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December 2021
Outstanding Leaders
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TCAPS Honors Two Principal Award Recipients

TCAPS is honored to highlight two outstanding leaders who were honored at the 2021 Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principal Association (MEMPSA) state conference.

TCAPS Principal Dr. Victoria Derks of Cherry Knoll Elementary School was named Region 13 Principal of the Year for 2021 and Jonathan Swegles, West Middle School Assistant Principal, earned the 2020 Region 5 Principal of the Year. Swegles honor was delayed a year due to the pandemic.

Dr. Derks has been Principal at Cherry Knoll for five years and has served as the district level leader for world language since 2011. Derks began teaching with TCAPS in 1999. She has since served as director of professional development, district math support specialist, talented and gifted teacher for the specialized TCAPS program and interned as an assistant principal at Central Grade School. In 2017, Dr. Derks received the regional Outstanding Educator Award.

Dr. Derks holds a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and a Specialist in Educational Leadership degree from Central Michigan University. She also holds a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Middle Education from Liberty University.

“Dr. Derks’ exemplary leadership at Cherry Knoll is evidenced by her support from her peers and Cherry Knoll families,” stated TCAPS Superintendent Dr. John VanWagoner. “She is well-deserving of this honor and we are proud to have her leadership at Traverse City Area Public Schools.”

Mr. Swegles has worked in public education for 16 years, working 7 years as a classroom teacher for Bangor Public Schools and Linden Community Schools. For the last 9 years, he has served as an administrator for Bloomingdale Public Schools, and Lakeshore Middle School in Stevensville, Michigan. Mr. Swegles is in his second year serving as a wing principal/building assistant principal at West Middle School.

As an active member of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, Swegles has served as the middle school representative and president for Region 5 and now serves as the middle school representative for Region 13. He has presented to his colleagues at both the state conference and summer leadership institute on empowering students through positive relationships with The Positivity Project and most recently on the importance of leading with grace.

“We are honored to have Jonathan at West Middle School,” Dr. VanWagoner added. “His approach to leadership is through respect and kindness. He is very deserving of this award.”

The MEMPSA Conference was held at the Grand Traverse Resort.

NMC Teachers Needed

Activating Your Parent Portal

Need to Activate Your Parent Portal Account? Click here for instructions on how to sign up for a PowerSchool Public Portal account. For technology assistance, email or call 231.933.3328.


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Partner in Education

Hour of Code
TCAPS News & Events

We exist to educate. Education improves the quality of life for all.

TCAPS Hour of Code Makes Huge Impact

Computer Science Education Week inspired more than 3,500 Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) K-12 students to learn about computer science and coding. To highlight this special week (12/6 - 12/12), all TCAPS students, staff, and families were invited to participate in TCAPS Hour of Code. The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify coding and show that anybody can learn the basics. TCAPS teachers opted in for their classrooms to participate, and the classes with the most student participation were entered to win a pizza party. There were also other prizes, giveaways, and opportunities to meet and hear from Information Technology, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math professionals along the way. Families were even encouraged to participate from their home with their children. The week was a great success and both students and teachers enjoyed learning something new.

"The students did not want to go to recess and enjoyed it greatly," said Long Lake Elementary Teacher Angela Jayne. "I have participated in this program for years and it is so fun to see the frustration and problem solving behind making something work. Gaming ideas were successful and it was nice to see them connect: "WOW.....that game I play has a lot of work put into it." They want more time with it."

"Now I need to find time for more coding, since most didn't want to stop after an hour," said Traverse Heights Elementary Teacher Kristin Sonnemann-Grams.

Winners of the classroom pizza party drawings were Erin Jongekrier from Willow Hill Elementary, Tara DenHerder from West Middle School, and Jim Baran from Central High School. Cherry Knoll had the highest percentage of student participation at the Elementary School level and East Middle School had the highest percentage of student participation at the Secondary level.

With technology changing every industry on the planet, computing knowledge has become part of a must-have, high-demand, well rounded skill set. This annual, nation-wide program has allowed millions of students to discover how accessible and fun computer science can be by doing just one Hour of Code. There are 400,000 current job openings in computer science. TCAPS believes it's crucial to prepare students for 21st century skills to ensure each and every student is career and college ready.

Thank you to every student, teacher, family, and community member that participated in this year's Hour of Code. This would not be such an amazing program without all of you. A special thank you goes out to Heidi Maltby-Skodack, Danelle Brostrom, Evan OBranovic, David Noller, Stephie Luyt and Larry Burden for making this program a success. For more information about Hour of Code, visit

TCAPS Awarded $150,000 Rotary Charities Grant

A health and wellness initiative for students and staff will soon be underway at Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) thanks to a Rotary Charities Systems Change Accelerator Grant. The grant awarded the district $150,000 to improve the health and wellness of students and staff by creating, promoting, and sustaining policies and practices within the district.

