TRAVERSE CITY — The board of education for Traverse City Area Public Schools is going to look quite different come Jan. 1.
Three current trustees — Jane Klegman, Jeff Leonhardt and Ben McGuire — are on their way out after losing incumbent bids in the Nov. 3 election, and a fourth — Pam Forton — resigned late last month.
The sitting board still had an obligation to fill Forton’s seat for her term’s remaining two years, which trustees did Monday night in their selection of Andrew Raymond. Trustees picked Raymond in a 5-1 vote with Leonhardt as the lone “no” vote. Raymond beat out fellow finalists Amy Collins, Jeremy Henner and Nicholas Roster.
Raymond will be sworn in as a new trustee before the first of the new year when Josey Ballenger, Flournoy Humphreys and Scott Newman-Bale take up their four-year posts on the board.
Trustees said before the decision that they could not go wrong choosing any of the four. Klegman initially voiced her support for Henner, but said she as well as McGuire and Leonhardt should take into account the recommendations of those who will serve the board beyond Dec. 31.
“They know what the situation is,” she said. “It’s important to go with who they feel they want to work with.”
Throughout the process, Raymond said he was “humbled” — humbled to be one of 14 to apply, humbled to be one of four finalists chosen, and now humbled to be a TCAPS Board of Education trustee.
“There were so many qualified people that applied, and the other three candidates were phenomenal and had qualities that would have made for a great selection,” Raymond said.
Early on in the selection process, sitting board members said they were looking for a candidate with “skin in the game” and a stake in the future of TCAPS. Several of those same trustees said Raymond has that stake.
The 36-year-old chief financial officer for Kalkaska Memorial Health Center is a father of two, a 6-year-old TCAPS student and a 3-year-old future TCAPS student. His outlook is on the long-term vision for the school district, and Raymond said the board could benefit from that perspective.
“As parents, we just want our kids to have a better life than we did,” Raymond said. “Improving the quality of life for the communities we serve is the hospital’s mission, which is almost identical to improving the quality of life for all, which is TCAPS’ mission.”
Raymond called public education one of the “major foundational pillars in a community.” Without education, without healthcare, without commerce, Raymond said “you don’t really have a community.”
“Public schools should never be considered a sacrifice in rigor or excellence,” he said. “There should be more academic opportunities and equal access for all groups and public schools.”
Raymond’s previous board experience at Elk Rapids Public Schools, as well as his familiarity with the Open Meetings Act as part of the county-owned hospital, gave him an edge. Raymond also helped run a successful capital projects millage campaign for the hospital and has an understanding of spending in a large organization beholden to taxpayers.
Although not a clinical healthcare professional, Raymond also offers insight into the COVID-19 pandemic, stating previously that he is in daily meetings about the hospital’s response to the virus and public safety. That knowledge could translate well to the largest school district in northern Michigan as it wades through changing education dynamics and techniques.
Board President Sue Kelly and Treasurer Matt Anderson said those attributes were key in their support of Raymond.
“He’s experienced with group decision making and is presented as an avid listener first,” Kelly said. “He’s looking from a community standpoint of representing the community.”
Raymond is hopeful he can help nurture positive change at TCAPS, but he believes “groups make better decisions than the individual.”
“I’m one of seven. I can only propose a viewpoint I have,” Raymond said. “I listen. I’m fairly reserved. I take a lot of things in before I speak — and I don’t see that changing.”