TRAVERSE CITY — A months-long process came down to a 7-0 vote when Traverse City Area Public Schools trustees selected John VanWagoner as the district's next superintendent.

The unanimous vote Wednesday came on the heels of three board meetings and two public forums in the last six days as board members sprinted toward the finish line while clearing logistical hurdles thrown their way courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If there are no other bumps along the way, a contract with VanWagoner, who currently leads Alpena Public Schools, could be reached as early as June 8 with a slated start date of July 1. VanWagoner was chosen over Denise Herrmann, who recently resigned from her post at Roseville Junior Union High School District in California.

VanWagoner was the frontrunner heading into the finalist interviews Monday and Tuesday, garnering 20 of a possible 21 points from trustees.

He began his career in education at the state level with the Michigan Department of Education, where he eventually rose to the level of legislative director. He then moved on to an associate superintendent at an intermediate school district. 

Six of the seven trustees said in their comments that VanWagoner was their top choice, with only Erica Moon Mohr voicing support for Herrmann over VanWagoner. Moon Mohr said, however, that VanWagoner is an excellent candidate and that the board "could not go wrong" with choosing either one.

VanWagoner previously said his experience as a “sitting superintendent at a northern Michigan school district” provides him a familiarity with the area and state, a sentiment many of the board members shared.

Board members also pointed to VanWagoner's strong financial acumen, his deep relationships with educators and legislators throughout Michigan, his passion for student-centered and social-emotional learning as well as his want to be in Traverse City for the long haul.  

"We need someone who can hit the ground running," TCAPS Treasurer Matt Anderson said. 

TCAPS Board President Sue Kelly said the district needs a superintendent to "pick up all the tools we've got, sort them out and start using them immediately with a tight grip on the handle so that student achievement continues to drive forward the fastest."

Kelly believes VanWagoner is the right person for the job. 

Moon Mohr, who made the motion to select VanWagoner, called for cooperation and collaboration after the vote. She hopes the board will avoid the same issues with former TCAPS Superintendent Ann Cardon, who resigned in October under much controversy and still-unanswered questions about poor relationships with trustees and district executive team members after just 78 days as superintendent.

"We can't go through what we went through," Moon Mohr said. "This is the time we come together and do the right thing for students."

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