“The systems change initiative seeks to impact and improve community health in the region by creating, promoting, and sustaining policies and practices within the school district that lead to healthy, life-long habits for students and staff,” said Dr. Cindy Berck, TCAPS Executive Director of Human Resources and Labor Relations. “Healthy minds and bodies lead to happier and healthier individuals who are more receptive to productive teaching and learning.”

“We are excited to announce that the district will be partnering with Ty Schmidt of the Good Works Lab to lead our health and wellness initiative,” said Dr. John VanWagoner, TCAPS Superintendent. “Ty offers established positive working relationships with students, staff, parents, and community partners. His enthusiasm and dedication to student and staff health and wellness is exceptional,” Dr. VanWagoner said.

“We are honored to steward resources that demonstrate our commitment to building communities that are adaptive and thriving for everyone,” said Sakura Takano, CEO of Rotary Charities.

“We are blessed as a community to have regional partners providing health and wellness services,” Dr. Berck added. “Our work will be mindful of minimizing and eliminating any duplication of efforts.”

Traverse City Central High School Welcomes Lisa Seymour as New Varsity Tennis Coach

Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) is excited to introduce Coach Lisa Seymour as the new girls varsity tennis coach at Traverse City Central High School (CHS). Seymour has coached tennis at the high school level for the last 14 years, including 11 years as the junior varsity tennis coach at CHS and the last 3 years at Traverse City West Senior High School as their varsity tennis coach.

Seymour is a certified tennis pro and the Director of 10 & under tennis at the Grand Traverse Resort, as well as the Director of Tennis Operations.

The Trojan community looks forward to having Seymour return and grow the school's tennis program. Please join us in welcoming Lisa and wishing her luck as the Trojan's varsity coach.

OK2Say: Stop The Silence. Help End The Violence.

In the wake of the recent tragedy at Oxford High School, TCAPS would like to remind all students to always speak up when they hear or learn of any potential threat. Students can always talk to any staff member, call 9-1-1, or can anonymously report an incident at any time to the OK2SAY tip line (855-565-2729), text to 652729, or email

Student and staff safety remains TCAPS priority. At any time, should a building or the district need to close due to a threat or recommendation by law enforcement, parents and students would receive that information on the district website and through normal building communications. If you have concerns or questions about safety and security at TCAPS, please reach out to your building principal. We are here to assist.

Central High School Football Plays for State Championship Title at Ford Field

For the first time since 1988, Traverse City Central High School (CHS) made it back to Ford Field in Detroit for the Division 2 State Championship football game on Friday, November 26, 2021. The third-ranked Trojans (12-1) played against top-ranked Warren De La Salle for the title. While the Trojans fought valiantly, they ultimately lost 41-14 to the Pilots.
Ford Field

Although they didn’t win the state title, CHS wrapped up its best season in program history at 12-2. Great job to all of the players, staff, and coaches on an amazing season!

Tech Tip of the Month for Parents from the TCAPS EdTech Loop


Feeling overwhelmed raising kids in today's digital landscape? The TCAPS EdTech Team is here to help with these tech tips:

Screenagers released their 2021 Mostly Non-tech Gift Guide. This list is filled with great options for families looking to get their kids off their screens.

How secure is that smart speaker, that fitness tracker, those wireless headphones? Mozilla created the Privacy Not Included guide to help families shop for safe, secure connected products.

Digital Literacy

For more tips on Parenting Digital Kids, check out our Parenting Digital Kids Guide. We are here to share tools and resources to support our TCAPS families with digital devices in the home.

Grand Canyon University

Student Breakfast and Lunch Reminder

Don’t forget! Breakfast and lunch are FREE for ALL students at all TCAPS buildings this year. Be sure to take advantage of this wonderful program and opportunity for your child(ren) to enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal every day. For more information, click here.

Guest Teaching & Subbing at TCAPS

Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) is seeking qualified candidates to serve as guest teachers and substitutes for the current school year. TCAPS has increased rates for guest teachers, substitute assistants, and aides. For more information, please visit the TCAPS Employment page.

