Friday, April 18, 2014

TALKING OUT OF SCHOOL: Another Exclusive Grand Traverse Academy "Communi-Kaye"!


Miss Fortune has received another 'Communi-Kaye', sent on April 11 to the Grand Traverse Academy staff by its Superintendent, Kaye Mentley. 

Leaked anonymously and exclusively to Miss Fortune by one of my many readers, it's another stellar example of damage control.

Or is it?  

You be the judge. (The image was redacted by Miss Fortune, but only to remove Mentley's personal cell phone number.)

Here's the watermarked image:

You'll note that Mentley mentions "inaccurate information in today's article in the Record-Eagle" castigating the Traverse City newspaper for incorrectly reporting on the Academy's MEAP scores.


Gimbels, a company founded by a German Jewish immigrant, Adam Gimbel, opened a branch in New York City in 1910, which soon became the primary rival to the leading Herald Square retailer, Macy’s.

This rivalry entered into the popular argot: “Does Macy’s tell Gimbels?”.

The saying, meaning "does one rival business share its secrets with another?",  was first made popular in the 1930s. 

Well, Macy's may not have told Gimbels, and it looks like Brad hasn't told Kaye, either.

Quoted in the April 11 Record-Eagle article is the Grand Traverse Academy's new Board President, Brad Habermehl, explaining that "declining MEAP scores" prompted the school's board to sever ties with Steve Ingersoll's Smart Schools Management, Inc.

OK, Kaye! 

Looks to Miss Fortune like somebody needs to stay after school for an intensive course of "integrated visual learning"! 

(Maybe her self-appointed halo is just too tight.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014


In the first installment in a new series, Miss Fortune examines insider deals and potential conflicts of interest at the Grand Traverse Academy.

The seat Traverse City optometrist Mark Noss used in his role as President of the Grand Traverse Academy's Board of Directors had barely cooled before he began heating up a new perch—as head of the Academy's new education service provider, Full Spectrum Management, LLC.   

Full Spectrum came kicking and screaming into the world on March 19 at 4:31pm when Traverse City attorney David Rowe faxed its incorporation paperwork to Lansing. 

Coincidentally, the Academy made its selection of Noss's brand new firm—newly-hatched, with no direct experienceofficial on the very same day.  

The Academy's Board of Directors passed a resolution on May 12, 2012 establishing a management fee cap of 12 percent of revenue, and the contract with Ingersoll's Smart Schools Management, Inc. stated that the management fee should “not exceed $2,000,000 in any fiscal year.”  While the details of the Academy's agreement with Noss have not been made public, it's likely that his shiny new firm could expect to receive major bankmillions of taxpayer money over the next school year.

Grand Traverse Academy co-founder Steven Ingersoll faces federal charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and tax violations, accusations that publicly surfaced about a month after the school severed ties with his management company.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle has reported that Doug Bishop, the attorney for Grand Traverse Academy, said Ingersoll suggested the school switch management companies

"I don't know exactly, but I think he probably thought his situation might be a distraction," Bishop said.

And while Noss has yet to be spotted prowling the streets of Traverse City in a vintage Alpine White Cadillac Eldorado, he appears to have benefited personally and professionally from his association with the Grand Traverse Academy—and Steven Ingersoll.


Ingersoll and Noss both graduated from Ferris State College - College Of Optometry in 1980.

But it wasn't until Ingersoll and Noss teamed up to form the Excel Institute, a multi-disciplinary collaborative effort with psychologist Patricia Engler and Battle Creek optometrist Bruce Christensen, that the duo's private "vision therapy" business really took off. 

And with nearly 1,200 students, the Grand Traverse Academy was a fertile hunting ground for clients for the Excel Institute's "education remediation programs".

Formed in Michigan on January 18, 2005, the company was registered on behalf of Ingersoll by attorney Doug Bishop. If you've been paying attention, you'll remember that Bishop is the Grand Traverse Academy's attorney and "media contact".

The Traverse City Record-Eagle revealed today that Bishop, a Trustee at Traverse City's Northern Michigan College (NMC), stated in an email to William Myers, the NMC board’s vice chair his opposition to recording the board's meetings:
 “As always I am against video taping but will support the majority of the board. If we were to implement a video recording policy of our regular meetings, in our primary meeting spot (which is what TCAPS does), put them on line for a short time and then archive them for the current year, we would have met every legitimate concern. If the (Record-Eagle) didn’t think that was sufficient I would have a hard time not saying publicly “F --- em” (“That’s a joke Tim”).”

