TCAPS trustees debate Moon Mohr's social media

·5 min read

Jan. 14—TRAVERSE CITY — During a meeting that focused mostly on masking, staff shortages and virtual learning, Traverse City Area Public Schools trustees engaged in a heated back-and-forth regarding recent violations of the board's standards of practice by a member.

TCAPS trustees reviewed their standards of practice, as they do at the first meeting of every calendar year. The standards of practice is a document that outlines how the board can best go about its work as a governing body.

Monday's discussion about the board's standards of practice included minimal changes to the document and a lengthy discussion meant to hold trustee Erica Moon Mohr accountable for her actions following the board's last meeting of 2021. Other trustees pointed out that Moon Mohr's actions violated one of the stipulations in the document related to standing by the board's decisions.

Three days after a Dec. 20 meeting in which the board made no motion to alter its previously set expiration date for its universal mask mandate, Moon Mohr posted on Facebook, criticizing the decision to let the mask mandate fall and calling on her fellow board members to organize for a special meeting to reinstate the mask mandate.

Board President Scott Newman-Bale said part of the issue with board members posting board business to social media is that other board members cannot react or comment on the post because it would be a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

"I think it's unfair on other board members. I think it basically clouds the room," Newman-Bale said.

Moon Mohr said she had apologized to each board member individually, and she pressed other board members to own up to their mistakes as well. She pointed to a line in the standards of practice document that calls on the board to "engage with the local community and represent the values and expectations the community holds for its schools."

"I think we failed our community, I think we failed our students and I think we failed our teachers and staff," Moon Mohr said.

Moon Mohr received criticisms about her behavior from other trustees, including trustee Andrew Raymond who said he was "disappointed" in her actions.

Trustee Flournoy Humphreys pointed to a section of the standards that says the board has a "special moral and ethical imperative to serve each student". Humphreys said that Moon Mohr's post was "well-intended", even if her method was questionable.

Trustee Matt Anderson said Moon Mohr's violation of the standards drew ire from the public toward other board members and, "created kind of an out-of-control deluge of hostility towards all the other board of education members with no means to defend themselves."

Anderson was absent at the Dec. 20 meeting, but he said by not sticking to open dialogue at the Dec. 20 meeting and by not following the board's procedures the board came to a "worse outcome".

"Would that be similar to your opinion piece you wrote in the Record-Eagle two years ago basically single handedly accusing me of Ann Cardon's departure?" Moon Mohr asked.

In 2019, Anderson wrote a column published in the Record-Eagle in which he detailed some of the circumstances surrounding former TCAPS Superintendent Ann Cardon's departure. The board had entered a closed session to lay out complaints some members had about Cardon.

"After the door opened, a public firestorm stoked by my fellow trustee, Erica Moon Mohr, quickly led to a level of incivility that is totally unrecognizable to me," Anderson wrote in the column.

Anderson said he did not solely blame Moon Mohr for the breakdown of the board's procedures that has happened since the Dec. 20 meeting and that he stood by his 2019 column.

Before the discussion closed, Moon Mohr raised her voice to call out the other trustees, saying they failed to listen to the community by not holding a special meeting before the return to school to reinstate the mask mandate.

"I have admitted my social media fail," Moon Mohr said. "I've yet to hear any other board members, except for Flournoy Humphreys who stood next to me that day, except for Scott who came back around. You have failed this community as a board member and you should be embarrassed."

Her impassioned comment drew loud criticism from the audience that was quickly shut down by Newman-Bale.

Moon Mohr said integrity and following the will of the community meant more to her than standards and procedures.

Raymond then asked if the document would mean anything if they signed it, if that were Moon Mohr's stance. Newman-Bale said the standards would still be applicable, it would just require the board to "go through awkward processes" and holding each other accountable when trustees break procedure.

Board members have until the next board meeting to sign the document, but they are not required to do so.

Raymond also said he was not willing to attend a special meeting on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day because he was out of the state visiting his parents. Trustee Josey Ballenger said she also did not want to attend a meeting over the break because she was spending time with her family.

Throughout the discussion, Newman-Bale interjected at multiple points, saying that by sticking to the standards of practice, the board will make its best decisions and be the most effective.

"This isn't a fun process, but I would prefer to do it here in public and avoid any situation like there has been in the past so we can move out of this, mildly disgruntled against each other for a few days, hopefully come back and start rebuilding the trust and everything that we've had," Newman-Bale said.

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