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May 2021
Positively TCAPS

News & Events

Partner in Education

Superintendent's Message
TCAPS Families and Staff,

I want to share with you my sincere gratitude for all you are doing to help your students navigate this time in their educational experience – and within our world.

The resiliency our students have shown over the past year is admirable as we have moved through moments of uncertainty, challenge, and worked to find opportunities for a new hope. I hear staff and students speak about how they’ve been able to make progress through this time and push forward with optimism and determination, and I continue to be deeply impressed by how our school communities approach every day with such a positive attitude and outlook.

This is a hopeful time, both on a global scale, and on a local level within our community. In that spirit, I wish you and your family the joys of new possibilities this spring, as we continue to walk through a time of challenge and change – while keeping our focus on the promise of the future; our students.

I encourage our families and staff to take advantage of upcoming end of year events, concerts, celebrations, and special moments for our students as they mark important milestones in their lives and educational journeys.


Dr. John R. VanWagoner II, Ph.D
Superintendent, Traverse City Area Public Schools

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Central and West High Schools Ranked Among the Nation’s Best High Schools

Traverse City Central High School and Traverse City West Senior High School have been recognized as being ranked among the nation’s best high schools this year by U.S. News and World Report.

“The U.S. News and World Report rankings show the great work our high school staff, students, and administrators are doing every day. To be ranked among the top high schools in our state, and in the high percentiles in the nation, says so much about the educational services and value we provide to our community,” said Dr. John VanWagoner, superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools. “A student’s academic career starts early. The high quality learning environment in our elementary and middle schools are commendable and help to form the building blocks that support these collective achievements.”

Best High Schools

U.S. News and World Report ranked 17,857 public high schools out of more than 24,000 that were reviewed. Traverse City West Senior High School ranked 52nd in the state (overall score of 90.75 out of 100). Traverse City Central High School ranked 64th in the state (overall score 89.21 out of 100).

The U.S. News and World Report “Best High Schools” rankings identify the country's top-performing public high schools. The goal of the rankings is to provide a clear, unbiased picture of how well public schools serve all of their students – from the highest to lowest achieving – in preparing them to demonstrate proficiency in basic skills as well as readiness for college-level work. To learn more about the rankings, visit:

Grand Canyon University

2021 TCAPS High School Graduation Ceremony Schedule

TCAPS is pleased to announce the dates, times and locations for its 2021 high school graduation ceremonies.

Traverse City Central High School
Sunday, June 6, 2021
11:00 a.m.
Turtle Creek Stadium (333 Stadium Dr.)

Traverse City West Senior High School
Sunday, June 6, 2021
4:00 p.m.
Turtle Creek Stadium (333 Stadium Dr.)

Traverse City High School
Friday, June 4, 2021
7:00 p.m.
Lars Hockstad Auditorium (301 Seventh St.)

Turtle Creek Stadium was selected for Central and West’s graduation location for the Class of 2021 because it provides a venue that allows the entire graduating class to be together at one ceremony and allows each graduate to invite two family members or guests. TCAPS will continue to monitor local and state health guidelines in advance of the ceremonies in order to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. TCAPS media will livestream the commencement events and will post full ceremony videos after the graduations online on this website.

Anderson's Market

TCAPS Middle School Students Recognized in Michigan History Day State Competition

Several students from East Middle School and West Middle School were recognized for their research in the Michigan History Day State Competition. Kathryn Clark from West Middle School and Veronika Caughran and Elyse Heffner from East Middle School were selected to compete in the National History Day Finals, which will be held on June 21, 2021.

Kathryn Clark was selected as one of two national finalists for her individual documentary Traverse City’s Not So Haunted Past, which details historical events surrounding the Traverse City State Hospital. Her documentary was also recognized as the “Best In Michigan History” project among all junior level competitors.

Veronika Caughran’s and Elyse Heffner’s project on Washington’s Farewell Address was also selected as one of the two national finalists from the state competition within the group exhibit category.

McKeiley Buron finished third in the state and will serve as a national alternate with her individual documentary: Victoria Woodhull, The Women Who Set Back the Suffrage Movement.

In the state competition, along with West Middle School students Dylan Pohlad and Jared LaMont were East Middle School students Annie Goldkuhle, Isabella Reimers, Zachary Chaussee, Anna Rupard, Madison Vandenberg, Keira Wesley, Eliana Hermel, and Donovan Meyer.

National History Day (NHD) is a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for teachers and students to engage in historical research. NHD is not a predetermined, by-the-book program but rather an innovative curriculum framework in which students learn history by selecting topics of interest and launching into year-long research projects. The mission of NHD is to improve and support the teaching and learning of history in middle and high school.