(Bishop reportedly spelled out the obscenity in his email...sounds like the good barrister just earned a new nickname!)


A parent whose child attended the Grand Traverse Academy (and asked not to be identified) shared the child's experience exclusively with Miss Fortune. The parents were told their child "needed eye care", and eventually took the child to Dr. Noss for examination. The proposed education benefits never materialized and, when pressed, the parent stated  the Academy eventually admitted its error.

In addition, the parents claim that when the child's glasses were examined by another local optical company, they were told that the glasses had virtually "no effect" for poor vision and were so fragile that breakage was inevitable.

Noss/Excel office
In February, 2011, the Excel Institute and icon Learning (an Excel  subsidiary) moved into the building housing Noss's optometry practice, Full Spectrum Eyecare, on Munson Avenue in Traverse City.

icon Learning is described by Noss as "a tutoring method developed around the concept that students who may be struggling with academics may not have learning disorders. Many have simply developed incorrect learning habits that affect the way lesson content is perceived and absorbed."

And guess what, parents? icon Learning specializes in providing "visual learning" services for students from 3rd to 12th grade...the same grade range as the Grand Traverse Academy!

As recently as November 2013 (while still President of the Grand Traverse Academy Board), Noss held an "open house" in his role as the a Developmental Optometrist and Director of the Excel Institute. The event was pitched to parents as an opportunity to learn how "Integrated Visual Learning may help children struggling in school". The Excel Institute, LLC also has offices in Grayling and Alpena, both locations operated under the direction of Noss's Full Spectrum Eyecare.

Although Noss and Ingersoll both regularly use the term  "Developmental Optometrist" to imply that professional certification, neither is board-certified in vision therapy by the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.  

A for-profit company paid by a charter school, even a company that operates most of the school, does not have to disclose spending details or how much profit it makes. 

Board members can often easily justify insider transactions because they know the board member and often trust the person. But the board needs to look at the transaction from the public's perspective, realizing that the purchase (or access) can plant seeds of doubt in people's minds.

Michigan’s updated charter school law, which went into effect on March 28, 2012, eliminates the cap on charter schools while adding accountability measures for the schools and the education management organizations (EMOs) they contract with. One completely new section deals with the management agreements charter schools enter into with their EMOs, requiring annual reporting, public disclosure, and ensuring no conflicts of interest between the charter school’s non-profit board of directors and the for-profit EMO. 

Still, these accountability measures have yet to be implemented and tested. 


With Steve Ingersoll as a precedent—for example, GTAS, LLC, one of Ingersoll's entities, billed the Grand Traverse Academy nearly $250,000 in 2013 for "custodial services—and a board stacked with cronies, it's unlikely that the Academy will institute any new financial restrictions on Noss.

Remember, that same bunch let Ingersoll get away with nearly $2.5 million in prepaid management fees the Academy "couldn't afford" before they woke up and smelled the Starbucks...money that likely will not be coming back.

If anyone spots an Arctic White Cadillac Eldorado cruising the streets of Traverse City, drop Miss Fortune a line.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

KARI SONOVICH ASSERTS 5th, 6th AMENDMENT RIGHTS:Could "Let's-Make-A-Plea-Deal Land" Be The Next Stop On This Justice Train?

California resident Kari Sonovich, arrested on February 6 on three counts of mail fraud, has officially asserted her 5th and 6th amendment rights. 

In a document filed in United States District Court's Eastern District of California on the day of her arrest, but just made public last week, Sonovich officially asserted her rights to "remain silent and have counsel present at any and all interactions with the government of the United States" or law enforcement officers.

According to allegations detailed in the January 30 indictment (unsealed after her February 6 arrest), between July 2008 and April 2009, Sonovich recruited investors to invest with her Las Vegas company, B&B Consulting Group LLC, by telling them she could place their funds with an international trader who operated at an extremely high level, promising returns of up to 500 percent every 90 days.

When investors deposited funds with her, Sonovich kept some or all of the funds for herself. The indictment alleges that Sonovich received more than $3 million from investors. To date, no investor has received the promised returns, and in most or all instances, no investor has received any of their initial investment back.

