TRAVERSE CITY — Seventy-eight days.
Ann Cardon’s tenure as superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools lasted just 78 days before she and the TCAPS Board of Education agreed to a mutual separation. Trustees approved the deal during a contentious special meeting Thursday.
Former TCAPS Superintendent Jim Pavelka has been appointed as interim leader for the district.
The public breakup follows a week of outcry over accusations of an effort to oust Cardon. Many district officials remained tight lipped about what was happening and refused to acknowledge the rumors swirling in the community, citing the confidentiality of closed-session meetings to withhold details. Attorneys hashed out the agreement — per Cardon’s request, according to Board President Sue Kelly — earlier this week. Cardon signed the papers yesterday and board members received the agreement Thursday afternoon to review.
Kelly said there is a confidentiality clause in the agreement that did not allow her to reveal any details, including the financial settlement, of the separation. Kelly did say the agreement is subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, which the Record-Eagle has submitted to TCAPS.
Cardon has been quiet throughout the proceedings, only speaking to the Record-Eagle on Oct. 9. At that time, Cardon said she was dealing with “personal issues” and declined to elaborate further on her future with TCAPS.
Cardon was not present Thursday, but Stacey Hozak, executive assistant to the superintendent, read Cardon’s resignation letter after the trustees approved the deal by a 6-1 vote.
“It is with disappointment that I tender my resignation and all employment duties with TCAPS effective immediately,” Hozak read. “Unfortunately, things are not working out well, and I believe that it is in the best interest for all concerned that I resign. I wish nothing but the best for the district. I appreciate all of the support I have received, and I ask the community to please respect this decision. It was not a decision I arrived at lightly, but it is the right decision for all concerned.”
Trustee Erica Moon Mohr was the lone nay vote, saying, “No, I don’t support forcing Ann to leave.”
The move is the culmination of what Mohr contended was a deteriorating relationship between Cardon and some board trustees, including Kelly. In a prepared statement, Kelly said Cardon’s employment had become untenable and that Cardon could not function any longer in the district after confidential information from a closed session was made public.
“We’ve determined it is in the best interest of the district to part ways with Ms. Cardon,” Kelly said. “This action was made necessary as a result of public disclosure of confidential communications in a closed session of the board that hereafter made it impossible for Ms. Cardon to be effective in her position as superintendent.”
Kelly confirmed the “disclosure” to which she referred was Moon Mohr’s Oct. 10 letter to Kelly and fellow trustees Jane Klegman, Pam Forton and Jeff Leonhardt as well as Moon Mohr’s statement at a special meeting Oct. 11. The latter accused the four trustees of “an assault on Ann” during closed session Oct. 7. The Record-Eagle obtained the letter Oct. 10 and verified its authenticity with Moon Mohr the next day.
Moon Mohr scoffed at the idea that her actions caused Cardon’s departure. She said Cardon told her during an Oct. 8 talk that she could not stay and serve the district if Kelly, Forton, Leonhardt and Klegman remained on the board.
“Sue Kelly can blame me ‘til the freaking cows come home,” Moon Mohr said. “Ann is taking her package, and she’s moving on. But I had a conversation with her on that Tuesday, and my family stood by me as Ann sobbed on the phone to me — and I cried with her.
“It’s funny that Sue Kelly is blaming me for this. It’s funny. She has nothing else.”
A public call for Kelly, Forton, Leonhardt and Klegman to resign from the board continues, but Moon Mohr said that might not be enough.
“We can’t move past this. We all need to resign. Period. Done,” Moon Mohr said.
Pat Brumbaugh, a retired TCAPS teacher, said as much during public comment.
“It’s time to clean house and start fresh with a more honest and open set of board members who really do care more about the district’s teachers and students than their own ambitious political careers,” Brumbaugh said. “Ann Cardon would have been the best thing to happen to this school district, and now she’s gone.”
The board now will begin the process of finding a new superintendent, but Kelly said there is no timeline at this point for that to happen.
“There is going to be an impact,” Kelly said. “It is our duty and our goal to make it as minimal as possible.”
The next meeting of the full board is Oct. 28 when trustees are expected to appoint a replacement for outgoing trustee Doris Ellery.