Learn more about National History Day at:

West Senior High School Yearbook Staff Earns Awards

The Traverse City West Senior High School Odyssey Yearbook staff earned recognition in the annual Michigan Interscholastic Press Association annual awards. The following students received honors in individual categories for the 2020 Odyssey yearbook titled “Mix It Up”:

Caption Writing - 1st place: Michael Farkas, Campbell Laskey, Jack Wright
Club or Performance Photo - 1st place: Douglas Spence
Division Page - 1st place: Arianna Bowman
Index - 1st place: 2020 Yearbook Staff
Endsheets - 2nd place: Arianna Bowman, Campbell Laskey,  Macie Bixby
Opening & Closing - 2nd place: Madeline Henry & Campbell Laskey
Colophon - 2nd place: Arianna Bowman, Campbell Laskey,  Macie Bixby
Cover - 3rd place: Arianna Bowman, Campbell Laskey,  Macie Bixby
Business Advertisements - 3rd place: 2020 Yearbook Staff
Personality Profile - Honorable Mention: Kaylee Kuhr,  Kara Sickle
Sidebar coverage - Honorable Mention: Kaylee Kuhr,  Mya Thomas
Headline Writing - Honorable Mention: Yearbook Staff
Student Life Spread - Honorable Mention: Michael Farkas, Campbell Laskey, Jack Wright
Academic Spread - Honorable Mention: Anna Curry,   Grace Geiger
Organization Spread - Honorable Mention: Arianna Bowman
People Spread - Honorable Mention: Arianna Bowman,  Macie Bixby
Proud Parent Advertisements - Honorable Mention: Macie Bixby

Biggby Hiring

Third Grade Reading Law Updates

In 2016, the Third Grade Reading Law was passed in Michigan. The law was introduced in an effort to ensure that all students exiting third grade are proficient in the area of reading. The indicator of this proficiency was deemed to be the English Language Arts (ELA) section of the third grade Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP), which is the test that all public school third graders in Michigan take each year. Third grade is the first time that this test is taken.

The law began to impact third grade students for the first time in spring 2020, however due to the pandemic, the M-STEP was cancelled. This year, the M-STEP testing window opened on April 26th. The district was advised of the scaled scores that students earned on their ELA assessments.

While the Third Grade Reading Law can cause concern for TCAPS parents, the hope is that parents will feel informed of the following key points:
  • Less than 5% of TCAPS third graders will likely be candidates for retention;
  • The district will communicate with families of impacted children in the month of May;
  • Exemptions can be sought by the district and/or the parent of the impacted child as long as it is in the best interest of the child.
In the unlikely event that your child is recommended for retention, several options exist. If your child has qualified for special education or English Learner services, or has already been retained once, he/she is most likely exempt, and the district can apply for the exemption. If your child does not qualify to be exempted by the district, a child’s parent can apply for the exemption in the best interest of the child. The superintendent is the person who ultimately approves the exemptions. It is expected that unless retention in third grade was the planned academic path for a specific child, TCAPS plans to pursue exemptions and honor them when they are sought.

Most students with an Individual Reading Instruction Plan (IRIP) will not be candidates for retention.

If you have any questions regarding this law and what our district is doing in relation to it, do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher, your school’s principal, or the Office of Curriculum and Instruction at 231.933.1776 or You can also visit the Michigan Department of Education’s website for more information.

TCAPS' Summer Explorers Club Registration Open

TCAPS' Summers Explorers Clubs are designed to engage preschool through fifth grade learners during the summer months. Each week features different theme-based activities. Sign up for every week or just a few. 2021 Clubs will be held at Eastern Elementary School, Silver Lake Elementary School, and TCAPS Montessori at Glenn Loomis. Clubs will run June 21st - August 27th, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Interested families are encouraged to sign up early as space is limited. For additional program information or to register, visit:

TCAPS Board of Education Monthly Office Hours – Next Opportunity May 27th

The TCAPS Board of Education will host its next monthly “office hours” in person on Thursday, May 27th, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Boardman Administration Center (412 Webster St., Conference Room B). TCAPS Board office hours provide community members with an opportunity to talk with a school board trustee. Visit the Board calendar to view the board schedule in its entirety, or visit:

Bulk Meal Distribution - Saturdays, 9 AM - 11 AM

All families may pick up free meals on Saturdays at West Middle School from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. on the bus ramp off of Franke Rd. behind Meijer. Weekend meals are available for any TCAPS families that would like them, which include breakfast and lunch meals for Saturday and Sunday. We also offer seven days worth of breakfast and lunch meals for all virtual students and children who are not students at TCAPS. Meals are at no cost to all children 18 or younger or adults with disabilities under 26. The child does not need to be present to receive these meals. Please take advantage of this wonderful program to feed our community children.

Traverse Heights Citizenship Inaugural Event

On June 8, 2021, Traverse Heights Elementary School will host the 1st Annual Amazing Shake event. The Amazing Shake is an academic program to teach students manners, discipline, respect, and how to conduct him or herself in a professional environment. Students are continually learning about and working on how they present themselves to others, especially those within our community so this campaign is the perfect way to celebrate students' efforts.

