Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 7, 2012

TCAPS spokesperson resigns

TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools top public relations official plans to resign.

Alison Arnold, who makes about $84,700 annually as the district's director of marketing, communications and volunteer services, delivered her letter of resignation to Superintendent Stephen Cousins Nov. 26.

Cousins asked her to mull her decision for a week. Arnold confirmed her stance this week and officially will leave in January.

TCAPS recently drew criticism for two public relations missteps, both of which involved Arnold's public relations department.

The district spent roughly $20,000 to produce and mail glossy campaign literature in October that highlighted a $100 million bond proposal.

That mailing prompted Grand Traverse County Commissioner Jason Gillman to allege TCAPS violated state election laws that prohibit the use of public money to promote or defeat a ballot question. The Michigan Secretary of State's office is reviewing Gillman's complaint.

Voters on Nov. 6 resoundingly rejected the district's millage request.

The day after the election, six TCAPS officials — including Arnold — traveled to China for an educational conference. The district did not publicize the trip, which cost the district about $12,000 for travel expenses and to pay for substitute administrators.

Cousins later said the district should have done more to publicize the trip, including its potential benefits to TCAPS. But he said Arnold's resignation was her decision.

Arnold said criticism over the China trip and campaign literature did not prompt her resignation. She said she plans to complete her doctoral degree and dissertation from Central Michigan University after she leaves TCAPS in January.

"I've been giving this some thought for some time," she said. "This allows me an opportunity to move through that process and get it done."

Cousins called Arnold's resignation a "loss" to TCAPS.

"She has contributed richly to our district," he said.

Arnold went to work for TCAPS in 2001. She was promoted to her current position in 2007.

Arnold said she's proud of her efforts to expand the district's online digital content and the creation of the Partners in Education Program, which links local businesses and students.

Cousins said he will review the structure of TCAPS' marketing and communications department, and will speak with that department's employees in the coming weeks. No decision has been made whether to hire a replacement for Arnold, he said.

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