TRAVERSE CITY — A letter calling for the forced resignations of four Traverse City Area Public Schools board members hit social media late Monday night.
The move comes on the heels of a volatile special meeting Friday that drew more than a hundred people and spurred more than 90 minutes of public comment slamming the rumored ousting of TCAPS Superintendent Ann Cardon and the board’s recent tendency to meet behind closed doors.
The letter, which was posted at TCAPStransparency.com, called for the immediate resignations of TCAPS Board President Sue Kelly, Secretary Pam Forton and trustees Jane Klegman and Jeff Leonhardt, stating they “have not acted as good stewards of the public trust.”
“There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Ms. Cardon that would be so egregious as to warrant an immediate termination of her employment without due process,” the letter states. “There is evidence that four members of the Board of Education (Sue Kelly, Jane Klegman, Pam Forton and Jeff Leonhardt) did or said something to lead Ms. Cardon to consider resigning, in a way that would not be subject to public scrutiny or input.”
Beth Holmes-Bozung is leading the online charge. Although the letter is not a formal recall petition, Holmes-Bozung is hoping the public pressure will force the trustees to step down.
“We need to act fast, and this sends a fast message to the board of education leadership,” Holmes-Bozung said. “Something is fishy here, and no one knows exactly what it is.”
Trustee Erica Moon Mohr is in full support of the movement, saying the district has been in utter chaos since Friday.
“This community is in an uproar. They are forming an army,” she said. “What we’re afraid of is that a recall is going to take time, right? And we aren’t necessarily sure we have time. What’s best for the district and the kids? It would be to have the four resign.”
The Traverse City Education Association also released a statement in support of Cardon on Monday. TCEA President Allyson McBride-Culver released a statement from TCEA leadership acknowledging that it “has been a very difficult few days" and said the statement "represents our members in a fair and factual way."
"TCEA stands with Superintendent Cardon. To date, Ann Cardon’s presence in classrooms and buildings has been recognized and appreciated,” the first part of the statement reads.
The waters are still muddied surrounding the relationship between Cardon and the board, but Kelly provided some clarity Monday as to the philosophical differences that may have set the relationship on rocky grounds and teetering on a full fracture.
Three words — “Who is ‘we’?” — spoken by Kelly during a Sept. 23 board meeting might have been the first public sign of a divide between Cardon and the board.
Cardon spoke about the suggested school aid fund in the consent report of the state budget during her legislative update. Cardon said she was pleased that a 2x formula was part of the consent report, but she added, “we were hoping to see more work taking place on the weighted formula as we’ve been talking about.”
Cardon was in the middle of continuing her thought when Kelly jumped in and asked, “Who is ‘we’?”
Cardon responded with, “The superintendents throughout the state were really hoping for that.” Kelly confirmed Monday she interjected because she did not want it mistakenly put on public record that TCAPS supported the weighted formula.
“That’s it exactly,” Kelly said.
Cardon’s support of the weighted formula and some conclusions drawn by the School Finance Resource Collaborative are on public record, however. In her interview for the TCAPS superintendent position May 18, Cardon said there were some flaws in the SFRC’s study but that she still supported it and the weighted formula.
Five days earlier, TCAPS trustees unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the SFRC’s narrative, saying it “misstates and minimizes the inequity that exists in public education and promotes a proposal that increases the inequity gap by disproportionately benefitting high-funded districts at the expense of low-funded districts.”
Both sides knew they differed on these issues, but Cardon was still unanimously selected as the only candidate of six to bring back for a second interview and then unanimously approved as the district’s next superintendent.
Cardon, in an effort to clarify some of the issues, scheduled the executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards to meet with the TCAPS board about the SFRC’s findings during a special retreat at 4 p.m. on Oct. 28, according to Kelly.
“Finally, they’re going to come,” Kelly said. “We’ve been asking these questions. We’re looking forward to getting the answers.”
One question remains, and that is if Cardon will be in attendance at the meetings. Kelly said, “Our superintendent is always at the board meetings,” but she would not go so far as to say that Cardon would be that superintendent.
“I can’t speak to where Ann stands with the district. I’m not talking about Ann,” Kelly said.
Kelly refused comment or said she cannot comment several times when asked about Cardon’s status at TCAPS.
TCAPS released a joint statement from Kelly and Cardon which said both “remain resolute in our collective focus on our students and their learning. We are confident that our incredible team of professionals will continue to advance our mission, which is that we exist to educate, because education improves the quality of life for all.”
The release also stated that additional information will be shared “when available and appropriate” and that Cardon will not be speaking publicly to the media.
Moon Mohr called Cardon’s media silence more evidence of Kelly’s “bullying.”
“This just isn’t passing the sniff test,” she said. “There’s too many things that just aren’t right. I think this whole thing is just so contrived.”