Throughout the month of May students were encouraged to work on ways to present themselves to others. Some ideas shared were:
  • Order dinner for the family at a restaurant using the drive thru
  • Check out with a cashier at the grocery store
  • Call a relative to check in and catch up on what’s going on in their life
  • Share what school was like with the family at the dinner table:
    • What was the nicest thing you did for someone today?
    • Who brought the best food in for lunch today?
    • How would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?
  • Summarize a book they are reading
To be awarded the top acknowledgement of Student of the Year, each student will go through an outdoor course, spending 1-2 minutes interacting with each volunteer community member. When the student walks away, these professionals will score the child based on eye contact, confidence, charisma, and more. After the event, the top six students will be named and then compete in the next round of the competition. After round two, two students will earn the right to vie for Traverse Heights' Student of the Year designation in the third round of the competition. The final two students earn the privilege to have lunch with TCAPS' superintendent and associate superintendent to decide the Student of the Year at Traverse Heights.

NMC Children's Choir

Montessori’s Team Up to End Plastic Bags in Traverse City

Mrs. Hancock and Miss Tori’s class at TCAPS Montessori at Glenn Loomis has teamed up with Miss Jamie's classroom from The Children's House to encourage Traverse City store owners to phase out plastic bags in their establishments.

While their start is small, the intentions are huge and hope this local initiative spreads throughout all of Michigan! So far, the group has collected 241 signatures from our community to support their efforts! Students have been approaching management at local stores and are pursuing several stores' corporate headquarters asking them to phase out plastic bags with their own written letters. Check out their class PSA.

This Just In…

  • Traverse Heights raised $6,352 for their 3rd annual Move-A-Thon, beating last year by a whopping $1,352! All of the students enjoyed 60 minutes of additional movement and exercise and had a blast doing it.
  • Cherry Knoll partnered with author Mandy Toomey for a virtual reading night on May 13th! Students put on their favorite pajamas and logged on to their computer to listen to Mandy read her book, Goodnight Traverse City! A fun summer challenge was shared during this event and an additional bedtime story was read.

  • Cherry Knoll had a Healthy Eating Contest where students voted for their favorite fruit (apple) and vegetable (carrot). They then had a championship round of carrots versus apples and students overwhelmingly picked apples. The Fuel Up to Play 60 team thanks kitchen staff and Chef LaBarbara for getting all the fruits and veggies for the students to try and vote on. The school declared the following Tuesday APPLE DAY to celebrate the winning food and all students were encouraged to dress up like apples for the day! Thanks for keeping fitness fun, Mrs. Forlenza!
  • Last week the Long Lake Panthers learned about how we can be Changemakers in our World. Virtual guest speakers from the Grand Traverse Conservation District shared ways to positively impact our community. Additionally, students were each given a Norway Spruce Tree Seedling to plant at home.

  • Shannon Eno at Courtade Elementary was honored by UpNorth Live in this month's Classroom Salute. Congratulations, Mr. Eno!

  • Ms. Varnum's class at Traverse Heights had a virtual home fire safety lesson from the Red Cross.
    Fire Safety

  • Trojan & Titan Baseball splits 1-4 and 7-3 to share the Murchie Trophy this week.

  • Fox Grand Traverse recognized Courtade staff this week with a delicious lunch from the Grand Traverse Salad Company.
    Lunch Treat

  • Westwoods staff received some special "signs" of appreciation this week.
    Staff Appreciation

  • Mrs. Walston's class at Central Grade celebrated Baby Yoda Day this week!
    Baby Yoda

  • Ms. Sarah DeKett’s West Middle School digital photography students recently completed a photojournalism assignment to document the 'Day in the Life of a West Middle School Student'. They pulled their top nine images into a grid to help tell their story.
    Day in the Life

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Important Dates: We are in the home stretch!

  • 5/31: No school, Memorial Day holiday
  • 6/8: Virtual Monthly Office Hour with Dr. VanWagoner
  • 6/16: Last half-day for students, end of fourth-quarter/second semester

District School Year Calendar
Blair/Traverse Heights School Year Calendar
School Dismissal & Bus Route Drop Off Times

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TBA Credit Union Offers Free Financial Literacy App - Get Paid to Learn

TBA Credit Union has recently partnered with Zogo, a gamified personal finance app that aims to make financial literacy more accessible – and enjoyable – for young adults. Students can learn the basics of personal finance and get paid along the way.

Financial Literacy

Download the free Zogo App on an Apple or Android smartphone, and use access code: ‘TBACU’. Work your way through bite-sized lesson modules on a variety of finance topics from opening a bank account to protecting your investments. For each module completed, points are earned in the form of virtual pineapples that can be redeemed for gift cards at vendors such as Starbucks, Target, Amazon, and more!

Financial literacy is a critical part of the journey toward financial freedom. TBA Credit Union is happy to offer local students and our community with the tools they need to build a bright financial future, and have fun along the way!

TBA Credit Union Awards Classroom Improvement Grant to Willow Hill Teacher

TBA Credit Union has recently awarded four classroom improvement grants totaling $2,650.00 to local educators, including Willow Hill Elementary School teacher Becky Huggard.

Ms. Huggard was awarded $500.00 to purchase a variety of supports for students that will provide movement while in the classroom. Many students who may require movement throughout the day will benefit from the supports that will help in keeping the students focused.

TBA Credit Union allocates $8,000.00 every calendar year for Classroom Improvement Grants. Visit to see previous years’ grant recipients and to apply. For more information about TBA Credit Union, visit or call 231.946.7090.

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Traverse City Area Public Schools
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