TRAVERSE CITY — Kalkaska Public Schools will look to a familiar face to lead the school district while Superintendent Terry Starr goes through a criminal case.
Kalkaska Public School board members voted May 13 to name Lee Sandy the district’s interim superintendent. He returns to the school — and a job he knows well — after board members named him interim superintendent in 2006 and gave him the role permanently from 2007 until his 2014 retirement.
“I like kids, frankly, and this has been a good place to work,” Sandy said. “Kalkaska has lots of things that need to be done and it’s kind of exciting to be in a place where they’re trying to better kids and better the community.”
Sandy fills in for Starr — who was an elementary school and middle school principal at Elk Rapids for 18 years before going to Kalkaska last summer — after his arraignment April 11 on false report of a felony, intentional false report of child abuse and slander charges in an 86th District Courtroom in Bellaire. He next appears for a preliminary exam June 26, though his attorney expects it to be adjourned.
The charges come after Michigan State Police troopers claim Starr sent an anonymous letter to himself and several officials from Elk Rapids Public Schools — where he was principal at the time — falsely reporting sexual abuse allegations involving Elk Rapids High School Principal Mike Travis and a student.
The allegations “amount to felonious behavior,” according to a probable cause statement. The letter writer claimed it involved “groping my bottom.”
Donald Passenger, Starr's attorney, said a student who graduated from the school several years ago made the claims, and cited a 2015 incident involving Travis and “substantial criminal conduct.”
The supposed letter writer denied the allegations contained in the letter when interviewed by police, according to a statement. He or she pointed to the wording of the letter, specifically the use of the word “bottom,” arguing that it wasn’t his or her doing. People of his or her age did not typically use that term.
School officials filed a suspected child abuse or neglect report with the Department of Health and Human Services, a referral that later went to police.
Starr proved to be the only person investigators interviewed who used the term “bottom,” leading troopers to determine he likely was the person who sent the letters, according to the statement.
The preliminary exam, which was already postponed from May 29, likely will be pushed back again while both sides continue preparing their cases, Passenger said.
He waits for Antrim County prosecutors to provide him a significant number of various documents and records. He’s received several installments so far, but needs more before the case continues.
School board members and Antrim County Prosecutor Jim Rossiter could not be reached for comment.
“We’ll be ready, ultimately, if we have to go to battle,” Passenger said. “If we don’t, we don’t.”
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