At a forum Thursday night, candidates for the Traverse City school board were asked if the election was a referendum on district Superintendent Paul Soma. The Traverse City Area Public Schools superintendent has been under criticism for potential financial issues relating to the district's homeschool program and allegations of bullying.
The forum was hosted by the Grand Traverse League of Women Voters.
Ten people are running for the school board in Traverse City. Half of them are campaigning together under the name Team 5 but are running separately on the ballot.
"There’s not too many reasons that a slate of five people will run together collectively in a group and not on their own merits," said board candidate Matt Anderson. "So I do think that there is a referendum, and it’s disappointing to say the least."
Anderson says Soma is a good leader, accomplishing a lot for the district financially and for students.
"This is not about the superintendent," Patricia Henkel, a member of Team 5, told the audience. "It’s not a referendum against the superintendent ... and nor should it be. This is all about positive direction for our district and for it to be the best."
Team 5 members say if anything the election is a referendum on the current board’s ability to hold Soma and district leadership accountable. Group members have been critical of the board, saying it has failed to hold Soma accountable for unacceptable behavior with employees and have not done due diligence when reviewing district finances.
Seven of the ten candidates attended the forum. Erica Moon Mohr, Melissa Hogan and Rhonda Busch were not there.
You can learn more about all ten TCAPS board candidates here.
Clarification: The original article said the TCAPS superintendent has been under pressure for district finances and allegations of bullying. We have revised the phrase "district finances" to offer further clarification.