Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — The goals are admirable. They make sense. They reflect the need to embrace new approaches and, above all, to be more accountable to students, parents and taxpayers.
But until a revamped administrative structure proposed for Traverse City Area Public Schools is put to the test, no one knows if the changes will improve academic instruction and offer more diverse ways to learn, the bedrock goals of the new alignment.
Despite some expected criticism, the district can at least be credited with shaking up the status quo and trying to bring a new approach to day-to-day instruction and greater focus on innovative programs.
The changes reflect the way education in Michigan is heading, Superintendent Stephen Cousins said. “The state is requiring us to diversify programs and is tying funding to student performance,” he said. “We’ve got to be proactive to faster meet those changes.”
The biggest change is creation of what the district is calling a “chief of schools” position, which will be filled by Westwoods Elementary School principal Sander Scott. He will oversee daily instructional operations and district principals, social workers, athletic and LEAP directors will report directly to him. His compensation will total about $156,000 a year.
Associate superintendent of quality learning development Jayne Mohr, to whom principals now report, will be put in charge of innovative academic programs and specialty schools, like the International School at Bertha Vos and the district’s popular Montessori offerings. Those kinds of programs have been credited with helping the district reverse a long decline in student numbers and an out-migration to private schools and smaller districts. The district needs more clarity on elementary-level foreign language programs.
Mohr will also assume the duties of Cathy Meyer-Looze, the district’s director of professional development. whose position has been eliminated. Chief Financial Officer Paul Soma will get a new title: associate superintendent of finances and operations. He and Mohr will retain their current pay.
The district will save about $46,000 through the reorganization, Cousins said.
District officials have said all the right things and laid out goals that make sense and address, at least on paper, issues the district has to deal with. Better scores, more innovation, and more accountability. What may count most of all, however, is a seeming willingness to stop doing things the way they’ve always been done. Change counts most in the classroom, but it has to start at the top.
School board president Kelly Hall said the district doesn’t want to “...do the same thing education has been doing for 100 years.”