Traverse City Record-Eagle

Region

June 4, 2010

Cousins named TCAPS leader

Board votes 6-0 in favor of Muskegon superintendent

TRAVERSE CITY — The chief administrator of a western Michigan school district is the new superintendent of Traverse City's public schools.

Steve Cousins, superintendent of Reeths-Puffer Schools in Muskegon, accepted the position in Traverse City on Thursday after school board members voted 6-0 to offer him the job.

Board member Megan Crandall abstained, saying she was unable to support either candidate.

Tom Goodney, deputy superintendent of the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio in Columbus, Ohio, was the other finalist.

Contract negotiations with Cousins will begin immediately. The board listed the position with a base salary range of $155,000 to $165,000.

"I'm looking forward to making the transition," said Cousins, 51, who intends to relocate as soon as possible. "My wife and I want to be contributing members to the whole community."

Cousins' selection caps a months-long process that started after current Superintendent James Feil said in January he would leave the district July 1.

Five semifinalists were interviewed last month before Cousins and Goodney were called back. Board President Marjie Rich and members Kelly Hall and Julie Puckett visited both of their districts this week.

They said Cousins was described as an administrator who has the trust of his employees, attends student functions and visits buildings on a frequent basis.

"We heard that reiterated by parents and community members," Rich said. "People truly seemed connected to him in both a professional and personal way."

Goodney, 44, was reported to be adept at forming relationships and a detail-focused leader who does not micromanage.

Both rose in the education field, starting as teachers and principals before becoming administrators. But their current roles differ.

Goodney oversees daily operations for a district similar to an intermediate school district. Cousins is familiar with Michigan's school funding system — Reeths-Puffer, like Traverse City, receives the base per-student amount — and leads a district of about 3,950 students.

"There's no bad call here," board member Gary Appel said. "They are very strong and very capable of leading this district."

Crandall, who abstained, said site visits appeared informative but community members likely won't have the same opportunity the board did to spend entire days with the candidates.

"We as a board agreed to the language of 'exemplary communicator.' I don't think we've found that," she said. "First impressions are a big thing, and second impressions are a big thing."

Rich said Cousins' written application displayed his communication skills, and the trait was affirmed in Reeths-Puffer.

"He will serve our district very well," she said, adding that Cousins is poised to become a strong regional leader. "I have complete confidence that he will take us there."

It was important to rely on more than just interviews because they aren't complete reflections of anyone, said Kelly Roscher, a physical education teacher at West Senior High.

Roscher attended the public sessions, but also met with each finalist before the second interview and browsed home district websites.

Because of that, "I was more confident with him taking our leadership role," she said of Cousins. "I think the board did their homework."

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