TRAVERSE CITY — It came down to the final board member vote, but Ben McGuire was named as the newest Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education trustee Monday night.
McGuire replaces Doris Ellery, who announced her resignation from the board for personal reasons in late September, and will serve through Dec. 31, 2020. Five trustees — Ellery was not present nor was treasurer Matt Anderson — approved the measure 3-2 with President Sue Kelly casting the deciding vote in favor. Erica Moon Mohr and Jane Klegman each voted “no,” while Kelly, Pam Forton and Jeff Leonhardt voted “yes.”
“I want to help make sure our kids continue to receive a quality public education,” McGuire said. “Part of my hope is that the school district continues to be a strong partner for local businesses and industry. ... These kinds of partnerships are essential in keeping a strong community and encouraging our children to consider coming back to work here and raise their families here.”
Trustees spent nearly 2½ hours interviewing nine candidates for the position, and all were asked what they consider the biggest challenge TCAPS currently faces. All at least mentioned the current division between some in the community and those on the board in the wake of the unexpected resignation of former Superintendent Ann Cardon and the difficulty trustees have in regaining the faith and trust of the public.
McGuire, a parent of one current TCAPS student and two TCAPS graduates, said based on his previous experiences with board operation he likely won’t be privy to any of the board conversations regarding Cardon’s employment and departure that were had in previous closed sessions, including those on Oct. 7 and Oct. 11. He understands the public’s desire to know and said it is regular occurrence for board decisions to “stir people up.”
“The nice thing is that I’m the new guy coming in and I don’t have any knowledge of what went on,” he said. “It’s going to affect me a lot less than it’s going to affect everyone else. That’s probably a good thing.”
Trustees chose McGuire over Josey Ballenger, who was the other of the final two to be considered for the post. Klegman and Moon Mohr lauded Ballenger for her commitment to showing up at board meetings and her continued interest in the well-being of the district. Moon Mohr moved that Ballenger be seated as the next TCAPS trustee, but the motion died when there wasn’t a second.
Ballenger said it came down to the best person winning and that she would not speculate if the endorsement from Moon Mohr, who publicly called for the other four board members present to resign, had anything to do with the motion failing.
“I’m very much looking forward to seeing the district try to move past the recent challenges,” she said. “With Jim Pavelka as our interim superintendent working with the board, we have a good chance of not only recovering in the short term but maintaining and improving our excellence.”
Ballenger is not sure if she will run for a board seat in 2020, but she plans to continue attending board and committee meetings.
McGuire is also not sure if he will seek reelection next year, but he said the selection to the board Monday makes it “much more likely.”
“I’m going to wait and see how this first year goes,” McGuire said. “If it’s all tumultuous and chaotic, then I’ll have to reassess, but I think it’s quite possible that I will if I’m able to make a positive impact.”
Trustees unanimously approved Jeff Leonhardt to take Ellery’s role as vice president. He will serve in the post for the remainder of the calendar year.