Traverse City News and Events

TCAPS Board Votes To Move Montessori School, Discusses Next Steps In Superintendent Search

By Craig Manning | Feb. 11, 2020

The Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) Board of Education voted unanimously on Monday evening to build a new Montessori school on Franke Road. The decision came near the end of a nearly two-and-a-half-hour board meeting, which featured both extensive conversation about the Montessori school among board members and numerous impassioned pleas from parents who did not wish the school to be moved to the proposed new location.

Criticisms of the site ranged from the loss of convenient accessibility by moving the school out of the city limits to concerns about constructing the new school near regulated wetlands. Michelle Riordan, a parent with two sixth graders at the current Montessori school, urged the board to delay its decision to allow for a more “inclusive and creative” visioning process, in hopes that further brainstorming might help keep the school at a more centrally accessible location.

“An in-town location that is central to everybody gives more people access,” Riordan said. “You’re talking about moving what is essentially a school of choice to a location that is hard to access from the east side of town, without busing. Nobody has an option of busing here, so just moving this school has a bigger impact.”

Board Trustee Erica Moon Mohr, who chaired the three-person Board Montessori Task Force, acknowledged the concerns raised by parents and community members about the new location. While she noted that her decision to recommend building at Franke Road wasn’t an easy one, she also said it was important to think about the future of the Montessori program when deciding where to establish a new school. Mohr believed that the other location option, near Thirlby Field, would not have allowed enough space to make the school scalable for potential future growth. She also assured the public that TCAPS would work closely with the Watershed Center of Grand Traverse Bay and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to make sure wetlands remained protected throughout the construction process.

Board President Sue Kelly reiterated Mohr’s statements right before calling for a vote on the matter: “The community voted to support us in building a new Montessori school, and we have to make that decision in the best interest of the Montessori program,” she said.

Also at the board meeting, Interim Superintendent Jim Pavelka shared details about the next steps in the TCAPS superintendent search process. Next Monday, TCAPS will host a special board meeting where Dr. Jim Morris, one of the consultants from superintendent search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HRA), will be on hand to “talk about a number of different items as it relates to the superintendent search.” The goal, Pavelka said, is to finalize details about the superintendent search before a pair of community forums scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

Those forums, hosted by HRA, are meant “to help identify the characteristics and skills desired for the next TCAPS superintendent.” The forum schedule is as follows:

· Tuesday, February 18 at 6pm in the Central High School Auditorium
· Wednesday, February 19 at 6pm in the West Middle School Little Theater

Both forums are free and open to the public.

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