TRAVERSE CITY — The second last-minute special meeting of local school trustees in less than a week is expected to provide a window into the murky events that triggered dayslong community uproar.
The Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education has called a special, untelevised meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday for the “authorization of a mutual agreement.” That language mirrors lines in Superintendent Ann Cardon’s contract with the school district that outline termination protocol, which includes a mutual agreement.
Trustee Erica Moon Mohr confirmed late Wednesday the meeting was set to discuss Cardon’s contract.
“From what I understand, it’s over,” Moon Mohr said.
News broke in the community last week that some trustees who serve on the district’s board of education might have been working to force out Cardon, who has served as the district’s top administrator for barely more than two months. Board trustees called a special meeting Friday and were met with firestorm of criticism for both the rumored ousting and a lack of transparency in the previous weeks and months.
TCAPS Board President Sue Kelly did not return a phone call for comment. In an interview earlier Wednesday — before the announcement of the special meeting — Kelly said the board regrets what has transpired in the last week and acknowledged the “chaos that’s happening districtwide.” But Kelly still would not acknowledge exactly what triggered the upheaval.
“We are attempting to work through this as expediently as possible — whatever this is — in a timely manner within the defined process following the law,” Kelly said.
If there is not a mutual agreement, Cardon’s contract states that the superintendent “shall be subject to discharge only for reasons that are not arbitrary and capricious.” It also states the board shall provide a written notice for the basis of the discharge and permit the superintendent to have a hearing before the board.
Moon Mohr, in a letter obtained Oct. 10 by the Record-Eagle and later verified, stated that Kelly presented Cardon and trustees with a six-page complaint letter against the superintendent. Moon Mohr indicated that confrontation occurred during a closed session scheduled for Oct. 7 to discuss “the complaint brought against a staff member who has requested a closed hearing.”
“I cannot comment,” Kelly said in response to a question about Cardon having a hearing before the board.
Moon Mohr said the action she witnessed should have been conducted publicly.
“You would have thought the board would’ve had a meeting prior to (the closed session) to layout the allegations, so to speak, not told we’re going into closed session an hour before,” Moon Mohr said Monday.
Moon Mohr said she has since tried to access the information from that closed session, including the complaint letter, but she said she was told Wednesday that the district’s legal team recommended that no materials from the closed session be allowed to be seen by anyone at this point.
TCAPS legal counsel Jeff Butler said he had no comment on the matter when contacted Wednesday afternoon.
Kelly has said several times that she will not comment on anything that happened in closed session.
Language in Cardon’s contract also states that her performance is “subject to the satisfaction, direction, and control of the Board of Education of the District, which shall be the sole judge of performance.” It also states that “should a concern arise regarding the Superintendent’s relationship with the Board, the parties may agree to utilize a mutually selected outside facilitator” at the board’s expense.
Kelly said she would not speak about whether an outside facilitator had been sought.
Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers said Cardon was set to introduce him before a Michigan Supreme Court hearing Wednesday morning at Traverse City Central High School. Carruthers said he was given no explanation as to why Cardon was replaced with TCAPS Associate Superintendent Jame McCall.
Carruthers, who has signed a petition online calling for Kelly and three of her fellow trustees — Pam Forton, Jane Klegman and Jeff Leonhardt — to resign immediately, said the public still is in dark about what is transpiring away from public ears and eyes.
“Whatever’s happening, I don’t want it to affect us in the future,” he said. “I don’t want us to be in such turmoil. We want a good public school system. We want a good leader there to run it. We want our school board to be working hard to make sure we have the best public education we can have here.”
Kelly confirmed Wednesday that Cardon is away from the district but said she has not been placed on leave.
The Record-Eagle will provide a livestream of the meeting on its Facebook page starting at 4 p.m. Thursday. Cardon is not expected to be at the special meeting.