The most important issue on the November 6 ballot for Old Mission Peninsula residents doesn’t involve Democrats or Republicans. It is our local Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) school board election. Whether you have children, grandchildren, or no children attending our public schools, good schools are at the heart of every good community.
Many districts in our region have school board elections this fall. In most, three people are running to fill three seats. TCAPS is in the extremely unusual situation of having ten people running for five seats. We are truly at a critical juncture in the life of our district. With our vote, we can completely change the trajectory of a system that has not exactly been soaring the past few years.
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Trust Broken With OMPS Closure
There are three areas of concern that I have noted. The first is in the area of community relations. We have talked with many people on the Old Mission Peninsula who stated that they weren’t as upset with the school out here being closed as they were with the way that Old Mission people were treated during the process. Trust has been broken.
Lack of transparency and respect was shown by district leadership. This was echoed by people in the Interlochen community and by parents involved in other program cuts within the district. The current board has not shown any interest in addressing this type of leadership behavior.
Questionable TCAPS Math
The second area of concern is fiscal management. The current board is “proud” of balancing the budget, and views that as a major accomplishment (even though it is a requirement of state law). I still don’t understand the math of losing more than 140 Old Mission students to our new charter school (along with the corresponding state aid of $7,871 per child, or $1.1 million total) to save $400,000 in annual operating costs.
Or how you call a budget “balanced” when you are spending $1.2 million more than you’re taking in and making up the difference by transferring dollars from your savings account.
As OMP resident Brad Lyman said in his Sept. 12, 2018 letter to the editor of the Traverse City Record-Eagle, “One wonders about the ethics and legality of TCAPS decision to place the $1.1 million proceeds from the sale of the Old Mission Peninsula School (renovated with capital bonds) on the operational side of the TCAPS 2017-18 budget … Selling assets to fund operating expenses does not produce a structurally balanced budget.”
Student Achievement – We Can Do Better
The third and most critical area of concern is student achievement. TCAPS scores a little above average as compared to other Michigan districts. As a state, Michigan scores 46th out of the 50 states. Other districts getting similar funding per student, such as Kingsley and Elk Rapids, are scoring higher than TCAPS on key measures.
Is this all we want for our children? Our athletic teams aspire to win state championships. Why don’t we have this aspiration in the area of academics?
No Strategic Plan
During the 2017-18 school year, the TCAPS board did not have a single in-depth conversation about student achievement levels – where are we, where have we been, where do we want to be, and how are we going to get there? There is no strategic plan that clearly outlines how the district will improve.
And the board is content with a superintendent who has no teaching experience, no experience as a principal, and who has lost the confidence of his building principals. How can that leadership move us forward academically?
Our current path will not get us anywhere. Leadership starts at the top of any organization. It is time for radical, positive change at the board level.
Team5TCAPS – TCAPS Moms for Positive Change
Two Old Mission Peninsula women, Rhonda Busch and Patricia Henkel, have decided to lead that charge for positive change by following a model that worked successfully at our Peninsula Township level – they are running as part of a five-person team. The other three members of the team are Cathy Meyer-Looze, Erica Moon Mohr, and Deyar Jamil.
Each member of the team is well-educated with strong professional experience. More importantly, all five are moms of TCAPS students, and all five are committed to getting TCAPS on the right trajectory.
Shared Values, Independent Thinkers
“With ten people on the ballot, having five people with a similar vision should give voters a clear choice,” said Patricia Henkel. “The education of our children is too important to have a fragmented and unfocused school board. It takes a board majority to enact any meaningful change.”
Rhonda Busch said, “We decided we shared five key values: focusing on teaching and learning, fiscal responsibility, honesty and transparency, parent and community engagement, and having strong, safe neighborhood schools. We are all independent thinkers who will ask the right questions and try to think strategically about our district’s future.”
The group is referring to themselves as “Team5TCAPS.” However, voters must vote for each candidate individually, and will find Rhonda Busch, Patricia Henkel, Cathy Meyer-Looze and Erica Moon Mohr on the ballot for the 4-year board seats and Deyar Jamil on the ballot for the 2-year seat.
More information about each candidate and their “platform” can be found on their website, Team5TCAPS.com. Please study the candidates and the issues before you vote on November 6. Our kids are depending on you.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb