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November 16, 2013

TCAPS board mulls drastic changes in wake of election defeat

TRAVERSE CITY — Julie Puckett considered writing her resignation letter when she awoke after election day.

Defeat weighed that heavily on Puckett, vice president of Traverse City Area Public Schools’ Board of Education, after district voters on Nov. 5 rejected by about 250 votes a “nuts and bolts” capital improvement millage proposal.

“In some ways it’s taken me probably a week and a half to come out of my funk after the election,” Puckett said this week.

Frustration after millage losses in consecutive years boiled over at the TCAPS board’s meeting on Monday, when board members vowed to consider a wide array of options as the district tries to fix aging schools and upgrade infrastructure. One board member even floated the idea of breaking the district into political or ideological divisions.

Sixty percent of Traverse City voters and 55 percent of Peninsula Township voters favored the 2013 millage, but the proposal lost in every other township in the TCAPS district, as well as the segments of Leelanau and Benzie counties that fall within TCAPS boundaries, according to district data.

Board member Megan Crandall said there seems to be a growing gap in “philosophy,” “political affiliation” and “values” between the areas where the millage passed or nearly passed, and the areas where it lost by a wide margin.

Outlying townships appear to question everything TCAPS tries to do beyond offering basic reading, writing and arithmetic education, Crandall contended during the board meeting. Maybe it’s time to give “out county” residents the option to join nearby school districts like Kalkaska Public Schools and Benzie County Central Schools while TCAPS focuses on the Traverse City area, she said.

“We have to have a brutally honest conversation,” she said. “We can’t tiptoe around this value divide we seem to have.”

Crandall said there are ways to either annex away or charter off parts of the district, though she acknowledged she has not contacted the Michigan Department of Education to determine what exactly that would entail.

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