}

Sunday, June 29, 2014

PURGE? Grand Traverse Academy Board Considers Cutting Ties

Looks like the folks at the Record-Eagle may be reading this blog after all!

At 6:57am this past Friday, June 27, I published a heads-up, alerting my readers 
to a special meeting of the Grand Traverse Academy Board scheduled for 12:30pm that afternoon. 

Record-Eagle reporter Michelle Merlin attended the meeting, and filed a story revealing the Academy's Board "met for about three hours in a closed session Friday afternoon to discuss a resolution to further distance themselves from Smart Schools."


The Record-Eagle article explained the resolution urged former Board President Mark Noss (head of the Academy's recently-formed Full Spectrum Management, LLC) to "reconsider any employees, especially those in management, with close ties to Smart Schools." The resolution singled out Kaye Mentley, the Academy's current director, as a potential target of "appropriate action", while acknowledging "ambiguities" among the school and its former and current management company. 

The Record-Eagle story did not, however, delve into the "degree of separation" required to be "reconsidered". Regular readers of this blog already know of the close ties to Smart Schools within Noss's immediate family, and Noss's longtime personal and professional history with Ingersoll. It appears "ambiguity" is not enough to make you a target.

Let's step back for a moment and savor the ironies that abound in the resolution.

While I have to give it up to the Board for going there (publicly acknowledging—even if by a small degreethe self-fulfilling conflicts of interests running rampant in this market-based, publicly funded school), in my opinion it still can't see the forest for the trees.

Kerry Morgan, the Wyandotte-based attorney identified in the Record-Eagle story as retained to "handle the matter" of Mentley, specializes in "wrongful termination" as one of his chief areas of practice. Morgan's website indicates significant experience in both employment and educational law.

Although Michigan's current charter school laws don't allow letting much sunshine in, an observer could deduce that Mentley has an iron-clad termination clause in her contract with Smart Schools Management, Inc. Without seeing the contract, it's impossible to know the length of the contract and or size of the severance package Mentley could receive if Smart Schools was summarily cut loose. [UPDATE July 3: Mentley, who announced her departure from the Grand Traverse Academy on July 2 via email, had apparently been under contract with Full Spectrum Management, not Smart Schools Management, Inc., at the time of her firing.]

From the facts already known, I suspect Mentley's legal representative and the Academy's Board are negotiating her termination, tiptoeing around the "what did she know and when did she know it" controversy still surrounding Ingersoll's $2.38 million dollar management fee overpaymentstill firmly lodged in the middle of the room like that proverbial elephant.

And while it's unclear from the Record-Eagle story if the resolution was approved by the Academy's Board, the interlocking "ambiguities" replete within the Board (and its former and current management companies) are its remaining "pain points"areas of unpleasantness that need to be fixed, yet continue to be avoided.

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