TRAVERSE CITY — There's still time to wade in with an application, for anyone interested in joining Traverse City Area Public Schools' Board of Education.
TCAPS officials extended a deadline for applications to fill a vacancy on the school board from Jan. 3 to Jan. 10. The district has received only one application since board member Marjorie Rich announced her resignation early this month.
"We recognized doing this over the holidays, either people probably weren't paying close attention to this or people were out of town," board member Scott Hardy said. "We think there are some great candidates out there, or at least we hope there are, and we want to make sure we have a pool we can draw from."
Karl "Bill" Dungjen, of Leelanau County's Solon Township, was the lone person to apply for the vacant board seat as of Friday.
Dungjen said school officials and board members overall "do a very nice job" but he said TCAPS needs to refocus on its primary mission of educating students.
"There’s a lot of top-heavy administrative stuff going on that, in my opinion, is ancillary to the actual job of the school district," he said.
Dungjen is married to Susan Dungjen, a longtime TCAPS teacher.
Karl Dungjen said employee morale at the district is low. Ongoing contract negotiations between TCAPS officials and teachers union representatives don't help, but there's more to it than that, he contends.
"I don’t think, quite honestly, the contract is the main issue, and I don’t want to put this on the district alone," he said. "This is not just a district problem. It’s a state problem, and it’s a national problem."
Karl Dungjen said he would not plan to recuse himself from votes related to teachers union contracts if selected to join the board.
"I don’t see it as a conflict of interest," he said. "Quite frankly, I see it as a valuable view point."
Karl Dungjen has never held public office, but he's twice unsuccessfully sought election to Leelanau County's Board of Commissioners -- once as a Democrat and once as an Independent.
His children are open-enrolled at Glen Lake Schools Community Schools because, he said, the district is closer to their home than is TCAPS, and he attended Glen Lake schools as a youth.
The open board seat will be filled on an interim basis until the next school board election in November. Candidates will be vetted and interviewed in public before board members vote on a replacement. School officials expect the seat to be filled by Feb. 1.