year after he accepted a one-year contract extension offered by board members following his 2012 evaluation.

Hall said district officials have not formally discussed an extension offer this year.

“There just has been no push for it, and because his contact has two more years on it based on the extension we had last year, there’s no sense of urgency,” Hall said.

Board member Scott Hardy said TCAPS struggled recently with voters’ rejections of two capital project bond referendums in as many years.

“Obviously, as the leader of the district he bears some responsibility for that and he accepted it,” he said. “(The evaluation) was not as ringing an endorsement this year as it was last year. I suppose the same could be said of the board.”

Board Member Gary Appel said he stands behind the Cousins-led 2013 bond campaign, even though the millage request failed.

Appel also called Cousins an “adept” leader during a time of diminishing state funds for public schools.

“Many districts have done draconian things in order to survive and some have been disbanded, as we’ve seen,” Appel said. “He’s managed to guide the district’s ship through very difficult waters in this state.”

Cousins said TCAPS experienced successes in the last year -- like improvements to math instruction and the expansion of foreign exchange programming -- as well as shortcomings such as the millage defeat and an inability to settle contract disputes.

“All the stuff I’ve mentioned where we made gains, those all are continuing projects,” Cousins said. “All the other things I’ve mentioned where our focus needs to be on improvement, those are all currently targets.”

The school board will meet at 6 p.m. at the district’s administration building.

Other agenda items include approval of a bid for a $1.3-million early childhood classroom addition at Blair Elementary School. Funding for that project stems from a 2007 voter-approved bond proposal.

Construction will start immediately if the board approves the bid.