The Sixth Amendment right to counsel was initially intended to make sure that defendants could have an attorney when they went to trial. In fact, the relevant language in the Sixth Amendment simply states, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”

Over the years, however, the United States Supreme Court expanded this right to cover certain “critical” confrontations between suspects and officers or prosecutors. 

As the Court explained in its United States v. Ash (1973) decision:

This extension of the right to counsel to events before trial has resulted from changing patterns of criminal procedure and investigation that have tended to generate pretrial events that . . . might well settle the accused’s fate and reduce the trial itself to a mere formality.

Critical pretrial events consist of, (1) police interrogations, (2) questioning by police agents, (3) lineups, (4) consent searches, and (5) plea negotiations.

Hmm? A plea negotiation might be just the thing—Miss Fortune hears this songbird might be getting ready to "sing"!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

MY BEAUTIFUL BALLOON (PAYMENT): Bay City Academy Facing $800,000 Chemical Bank April Balloon Payment; Is Debt Related To Ingersoll's Federal Financial Fiasco?

Earlier this morning, Miss Fortune sent an email to the members of the Bay City Academy's Board seeking information on an $800,000 balloon payment due this month to Chemical Bank.

The Academy's board currently includes:

President: Craig Johnston (Milford, MI resident; furniture  wholesaler)

Secretary: Dennis J. Griffith (formerly the "founding optician" at Ingersoll's shuttered optical business, iSpecs. Currently runs Alpine Optical in Greenville, MI)

Treasurer: Arlene Harris-Bush (Bay City realtor)

Trustee: Dr. Ronald S. Spalter (Troy, MI optometrist)

Charter school board members are public officials that have sworn a constitutional oath of office here in Michigan.

Let's see if any one of these "public officials" respond to Miss Fortune's questions.


Monday, April 14, 2014


Miss Fortune sent a "media inquiry" this afternoon to Traverse City attorney Doug Bishop, anointed by the Grand Traverse Academy to field such requests.

As soon as Mr. Bishop provides me with answers, I will bring them to you.

And, no I didn't misspell "appointed" as anointed—but I did add an "r" in the email's subject line!

Miss Fortune is only humanoid! 

TEACHER TORMENT FOR FUN (AND PROFIT!): Eclectablog Reveals For-Profit Charter Organization Mosaica's Twisted Idea Of "Teacher Appreciation"; Humiliating Activities Compulsory

One of Miss Fortune's favorite news sites, the estimable Eclectablog, kicks off the week with revelations about for-profit "education management organization" Mosaica's upcoming "Teacher Appreciation Week".

And you vill participate!

In his post (Teacher Appreciation Week), Chris Savage reveals details about an upcoming fundraiser scheduled to be held May 2nd at the Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac.

Among the highlights in the Eclectablog story:

"Michigan has nearly a quarter of the charter schools in the United States and roughly 80% of our charter schools are run by for-profit businesses like Mosaica. Most of these for-profit charters are taught by teachers who don’t enjoy the protection of a collective bargaining agreement so they are put into the position of having to participate in things like the Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac’s “Teacher Humiliation Day”. It’s a repulsive demand that harms the teachers’ ability to establish their authority and have the respect that they deserve from their students, staff, and administrators. It undermines everything teachers are trying to do in this regard."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

BREAKING NEWS!! MISS FORTUNE DISCOVERS MILLIONS MORE IN TAXPAYER DOLLARS SIPHONED BY INDICTED "CHARTER CHEATER" STEVEN J. INGERSOLL! Grand Traverse Academy's 2013 Audit Reveals Total Multi-Year Fee Overpayment To Ingersoll's Smart Schools Managment Exceeds A Whopping $2.3 Million! Money May Never Be Recovered; School Could Face State Investigation!


Not so fast, Kaye!

Miss Fortune followed the money, and the results are shocking.

A close examination by Miss Fortune of the Grand Traverse Academy’s financial report for the year ending June 30, 2013 (issued on November 7, 2013 by Traverse City certified public accounting firm Dennis, Gartland & Niergarth) reveals the Academy was “out of compliance” with the Michigan Uniform Accounting and Budget Act in several critical areas.

The audit exposed unsound financial practices that drove the school’s General Fund into a “deficit unassigned balance” of $1,378,971, primarily resulting from a “non-spendable fund balance of $2,338,980 for the prepaid balance with Smart Schools Management, Inc.”

