TRAVERSE CITY — The central office at Traverse City Area Public Schools will experience more turnover following an announcement that Associate Superintendent Jame McCall will retire at the end of July.
The news, announced Friday, arrived two days after TCAPS Board of Education trustees unanimously selected John VanWagoner as the district’s next superintendent, a role for which McCall was an applicant.
District officials announced McCall’s decision with a press release, and interim TCAPS Superintendent Jim Pavelka confirmed McCall submitted her letter of resignation Thursday.
McCall said she had considered retiring for past year and gave it more serious consideration starting in November.
The board’s selection of VanWagoner made McCall comfortable that the district would be in good hands without her and that she could step aside.
She called VanWagoner “high quality” and a “perfect fit” for the district.
McCall has been with TCAPS for 31 years, serving as a teacher, principal and a central office administrator before assuming the role of associate superintendent. McCall said there will be a grieving process in leaving but she added there also is excitement and so much more in life to look forward to.
McCall plans to help ease the transition from Pavelka to VanWagoner in June and July before officially retiring on Aug. 1. After that, she said she’ll “refocus” her priorities.
“You look around, and life is short,” McCall said. “There’s a lot out there, and I’m looking forward to focusing on my family. I’ve got a full life ahead of me, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Although McCall said she has “absolutely no regrets” during her tenure at TCAPS, she is aware of the public criticism directed toward her following former TCAPS Superintendent Ann Cardon’s controversial resignation in October.
Some claimed she was partly responsible for Cardon leaving. McCall was subject to shouts of “Better not be McCall” from the audience during trustees’ discussions about the superintendent search and remarks against her during the public comment sessions.
Patricia Henkel, a former candidate for the TCAPS board and vocal critic of the district, said McCall’s announcement is welcome news.
“Without a doubt, the community can sigh a relief with Jame McCall’s retirement,” Henkel said. “Now, Dr. VanWagoner has the ability to bring in a clean slate for his executive team leadership, and that may help him set the stage and breathe new life into our district.”
Trutee Erica Moon Mohr said although she has never had any issues with McCall, there has been “significant controversy” during McCall’s time at TCAPS. Moon Mohr said she heard from “a lot of teachers, a lot of administrators, a lot of staff” who expressed concern about McCall possibly being named superintendent.
Moon Mohr is hopeful McCall’s exit will be another step in rebuilding the crumbling bridges between some in the community and the district.
“All I want for TCAPS is to heal,” Moon Mohr said. “I think she’s probably ready to be done. I can’t imagine the stress. There’s a lot of people who reacted to her inappropriately, I felt, in terms of some of the comments that were out there — so I don’t blame her.”
When word of McCall’s retirement hit social media, several commenters celebrated the news. McCall said she cannot control what other people do, but added she feels sorry for “some people who create stories based on inaccurate information.”
“I wonder what the motive is for others to jump on board,” McCall said.
McCall, who oversees disciplinary hearings and has expelled students in the past, said her job comes with difficult decisions that can make others unhappy.
“This disappointing thing for me is that many of those folks that are going to be out there (celebrating) don’t even know me. They’ve never met me. They didn’t take the time to know me,” she said. “The reason we don’t push back when we’re under attack is because it takes energy, and we don’t have that kind of energy. We only have that energy to spend on what’s best for kids.”
Dan Tiesworth, president of the Traverse City Administrators Association, said losing McCall and her energy will be a tough blow for TCAPS. Tiesworth has been with TCAPS for 22 years and said he’s worked with McCall on several projects and known her in several roles.
He said she’s always been a champion for kids and for learning, pointing to the work she’s done to ensure education continued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pavelka echoed Tiesworth’s sentiments.
McCall said she will continue to support and advocate for the district she served for three decades.