}

Friday, September 29, 2017

HEADS ROLL AT GRAND TRAVERSE ACADEMY: Three Staffers Shown The Door As Charter School Seeks To 'Live Within Its Means' While Enrollment Drops

“We’ve lost a lot of money because of Ingersoll. We get it.”

Grand Traverse Academy superintendent, Susan Dameron, today announced the layoffs of three staffers in an email to GTA parents. According to Dameron, although the school ostensibly saved a significant amount of money after it kicked Mark Noss to the curb, sinking enrollment and stricter financial controls required today's human resources reengineering.

In her email, Dameron maintained a “condition of the loan agreement was that we retain a certain amount in our fund balance, or cash reserves, each month.” 

What Dameron apparently forgot to mention? 

The shitty track record the school's had during the last several years, frequently violating a condition of its $16.2 million 2007 bond by letting its general fund balance sink as low as $18,112. The school has violated that covenant during four of the last five years, after Steven Ingersoll left in 2014. 

Once Ingersoll was no longer artificially propping up the school's financials with his prepaid expense/accounts receivable/lease contributions financial statement fraud tricks, the tide went out...and everyone saw who was swimming naked. 

Here's the truth: the Grand Traverse Academy worked with PNC Bank, part of PNC Financial Services Group Inc., to issue a short-term municipal bond. 

Although its unclear from Dameron's email if the deal has actually closed, PNC Bank is underwriting the bond offering, which will likely bundle payment of the Grand Traverse Academy's now-delinquent $2,330,000 Traverse City State Bank loan with a multi-million dollar state aid note anticipation loan. However, the Michigan Treasury is not directly involved with the transaction. 

In fact, the Treasury Department's spokesperson exclusively confirmed the following to me in an August 28 email: “Grand Traverse Academy hired a financial advisor who worked with the academy and PNC Bank to develop a customized solution for their School Aid Note. To date, no money has been provided to Grand Traverse Academy. We expect final credit approval, paperwork and processing in two to three weeks.” 

Here's Dameron's email:

Dear GTA Families, 

As you may know, our school board in June voted to discontinue Grand Traverse Academy’s relationship with our former education service provider in favor of becoming self-managed. As a result, they have also engaged the services of a professional employer organization to oversee human resources and an accounting firm to manage our finances. This move has saved us a substantial amount of money and will provide us with the expertise necessary to ensure that our organization remains professionally staffed and fiscally sound. 

Unfortunately, in looking at our staffing numbers, we are overstaffed for the number of students that we currently have. Due to this overstaffing, we needed to reduce our elementary staff by two classroom teachers and one curriculum enrichment teacher. Parents whose children will be affected were contacted individually today so that the transition to a new teacher will be as smooth as possible. This was an extremely difficult decision, and I assure you that it was not made lightly or without a thorough review of every other alternative as we work to maintain and improve the financial health of our school. 

We are pleased to report that these positive changes were recognized by the Michigan Finance Authority, which enabled us to refinance our outstanding state aid anticipation note through their partnership with a local bank. A condition of the loan agreement was that we retain a certain amount in our fund balance, or cash reserves, each month. This provides a financial cushion and is an indicator of our school’s financial health. Upon review of staffing by the schools leadership team it was determined that our school was overstaffed based on our current enrollment. The conclusion was that staff reductions were unfortunately necessary in order for us to be financially responsible. These layoffs are so unfortunate and we regret the loss of any of our valued GTA family. However, we are confident that this is a temporary financial situation and that we are well on the way to rebuilding our fund balance by continuing to stay within our means. 

Looking back, we have so much to be proud of in just the past year: 

1. U.S. News & World Report awarded GTA with a bronze medal in their 2017 Best High Schools list (one of only five districts in our region to have received an award). 

Our high school English proficiency rate was nearly twice that of the state, and significantly higher than every other school district in the region in their analysis, and our high school math proficiency rate exceeded that of the state, and was higher than all but one district in the region. 

2. The Class of 2017 received a record $1,526,000 in college scholarships, a testament to their college readiness through the education they received at Grand Traverse Academy. 

3. Elementary NWEA Measures of Academic Progress results for 2016-17 indicate the kind of improvements from Fall to Winter to Spring that we want to see; what’s more the average scores of GTA students are above or well above the grade level averages in all areas but 1st grade reading, which is only behind by two points. 

4. Grades 3-8 M-STEP testing data from Spring 2016 to Spring 2017 show significant improvement in English Language Arts and Math proficiency, as well as a very large increase in student academic growth. 

5. Spring 2017 PSAT aptitude test score averages for 8th- 9th graders and 10th graders are significantly higher than the state average. In addition, our students’ college and career readiness scores are significantly higher than state averages. 