And the non-spendable fund balance—meaning it’s not in cash form and not available for use by the school—was just one problem resulting from the Academy’s lack of an objective measure to calculate the annual management fee owed to Steven J. Ingersoll’s Smart Schools Management, Inc. (SSM).


In July 2005, the Academy entered into a five year agreement with SSM. Under the terms of the agreement, Ingersoll’s firm provided a variety of services, including financial management, educational programs and consulting, as well as teacher training. The agreement required the Academy to pay SSM a minimum fee per year of $650,000, maxing out at $1,260,000 through termination of the contract depending on the level of state funding.

According to its 2009 financial report, the Grand Traverse Academy paid Ingersoll’s Smart Schools Management, Inc. $368,549 for the year ending June 30, 2009.

In July 2009, the Academy entered into a seven year agreement with SSM. Under the terms of the new agreeement, SSM provided financial management, leased employees, educational programs and consulting, as well as teacher training.

Total payments to SSM for the year ending June 30, 2013 reached $6,946,462 and refunds received totaled $1,897, 805.

Included among the grand total were these three classifications:

Management: $1,347,234
Leased employees: $4,680,661
Education programs/consulting: $300,000

The Academy ‘s Board of Directors passed a resolution on May 12, 2012 establishing a management fee cap of 12 percent of revenue, and the contract with SSM stated that the management fee should “not exceed $2,000,000 in any fiscal year.”

However, the Grand Traverse Academy 2013 fiscal year audit reveals that the SSM management fee exceeded that 12 percent cap by nearly $300,000.

More importantly, the audit revealed that the Academy was carrying a whopping “prepaid expense/expenditure balance” of $2,338,980 for payments made over the past few years to Ingersoll's Smart Schools Management, Inc.

And in light of Ingersoll’s April 10 federal indictment on multiple counts of fraud, it’s unlikely that the Grand Traverse Academy will ever recover the excessive fees paid over years to Ingersoll's company.


The Traverse City certified public accounting firm Dennis, Gartland & Niergarth raised several troubling internal financial control and compliance issues in its 2013 audit report to the Academy. 

Among its major concerns were the advance by the Academy of prepaid fees to SSM, the possible “abuse” of Smart Schools Management in their “access to public funds” and the negative unassigned balance in the Academy’s General Fund. 


According to information revealed in the audit, that while the Academy’s contract with SSM set a ceiling for the management fee, it lacked an objective measure to calculate that fee annually. 

In addition to receiving “prepaid management fees”, SSM also had the ability to “transfer funds between the Academy’s and Smart Schools Management, Inc.’s bank accounts” without prior approval.

SSM took cash advances for their management fee each year in the beginning of the school year based on the budgeted figure and “without further Board action”.

Prior to 2013, budgeted amounts “exceeded what the Academy could ultimately afford”.

By the time it finally dawned on the Grand Traverse Academy that it could not afford Ingersoll’s management fee, the fee was adjusted “downward” on the general ledger—but the millions advanced to Steven Ingersoll’s Smart Schools Management, Inc. have never been repaid.

And it’s likely they never will be recovered.

The auditor’s report bluntly informed the Grand Traverse Academy that SSM’s ability to “prepay their fee and withhold payment of overpaid fees” enabled SSM to “abuse their access to public funds”.

By allowing Ingersoll to "advance monies" to his private entity, Smart Schools Management, Inc., the Grand Traverse Academy was “out of compliance” with Michigan’s Revised School code.

In the auditor’s report, SSM agreed that it “owed Grand Traverse Academy an amount classified as a prepaid balance” ($2,338,980), and worked out a repayment plan with the Academy. The plan called for SSM to work off the prepayment by “partially reducing cash transfers for future management fees through June 2016”.

The prepaid management fees were to have been received from Steven Ingersoll as follows:

2014: $774,000
2015: $960,000
2016: $604,980

Grand Traverse Academy, which opened in October 2000 under Ingersoll’s Smart Schools Management, Inc. company, dropped him like a hot rock last month. 

The Academy is being operated by Full Spectrum Management, a company hastily formed less than a week before the transition announcement by a longtime Ingersoll associate and Ferris State Optometry School classmate, Dr. Mark Noss.

Noss is a former Grand Traverse Academy board member and president and has been involved with the school since its inception.


Miss Fortune thought a state investigation may be coming...but then I woke up and remembered who's in charge of this state! 

Get the torches and pitchforks ready! 

(Whew! I should have listened to my mother when she told me to spend more time studying math!)