Monday, August 24, 2015

SKOOL DAZE: Teachers Are Talkin'


I've heard from a few former BCA teachers, especially in response to the revelations of Pat Cleland's lack of valid Michigan teacher certification, a criminal record and a personal protection order.

In fact, one comment below was just published:

I'd love to hear from others who worked at the Bay City Academy.

You can send your experience in a comment to this story, and do so without revealing your name.

Simply select the "Anonymous" choice on the "Comment As" dropdown box and I'll publish the comment (unedited) as a screen capture. I won't even know your name!

Mice droppings, mold and the Madison building -- oh my!


  1. Would any of them be willing to discuss IVL and the curriculum? So far one former teacher from BCA has shared some info.

    1. If you do some research, there is absolutely no peer-reviewed information that would endorse the IVL curriculum. It's simply a way to get state taxpayer
      money with the illusion of helping students learn. Hoping more staff tell their experiences with and about this learning method.

  2. This is 100% true. Two teachers have talked to me so far. One of them worked for Ingersoll 20 years ago in Brighton and she used equipment that was supposed to track eye movement. This same equipment was debunked in the 1960's as doing nothing to help people read. The other teacher worked at BCA and she said all of the teachers, even the special ed teacher, was required to teach IVL, and students were falling behind their peers in the public school.

    A special education teacher I know working for Mecosta Osceola ISD told me after explaining IVL to her and the claims it cured ADHD and Autism, she smiled at me and said, "I've worked with students who used to attend GTA. They were not cured."

    So what exactly does IVL consist of? What is the curriculum, pedagogy, and expected outcomes? With no peer-reviewed research backing up (except for the Brighton Study done 20 years ago) IVL, what exactly is it supposed to do as far as student achievement?

    All of Ingersoll's schools are Title I funded too. Does Title I pay for IVL?

    So many unanswered questions. Would love to see some of the curriculum or even a teacher's manual.

  3. There isn't really a teaching manual for it...basically, we were taught a bunch of games that were supposed to improve visual memory. The idea was, the best learners are visual, and everyone is a visual learner. so you teach visual methods with the hierarchy of object>picture>symbol. That part has some credence to it; for example, in lower elementary classes, you label objects in the classroom (table, chair, etc.) But this is done just to expose students to words, instead of the way to teach reading. phonics was not allowed bc "it didnt work." Rather, you used pictures to represent a word in a grid. Every time you saw the picture, you were supposed to associate the word to the picture. Once you saw it in your mind, you should be able to spell it. And that was reading instruction. That's why so many of the kds could not read. That, and the fact that what we were not allowed to teach kept growing so nothing was consistent. Teachers would try to plan together but were told to scrap them and soon it was every person for themselves just trying to make it to the end of the year and doing the best they could. It was very isolating. Teachers asked for more training bc they didn't understand how this worked, or multiage teaching, but were told the more you did it, the better you became at teaching it, so just teach it. Steve told a few teachers that they weren't paid to think, they were paid to teach what he told them to because it was his school. If they didn't like it, they could leave..

    To answer the Title I question, somehow IVL was considered Title I and its methods were used a lot. Many disagreed and really wanted the intense, phonics based, reading instruction that TI is used for, but were denied and threatened. As for it curing autism, it doesn't. That line can hook a desperate parent and it is misleading, esp coming from a man who has no education background. IVL cures nothing. It is extremely unfair to the special needs students, and there are many.

    I hope this sheds some light on IVL and its many failings.

    1. Thank you for speaking volumes and enlightening us and any new parents who may consider sending their students to the BCA or any other places that espouse the IVL method. And you're so right, Mr. Ingersoll has NO educational background, but he says things so cocksuredly and you're not allowed to think for yourself or question anything he says. I hope some one (or many) from the Michigan Department of Education are reading what you shared. The only thing IVL cures is Ingersoll's and Noss'es bank account.

  4. And it's really unfortunate because they had some great teachers. There still are some great teachers there. It was just really hard to do what we KNEW what was best for the kids. Steve sure as hell didnt know. If we spoke out, we were fired. I know some think that we should have just quit, but we have families to feed and couldn't just quit. And education is unique in that you feel you have an obligation to the kids to stay. You don't want to just leave them, because what if someone else that comes in is worse? A lot of the kids there have emotional/abandonment issues and The amount of guilt that we felt leaving is hard to explain, but staying on meant sacrificing our mental and even physical health. I hated leaving, but my family life improved so much...I was actually present and spent time with them again! That makes it worth it.

    One of the teachers there told me that they are not doing IVL there this year. Who knows, maybe BCA will be OK. I personally don't think it will until everything and everyone associated with Steve is removed.

  5. I'm writing this as a former BCA teacher and building leader, not as Anonymous (although I don't know how to change it), but as myself.

