Amid recall efforts, TCAPS board tries to move forward

Oct 24, 2019

Around 50 people packed into an informational meeting of the newly-formed group called TCAPS Transparency at The Filling Station Microbrewery Thursday evening.
Credit Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

It's been a rough couple of weeks for Traverse City Area Public Schools. Recently hired Superintendent Ann Cardon resigned last week. Now during the ensuing controversy, social media chatter has turned into efforts to recall several members of the district school board.

Over 50 parents, residents and TCAPS employees packed in to an informational meeting at The Filling Station Microbrewery in Traverse City Thursday. The group calls themselves TCAPS Transparency and have three stated goals: "transparency, fiscal responsibility and good governance" on the TCAPS Board of Education.

But their main goal? Recall the school board members they believe pushed Cardon out.

"Everything is a symptom… of something that is systemically broken within the district," organizer Thom Grigal said. "The only thing left in our power is to recall."

In informational packets passed out at the meeting, the group identifies Pam Forton, Jane Klegman and Board President Sue Kelly as their main targets. The bulk of the meeting was devoted to organizing recall efforts, including networking, drafting recall petition language and getting the necessary signatures.

Grigal estimates they will need over 11,000 signatures and $40,000 for a sucessful recall vote in the May 2020 election. Outside of that, Grigal admits they're still figuring out a lot of the details, like who they will try to recall and when.

"We haven't established anything" Grigal said.

In the meantime, over 600 people signed an online petition asking for Board Members Sue Kelly, Pam Forton, Jane Klegman and Jeff Leonhardt to resign.

Another meeting across town

Shortly before the TCAPS Transparency meeting, interim TCAPS Superintendent Jim Pavelka and School Board Member Jeff Leonhardt held an informal meeting at Horizon Books. Ten people showed up and peppered them with questions about Cardon's resignation and where the district now stands.

Jim Pavelka and Jeff Leonhardt met with concerned stakeholders Thursday as well.
Credit Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Leonhardt defended the board's right to make personnel decisions in closed-meetings, which has been one of the most controversial aspects of Cardon's departure.

"We had a process, we were following the process, and that got derailed," Leonhardt said. "We are not a dysfunctional board."

Pavelka said he hasn't been filled in on the details of Cardon's departure, but doesn't agree with the theory that she was pushed out.

"I don't see these (board members) as mean, terrible people," Pavelka said. "I find it hard to believe that somebody could shove me out."