TRAVERSE CITY — Stephen Cousins spent most of his life in school, in one form or another.
Cousins, superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools, has been a social worker, teacher, principal, associate superintendent and superintendent. Now he's about to end the in-office aspect of his 32-year career in education.
Cousins today said he'll step down as of July 1. His announcement came the same month Michigan Secretary of State officials determined district administrators misspent $25,656 in taxpayer money to print and distribute campaign fliers that violated state election laws.
The district also lost two consecutive bond millages and settled a local resident's state Open Meetings Act lawsuit during his tenure.
But TCAPS board members and others praised Cousins for his commitment to students, his budgetary acumen and his efforts to expand the district's global educational goals.
For his part, Cousins said he's been considering leaving TCAPS for about a year to pursue a consulting position in the private sector.
"This really is about me taking advantage of opportunities that are there for me in the private sector. Eventually, those doors start to close," he said. "I started thinking about this about a year ago. I had some formal reach-outs back in January, and that's what got me thinking on an accelerated timeline."
Cousins said he plans to stay in Traverse City and work full-time as a leadership and strategic planning consultant for organizations across the country, primarily in education but also in other venues such as health care.
"I made my decision quite a while ago, but I sat on it to make sure it's what I wanted to do," he said. "I talked to the board (March 13)."
Budget cuts, new programs
The TCAPS board hired Cousins as superintendent in July 2010. He helped create the district's current strategic plan and cut a $5.4 million structural deficit during his tenure. He also helped launch International Baccalaureate programs, new student exchange programs and an early college program in partnership with Northwestern Michigan College.