Eight candidates vie for four seats on TCAPS board

·7 min read

Aug. 6—TRAVERSE CITY — Eight candidates, including two incumbents, are running for four seats on the Traverse City Area Public Schools board of education. Two current board members are not seeking re-election.

The four, four-year terms will be on the Nov. 8, 2022 ballot, and will run from Jan. 1, 2023 through Dec. 31, 2026.

TCAPS Trustees Erica Moon Mohr, Andrew Raymond, Matthew Anderson and Sue Kelly are all coming to the end of their terms on the board of education. Only Moon Mohr and Raymond seek re-election among a field of six others competing for office.

Anderson served on the board since 2018. Kelly served on the board since 2015, with two years as board president

The field of candidates who will be on the November ballot is full of newcomers, most of whom have not served in a public capacity before.

The winners will join current President Scott Newman-Bale, and members Josey Ballenger and Flournoy Humphreys, whose terms expire in 2024.

Candidates

Moon Mohr, 49, is currently serving her first term with the board of education. Moon Mohr is seeking re-election because she wants to continue to work on curriculum and help TCAPS be the best school district in Michigan, especially now that the board has shifted from focusing so intensely on the COVID pandemic, she said.

"I feel like I still have a lot of work to do," Moon Mohr said.

Moon Mohr is a real estate agent with two kids in TCAPS. She was raised in the area and is a TCAPS graduate.

If re-elected, Moon Mohr said her top issues for her next term would be focusing on executing the strategic plan, maintaining consistency within the district's leadership, which has seen many change-ups in the past few years, and mending relationships with the local community and the Michigan community at-large, which became tense under previous TCAPS leadership.

Raymond, 38, moved to Traverse City in 2019 and, when former trustee Pam Forton resigned in 2020, Raymond was appointed to finish out the last two years of her term. He was previously a trustee for one year on the Elk Rapids Board of Education.

Raymond, chief financial officer at Kalkaska Memorial Health Center, has two elementary-age kids in TCAPS, and he said he is proud of the board's work in the last two years, especially in crafting the district's strategic plan. He is running for re-election because he hopes to see the strategic planning process through.

"I think that that's something to really highlight is that, it wasn't just the board or administration that came up with this," Raymond said. "This truly was a community strategic plan."

If re-elected in November, Raymond said his top issues are fiscal responsibility and focusing on executing the strategic plan, both of which relate to work he is currently doing at Kalkaska Memorial Health Center.

Holly T. Bird, 52, a member of the San Felipe Pueblo, is an attorney and the executive director of Title Track, a local organization focused on social justice, equity and environment. Bird has lived in the area since 1985, and she is a parent of three TCAPS students. She also has served on TCAPS's sex education advocacy committee and the TCAPS Social Equity Task Force.

Bird seeks a seat on TCAPS's Board of Education because she wants to bring the board's focus back to providing quality education to children and providing staff with necessary support, and away from the political, which she feels the board was caught up in recently.

If elected, Bird said her top issues are making sure students are provided a well-rounded education that supports their social/emotional well-being, keeping the school district transparent and accountable to the public and finding out how to best support the district's staff in the aftermath of COVID.

"For me, it's about providing quality education to our children and, also, giving the staff and administration the support they need to do that," Bird said. "I really feel that a lot of attention has been taken away from those objectives."

Justin VanRheenen, 40, has lived in Traverse City for 12 years and has one fourth-grader in TCAPS. VanRheenen, a delivery driver for Moomers Ice Cream, said he is running for the school board this year to make sure the district is being transparent and fiscally responsible.

"I care for our kids, I care for our staff that we have in our district and (I) want to make sure that decisions are being made publicly with legitimate explanation," VanRheenen said. "That's been something that has not happened within TCAPS for as long as I've lived up here."

In 2019, VanRheenen founded TCAPS Transparency, a local organization centered on making sure the school board is remaining transparent with the community, after the board of education avoided sharing information about events surrounding former Superintendent Ann Cardon's controversial exit, which cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.

VanRheenen also helmed a failed effort to recall Anderson, Kelly and Forton.

If elected in November, VanRheenen said his top priorities would be finding out a way to continually fund school safety measures and figuring out how to best deal with the infrastructure of the Central Grade School building, one of the oldest buildings in the district.

Matthew Hanley, 38, an attorney, has served on the Traverse City Zoning Board of Appeals since 2014. Hanley was raised in Traverse City and graduated from TCAPS. His wife is a teacher at Central Grade School and he has two daughters in TCAPS elementary schools.

"I think it's important to have a school board with a lot of people with different experiences," Hanley said. "There hasn't been an attorney on the board for a few years ... I think it's a different perspective that's important in helping make decisions and collaborate with one another and try to solve collective problems."

Hanley said he was motivated to run in the winter when the board of education allowed its mask mandate to expire, despite community concerns and advice from the state health department. He said he felt the board did not communicate well enough as to why they had made the decision that they did.

Hanley said, if he's elected, he's interested in focusing on the needs of students' mental health and well-being and support and holding the superintendent accountable.

Beth E. Pack, 73, a camp nurse at Interlochen with a background in education, moved to Traverse City in 2013. She is seeking a seat on the TCAPS board of education because she believes in public education, she is interested in public service and, being retired, she has time to put into serving on the board, she said.

"I'm a concerned member of the public, and I believe in public education," Pack said. "I believe that the quality of public education is key to the local community."

If elected in November, Pack said her top issues will be focusing on students gaining practical skills, meeting the needs of the community and making sure kids are feeling engaged with their classes.

Nicholas Roster, 53, is an instructor in the biology department at Northwestern Michigan College and the assessment coordinator at the college. He has two sons currently in TCAPS and a wife who is an administrative assistant at Westwoods Elementary School and the union president for the Traverse City Clerical, Assistants, Paraprofessionals and Secretaries Association (TC CAPSA).

Roster was raised in the area and graduated from TCAPS.

Roster is running because he feels the board needs to move in a new direction with a keener focus on the students, informed by new developments in research and science related to how people learn and new learning systems, he said. If elected, he would like to focus on curriculum during his tenure on the board and figure out how to bring TCAPS's educational system all the way "into the 21st century."

"I think we need more educators on the board to take into account our students," Roster said. "Our students should be put first."

Misten Boysen, 48, also is running for a seat on the TCAPS board of education, but she did not respond to a request for comments.

Linda Koebert, 69, who served on the Traverse City Planning Commission for six years, filed to run for the board of education, but withdrew from the race soon after.

Koebert initially filed to run because she is a proponent of public education and she wanted to help out as right now is an especially difficult time for public education, she said. However, when she saw the number of qualified candidates who eventually signed up to run for the four open seats, Koebert said she decided to focus her energy elsewhere.