Claim Your Lost & Found Bus Items

Is your child missing their winter coat, boots, sweatshirt, water bottle, or something else? It’s possible they left it on the bus and it is now sitting in the transportation department’s lost and found. The Bus Garage (1180 Cass Rd.) will be open Monday, December 27th through Wednesday, December 29th, from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., for families that would like to come look for their missing item(s). For more information, please call 231.933.1923.
Lost and Found

TCAPS Superintendent Monthly Office Hours – January 18, 2021

Based on feedback from the community, Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) Superintendent, Dr. John VanWagoner, provides a monthly opportunity for community members to attend “office hours” alternating each month between in person and virtual meetings. In person office hours are held at Horizon Books, 243 E. Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49684. Virtual office hours will be held via Google Meet and can be accessed here or by calling +1 707-785-6547 and entering PIN: 692 435 167#. All meetings begin at 5:00 pm. The alternating schedule will be as follows:
  • Tuesday, January 18 - Horizon Books
  • Tuesday, February 15 - Google Meet
  • Tuesday, March 15 - Horizon Books
  • Tuesday, April 19 - Google Meet
  • Tuesday, May 17 - Horizon Books
  • Tuesday, June 14 - Google Meet

TCAPS Board of Education Monthly Office Hours - January 27, 2022

The Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) Board of Education will host its next monthly “office hours” in person on Thursday, January 27, 2022 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Boardman Administration Center (412 Webster St., Second Floor, Conference Room C). TCAPS Board office hours provide community members with the opportunity to talk to a school board trustee. This month is Newman-Bale. Visit the Board calendar to view the board schedule in its entirety, or visit:

2021-2022 School Year Calendars

Please review the 2021-2022 school year calendars linked below. Dates to pay special attention to include: half days, early release days, winter and spring breaks, last day of school, and potential inclement weather make-up dates.

Upcoming Important Dates:

December 22-31: No School, Holiday/Winter Break
January 3: School Resumes
January 12: Two Hour Early Release, Teacher Collaborative Routines (Except BL/TH)
January 17: No School / Holiday Observance / MLK Day of Service
January 21: Half Day for All Students (Including BL/TH)
January 26: Half Day for BL/TH Students

Inclement Weather Alerts and School Closures

Winter officially arrives next week on December 21, 2021. TCAPS families will be notified of inclement weather school closures through news media and if opted-in, a district text message. Announcements will also be posted to the TCAPS website, social media, and bus hotline. The determination is typically made by 5:00 a.m., if possible, and by 6:00 a.m. at the latest. If you do not already receive texts, you can always opt-in at any time by texting the word YES to 87569, as long as your phone number is already on file with the school. If your cell phone number is not on file with the school, you will not be able to receive text messages. Texting is limited to contact numbers tied to the district’s staff and student databases, and therefore is not available to the general public. At any time, families may also call the Bus Hotline at 231.933.1955 to hear a daily message with information about school closures or transportation delays. For additional information about inclement weather closures, alerts, and snow day FAQs, click here.

Other Closures

The district may be required to cancel school for specific buildings or cancel specific bus routes as a result of COVID-19 exposures or staff shortages. This information will be posted to the district website and social media in addition to direct communication to families impacted via phone and/or text. Communication will be made by 6:00 a.m. for all secondary schools and 7:00 a.m. for all elementary schools.

Upcoming Events

Check the school calendars below for more information: January 5: Traverse City Central High School vs. St. Francis: Crosstown Classic Pink Out Basketball Game Pink-Out tees are being sold online now through 12/22 for fans to wear at the game. The goal is to fill the bleachers with Central fans all wearing pink!

January 14 & 15: West Senior High School presents Peter Pan & Wendy (more information coming soon!)

TCAPS Hiring

This Just In….

  • The Traverse City Central High School marketing class started a company called Twin Bay Coffee and Cocoa, as part of their Junior Achievement company program. They operated as a student owned and run business, offering Leelanau Roasting Company coffee, Great Lakes Chocolate hot chocolate, and an M22 mug. Products were sold individually or in packages and $1 of every order went to The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay.
    Marketing Class

  • Great job to the Extended Day Care students at Willow Hill Elementary School who worked extremely hard on this awesome hallway mural.
    Willow Hill Mural

  • NMC President, Nick Nissley, spoke to Blair Elementary School’s 3rd-5th graders about leadership and overcoming adversity. Nick's talk kicked off a two-pronged approach to working on the school climate. Blair is partnering with NMC students who are providing mentorship to their current 5th grade and launching a Leadership Team, which will consist of a group of students whose focus is on creating activities related to their 5 Non-Negotiables. Many thanks to Emily Witte who has been spearheading this initiative.
    Blair Leadership

  • Congratulations to Traverse City Central High School senior, Josh Burnham, who was named’s Michigan High School Football Player of the Year, Gatorade’s Michigan Football Player of the Year, and won the State Champs Network Anvil Award, in recognition of his outstanding football performance this season.
    Josh Burnham

