The math simply doesn’t work.
Traverse City Area Public Schools officials now have spent well in excess of a quarter of a million dollars to hire and dismiss a widely-praised superintendent. And we — the people whose tax checks pay the bills and whose children are impacted — still don’t know what actions precipitated the silence our cash purchased.
That’s a lot of money. Let’s say by the end of this hiring, split and rehiring process, TCAPS spends $750,000 on search firms, moving expenses, interim superintendents, lawyers and separation agreements. That’s more than the district said it would save in operating costs when it decided to close two elementary schools in 2016. That’s enough to hire more than 20 teachers at the district’s starting wage. And it’s about the same amount the district spent on new curriculum a few years ago.
Yet, we still don’t know what our money is paying for, whether we’re simply writing checks to cover mistakes made by trustees.
Since the day news broke that strife between TCAPS trustees and their unanimously-hired superintendent, Ann Cardon, surfaced, we have been left to wonder what behaviors precipitated such a sudden split? Why did we pay Cardon $180,000 to leave the district after only 78 days on the job? Why are we paying for lawyers to help withhold public records?
Cardon’s contract allowed for termination without severance if trustees had legitimate cause to cut her loose.
So, considering what we’ve learned thus far, we’re left to wonder if those we elect to represent us would be so petty as to hire a polished, professional leader, only to drive her away on capricious grounds?
Worse, it appears there has been a concerted effort by a faction of board members led by board President Sue Kelly, who have worked to obscure their conduct from public view.
In November, Kelly contended she supported Cardon until the day she submitted her resignation.
Now, by Kelly’s own admission, we know she and other trustees were in the loop on Cardon’s negotiated departure for several days before they would so much as publically acknowledge the disintegrating relationship with their top leader.
Now, as trustees prepare to search for a new superintendent, we find ourselves learning more about Cardon’s exit, one text message at a time.
The talking points projected to the public from that group of trustees evolves each time a new glimpse of their actions is exposed to public view. It’s a frustrating dance in which none of us should be forced to participate.
We all should expect more honesty, more integrity from those who we elect to represent our community.
Instead, we are left to wonder what factors still are missing from the public accounting of the district’s leadership split.
Because the math we’re seeing still doesn’t add up.