In August, 2018, Denny Roehm began the school year as the new principal of Traverse City East Middle School. Roehm replaced retiring principal Colleen Smith. Roehm moved from southern Michigan to take the post.
Last week, TCAPS announced Roehm’s sudden departure. He lasted less than two months into the school year.
TCAPS sited family reasons to explain away Roehm’s sudden exit.
Why did Traverse City East Middle School Principal Denny Roehm Leave TCAPS?
The real reasons for Roehm’s departure may be more complex. Let’s review what we know:
Roehm arrives on the scene to replace departing principal Colleen Smith. Roehm comes from downstate with experience in downstate schools. He knows how things are done down there.
We know that Roehm moved his family to take the job with TCAPS. People tend not to move their family for a job unless they intend on staying a while.
Within a few weeks of the year beginning, Roehm sent an email to parents. The email basically said that the school would be disciplining its students. They would use traditional, common-sense discipline techniques that include suspending students who refuse to go to class or who scream at teachers.
Roehm’s email sounded emotional. He sounded exasperated. It sounded like he couldn’t believe that a discipline policy that includes you know, not allowing students to scream at teachers would be controversial.
Then, all of a sudden and without notice, Roehm is out. All of the teachers at the school are called into the library for some kind of meeting with Soma to discuss it.
The official story is that Roehm is out because of vague family issues. I don’t believe that one little bit. I’ve heard rumors that the family issues were way exaggerated to hide the real reason for the departure, which was that Roehm found the administration and anti-discipline policies so shocking that he couldn’t take it anymore. At least that’s more plausible than a vague family issue two months into school.
East Middle School students report an all-teacher meeting as Roehm’s departure was made public. They said that it was strange to see Soma wandering the halls in the AM before another average day in junior high. They say Soma didn’t appear happy and wasn’t interested in talking to students.
EMS students also report that they heard a student became physical with Roehm. The students were unaware of what became of the incident., i.e. what exactly happened or whether/how the student was disciplined.
TCAPS – A District in Crisis, At a Crossroads
It’s not a stretch to say that TCAPS is in crisis. An “independent” group evaluated Soma’s behavior after complaints that he was rude to female administrators.
The independent group found that Soma is “combative” and “highly rude and inappropriate” in his dealings with administrators and staff. They also found that Soma is an equal-opportunity jerk, equally inappropriate with both men and women, so it doesn’t amount to gender discrimination. That was also the current TCAPS board wanted to hear, and they left Soma in his position running TCAPS. Soma was “cleared,” as far as they were concerned. What’s a little combative, after all? He’s just passionate about his job.
TCAPS has also been in the news for several discipline incidents in the last few years. There was a report just this year of inappropriate behavior that resulted in an arrest. There was the infamous kicking club incident at East Middle School a few years ago that found YouTube fame.
One student, speaking on the condition of anonymity, reported a different assault and battery in the lunch room last year. This student reported that the administration told students not to talk about the assault amongst themselves. They were told they could only talk about the incident with school counselors. In addition, they were told if they took a video of the incident, they had to delete the video from their phone on orders from school officials.
In addition to all of this, the Central High School campus liaison officer has a drunk driving conviction. He also had an assault charge that was pleaded down to a lesser offense. That doesn’t seem like the type of person that has the character and good judgment to be in charge of law and order at TCAPS, or responsible for molding the attitudes of young people when it comes to the role of policing in our community. But TCAPS is okay with it.
TCAPS 2018 School Board Election
There’s a school board election this November. One half of the group is the establishment – they’re made up of a current board member and retired teachers. They boast about endorsements from outgoing board members. These board members have supported Soma despite the behavioral complaints, the inconsistent discipline and the safety dangers to children in school that stem from a lack of discipline.
The other group is a – throw the bums out we will have common sense – crowd. They stand for change, and likely change that does not include Paul Soma – or at least change that asks him the tough questions. This challenger group appears to have a range of opinions about a range of school-board policies, so it’s not clear how much change we’re going to get if we elect them. But we know that if we stick with what we have, we’re going to get what we’ve always got.
Is the November 2018 school board election a referendum on Paul Soma? Is it a referendum on TCAPS’ anti-discipline policies?
What do you think about the upcoming election for TCAPS school board?