  • Traverse City Central High School and Traverse City West Senior High Sci-Ma-Tech students recently attended a college tour of the University of Michigan. Students went to the planetarium, North Campus for a tour of the Engineering building, stopped for a tour of the Big House and were able to meet with Sci-Ma-Tech Alumni to discuss their experience in SMT and how it prepared them for success at the University of Michigan. A special thanks to the Friends of Sci-Ma-Tech parent support group that worked in collaboration with the SMT teachers to make this trip possible, and to teachers Mark Skodack, Brandy Gallagher and Juleen Jenkins-Whall who did the heavy lifting and organization for this amazing trip.
    Sci-Ma-Tech Trip

  • Long Lake Elementary School 3rd grade students worked on Symmetry City reflections in their art classes with Mr. VanHouten. Everything turned out beautifully.
    Long Lake Art

  • Silver Lake Elementary School students have started their own news station: Silver Lake SOAR 4. Students report weekly on everything their fellow students, teachers, and parents should know about. You can check out their news reports on the school’s Facebook page.
    Silver Lake SOAR4

  • Congratulations to the Traverse City West Senior High School and Traverse City Central High School band students who auditioned and were selected for the Michigan School Band & Orchestra Association All-State Ensembles. These students were selected from thousands of applicants from across the State of Michigan. Students audition by performing selected études, memorized scales and sight reading. West Band students selected were Ella Habich, Ben Lober, David Oosse, and Anna Racine. Xander Shumaker also received honorable mention. Scout Russell was selected from Central’s Band.
    All-State Band

  • Mrs. Lautner’s class at Traverse Heights Elementary School are working on building reading stamina. Students read for over 10 minutes without talking or getting distracted. Way to go, Roadrunners!
    Traverse Heights Reading

  • Westwoods Elementary School kindergarteners participated in the Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging Intergenerational Card Program this year. Students created holiday cards for senior citizens in our community to help brighten up their holiday season.
    Westwoods Holiday Cards

  • Congratulations to Traverse City West Senior High students Emily Thiel and Jamie Cronk, for earning Certificates of Merit from Michigan Tech University's Society of Women in Engineering.
    Women in Engineering

  • The TCAPS Music Department has collected over 850 pairs of socks so far for students in the STEP program! The Music ensembles at East and West Middle School and West Senior and Central High School will be collecting socks through December 17. Socks will be distributed to the STEP students in each building. The Administration Building is also participating and collecting socks for Traverse City High School.
    Sock Drive

Adidas Team Up


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Partners in Education

Intense Student Support Network
Partner in Education

“The Intense Student Support Network provides tools for staff to effectively nurture and support students whose non-academic needs may create obstacles to high achievement.”

Hagerty Gives Back

As part of Hagerty’s annual Giving Tuesday effort, Hagerty staff visited TCAPS elementary schools on November 30, 2021 to provide a new book to each 2nd grader. Hagerty staff members read the book, “Bertha Takes a Drive” to TCAPS classrooms and then gave a copy of the book to all 2nd grade students. The front of each book was inscribed with a special message from a Hagerty staff member. Hagerty's Giving Tuesday program began in 2015. Since then, nearly 5,000 books have been shared with very happy 2nd graders.

In addition, the Hagerty Brand Team has adopted a Central Grade School family in need and the Hagerty Public Relations Team is leading the drive for holiday cheer to 100 TCAPS students! For over 17 years, Hagerty has provided gift boxes to TCAPS students and a $25 gift card to their families for groceries or other holiday needs. We are so appreciative of the incredible Partners In Education that we have in our community.

TCAPS Announced School-Based Mentoring Program Return

In partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan (BBBS), Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) is pleased to announce the return of the school-based mentoring program.
Big Brothers Big Sisters

“We believe every child can benefit from a safe, trusting and compassionate mentor,” said BBBS School Liaison Robin Smillie. “With the assistance of a Mentoring Specialist, we match a student (Little) with a trained mentor (Big) and they meet at school for approximately one hour each week. The Big and Little forge a friendship by playing games, having lunch, playing on the playground, or just talking and listening.”

If you have a student that could benefit from a Big Brother or Big Sister, click here to apply. For more information, contact Robin Smillie at or 231-642-9125.

PetSmart Gives Back

Some TCAPS students are going to be very surprised when they receive a precious, incredibly soft, stuffed animal this week! Thank you so much to our friends at PetSmart for donating 200 Chance and Lucky stuffed animals to share with students in need. For every Chance and Lucky stuffed toy purchased in their stores, 10% of the sale is donated to PetSmart Charities which helps pets find forever homes. Purchasers can either take the toy home to their furry friend or donate it to a charity. Thank you, Petsmart, for thinking of our students and for being a Partner In Education.
PetSmart Stuffed Animals
Pictured: PetSmart's Cameron DeBortoli

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Traverse City Area Public Schools
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