    What I can tell you is that during the first 2 1/2 years most staff/teachers were happy. We focused on the motto of Safe, Loved...Learning. Students loved coming to school as well as staff. We didn't have a lot of materials, teachers bought a lot on their own but most teachers were happy. There was not staff turnover, enrollment climbed. There was a need for BCA in the community and the enrollment confirmed it. Not all students learn the same and BCA gave students an opportunity different from the traditional public schools. People will talk about low test scores etc, but that is an easy target to use. I saw students who came to BCA below grade level and advance many reading levels to close the achievement gap but still fall below level. Teachers knew appropriate teaching strategies and techniques and tried to incorporate them best they could with limited materials.
    The IVL, Integrated Visual Learning, we did at BCA was limited and not at all what Steve did at his clinics or GTA. Mostly, there were activities which are appropriate early childhood activities. We focused on developmental Hierarchies, one example is teaching with object>picture>symbol. An example of this activity: to teach the word "coat". First use an actual coat, then a picture and finally associate it with the word. This does have research to support vocabulary development which is part if reading instruction. This was not reading instruction although it became part of a "grid" instruction which was pushed as reading instruction during the third year.

    What we knew: teachers and staff didn't know anything about what was happening with Steve and Roy until it was reported. I still can't say I know what is the truth or not from everything told to us.
    In October of the third year there was major changes. Staff was let go (including myself although I was rehired 1 month later), leadership changed, new people hired without clear direction or explanation, Steve at BCA regularly and new teaching strategies required. This also was when Title 1 began using IVL as instruction. Teachers were exhausted and stressed to a level much higher than normal for teachers. Teachers began leaving because of the reason others have posted. I finally left last December after I realized that my perspective on the direction of BCA and the leaderships' was very different.

    Fast forward to school year 2015-2016. There are less than a handful of teachers left who helped launch the school those first 2 years. The teachers who remain are dedicated teachers who care passionately about their students. They know peer reviewed (research based) teaching strategies, developmentally appropriate practices, CCSS and national math and reading programs. As for the teachers/staff who have left or been let go. We became a family and most of us keep in touch and see each other regularly. Scraping wax off floors and moving an entire school to a building at 3am will do that to you.
    Susan Thill

    1. Susan, I appreciate you stating that it once was a good school. The first couple of years were so wonderful, still rough at times, but great for teachers because we had that family bond. Immediately upon all the firing, especially of our leaders and original superintendent (Ryan) things changed drastically. It was like a dark cloud of lies and mistreatment loomed over the teachers and staff.

      As everyone knows, our cleaning crew was also fired. They were replaced with one or two people that were contracted to work only 3 hours after school. Basically all they had time for was cleaning bathrooms, taking out trash and vacuuming main walk ways - the places parents see. Teachers and students were expected to clean during the day and take out trash to avoid problems with mice...which became a huge problem at both buildings last year especially. There were many times the same trash sat for days in my classroom as I waited to see if anyone from the "cleaning crew" actually came in. Most often they did not and I had to eventually fill out a maitenance request form to get my room cleaned! My physical health took a huge hit over the past two years and I spent most days on medication. I am no longer an employee of BCA and I have not had to take any medication since leaving. I feel amazing!

      You also hit the nail on the head when you said teachers were stressed at high levels. Every teacher there was so willing to go above and beyond for our students because we truly care and are passionate. However, we became used and abused by management and leaders. Expected to raise money or give our own constantly, change teaching strategies and management every couple of weeks with little to no relevent training, and as you stated, scraping wax off the floors...oh and lets not forget the countless hours of moving furniture before, during, and after the school year because of constant change. All the while we were constantly being told "fake it til you make it" as we all feared if parents and community members found out about all the mess behind the scenes numbers would go down and we would lose our jobs that we despretley needed to support our own families. It really is so unfortunate because the teachers are not the issue but we are the ones that take all the blame in the end.

      I did not mean for this to turn into a rant or bashing. I learned alot from working there for the past three years. I learned how to survive and become a very flexible individual that can do many things with very little. Unfortunately, I have also learned that not everyone can be trusted and some people in education don't have the students' best interests in mind. With that said, I am extremely grateful for the lasting relationships I have formed with the teachers and staff from those first two years. I can honestly say I talk to 98% of you all still and some of the teachers are my best friends. I feel like we have a bond that teachers working under "normal" circumstances would never experience.

      I know that Mr. Lynch promises to change many things including hiring a real cleaning crew and taking more interest in academic success and focus on the needs of the students. Once again, you can never know what truly will transpire this year with leadership that still lacks proper training and high teacher turn over. I wish the school the best and truly do hope Mr. Lynch is in it for the right reasons (the kids) and that things do take a turn for the better. I do miss my students dearly and hope they have the opportunity for success at BCA. In the meantime I will be enjoying my friends, family and healthy life. :)