TCAPS blox (copy)

Traverse City Area Public Schools Ida Tompkins Boardman Administration Center in Traverse City.

TRAVERSE CITY — Leaders of Traverse City Area Public Schools narrowed the field to three executive search firms to fill the vacant superintendent’s post.

TCAPS Board of Education members voted unanimously Monday to learn more about the superintendent search options available from the Michigan Association of School Boards, Hazard, Young & Attea & Associates, and Ray & Associates.

These finalists were among six companies that submitted proposals to the district.

“My opinion would be that we do hire a search firm. I know they can streamline the process more than what we did,” said Trustee Erica Moon Mohr.

Both board Secretary Pamela Forton and Treasurer Matt Anderson voiced their agreement, specifically in how a search firm could save time and better hone in on desired qualities for the district’s next executive leader.

Trustee Ben McGuire said he appreciates how the firms can allow adequate time for community input.

“They can spend the time and go and talk to the groups and the public meetings in a way we as a team could never do,” he said, underscoring the importance of having “community buy-in” when a candidate is hired.

Forton, McGuire and Moon Mohr agreed to join a subcommittee to assist interim Superintendent Jim Pavelka as he conducts additional interviews with representatives from the finalist search firms.

The group is expected to return in two weeks with a recommended company to hire.

MASB’s proposal was the least expensive at $14,000 plus travel and advertising expenses. The organization conducted a workshop last month with TCAPS board members to begin the hiring process.

The proposal from Hazard, Young & Attea & Associates of Illinois would cost $21,500 plus travel, advertising, background check and other expenses.

Finally, services of Ray & Associates of Iowa would cost the district $22,500 plus travel, advertising and candidate expenses for interviews.

Not everyone at the meeting was sold on the district so quickly delving into yet another superintendent search.

Laurie Johnson, a former educator who retired to Traverse City, spoke during public comment about the turmoil surrounding the district’s superintendent vacancy.

She accused board members of making poor choices.

“It is irresponsible to cost the district additional funds to hire a firm to find a replacement for a capable leader, especially when four other districts are currently looking for superintendents and few are available,” Johnston said.

The district’s last superintendent search began about a year ago, when a task force was set to find a replacement for former Superintendent Paul Soma, who in December 2018 announced he would retire at the end of the school year.

Soma’s replacement, former Superintendent Ann Cardon, left the district Oct. 17 after less than three months on the job without reason given by either her or district officials.

A six-page letter that apparently detailed a complaint made against Cardon has been withheld by the district, which denied a Freedom of Information Act request from the Record-Eagle for the document.

Cardon signed a mutual separation agreement with the district that gives her $180,000 in severance pay.

Several speakers during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting criticized board members for the handling of Cardon’s short-lived employment with the district, but not all of them.

Lisa Brodeur of Traverse City said Cardon appears not to have been the perfect candidate for the job, though many in the community have argued she was.

“I will not pretend to know or understand all the backstory and issues that have caused such public outcry, especially where Ann Cardon’s departure is concerned,” she said. “To me it appears she left in the face of harsh criticism.”

Brodeur wished the board members good luck on their search for Cardon’s replacement.

The next regular TCAPS Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 27 at the district’s administration building, 412 Webster St., Traverse City.

Recommended for you