Grand Traverse Academy has established itself as a leading school of choice for parents across the region who seek an alternative public education for their children: a dedicated staff, loyal parents, hard-working students, a challenging curriculum, character education, and much more! We appreciate the confidence you have placed in us, and want you to know that we have a clear plan for continuing to move forward. As always, please contact me or member of our board if you have any questions or concerns. 

Sincerely, Susan Dameron 
Superintendent/Principal Grand Traverse Academy  

Looking back, eh Susan? 

Next week, I'll be looking forward...



18 comments:

  1. Susan Dameron is the biggest liar I have ever known ...well next to Trump. She spews fake information, so parents won't pull their students. Really parentsn get your children out of there and into the fantastic public schools in TC.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Really Susan, how much did you let Ingersoll get away with? How much did you let Noss get away with? Because we know those boys aren't gonna let you shove them out without giving them loads of money. Too bad you weren't fired, because you are a big part of the financial cover-up.

    ReplyDelete
  3. PNC is either stupid, a friend of yours, or taking you over the coals. Which is it Susan?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Does anyone know what GTA's current enrollment status is? I've heard time and again GTA's enrollment status hasn't been impacted- however I do not see how this is true... I pulled my kids and personally know others who have done the same. Wonder if it's truly a "wash" as Susan Dameron has claimed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GTA's current enrollment status (for this school year) won't be publicly available until late October. According to the official MDE Spring 2017 General Collection summary, which was audited on July 13, 2017, the total count was 1,162. It's likely the preliminary fall count (forwarded to the MDE for state aid payment purposes) showed a significant drop, one that had an impact on the overall budget.

      Hence, the heads rolling out the door.

      Delete
  5. Another question- what's Susan Dameron's salary??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. According to a document available on the GTA's website, Dameron's base salary is $127,000. When you add the benefit package, the total increases to $155,291.

      https://www.mygta.us/local/upload/file/2016%20Employee%20Compensation%20Information.pdf

      Delete
  6. Susan Dameron needs to be expelled! She is the scum that kept the money laundering going and still is. She skirts around the truth every single time.

    ReplyDelete
  7. 'Outlook boosted at GTA' well, except that parents are running in droves and Dameron's blatant incompetence reeks through the ventilation. Way to go Susan, adding staff just to have to fire them. You're really good at this business-y stuff. I liken it to the Seinfeld episode where George costanza took the opposite approach andthings started working out for him. There ya go GTA, do exactly the opposite of what Dameron says and things will work out! And for all that is good and holy, someone get her a calculator so she can figure out that negative numbers added with negative numbers continue to be negative. I'm sure that concept is 'news' to her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FYI...she kept new hires and got rid of veteran, experienced teachers.

      Delete
    2. Well, of course she did! New hires are cheaper, and they're more pliable.

      Delete
  8. I heard Susan Dameron once say "The teachers would follow me off a cliff", and that's exactly where they're headed. They need to replace her with someone who, rather than lead them off a cliff, will lead them to the winners circle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What, did she think the teachers were lemmings?

      Delete
  9. Just thought I'd share something I feel is extremely valuable as well as telling- my children have attended GTA one of them graduated from that school. Since I pulled my son from that school- he is like a different child! He's happy, he is getting straight A's and seems like he is just lighter. He stated to me on multiple occasions he felt like some staff at GTA (some not all) were out to get him- yes Susan Dameron was one of them and so was Mindy Vanhouzen to name a couple- I didn't believe him at first, but as time went on and hearing different things some of the teachers have said to my son's peer group about my son- I quickly changed my thinking. Needless to say, I pulled him from that school and it has been the best decision his dad and I both made for our son. I loved many teachers and staff at that school, with Dameron running the show- she managed to leave a really bad taste in my family's mouth. GTA is poorly ran as multiple watered down reports have shown. Parents- start researching the truth behind GTA, the board, start researching local schools now- that school will eventually have to shut its doors..

    ReplyDelete
  10. People who have seen and experienced the whole IVL Noss/Ingersoll empire (Full Spectrum/Smart Schools) and let's not forget some or most of the deceptive board need to let others know the truth behind this school's facade of "excellence".

    ReplyDelete
  11. It's been awhile since we were at GTA, but I know one of the teachers was a beloved teacher who has worked there for years. Last-in, first-out didn't come in to play here at all.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Obviously there are good teachers there that want to keep their jobs. I don't know how they do it. I wouldn't be able to work for people that are corrupt and taking advantage of children. The pressure or ignorance must be tough.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Parents listen to that woman that took her kids out. Teachers do not do their best job when they are stressed and with the money laundering that has gone on and is still going on, well the writing is on the wall. Get your kids out of GTA. How much are you paying Noss to walk away, because we all know you are. He has a noose around your neck and your greed/fear is showing Susan. There is no way Noss and Ingersoll would walk away from a golden goose, they have threatened you and because you are guilty you spew your fake numbers and cheery news like everything is great. We all know it isn't. The board and Susan need to be gone today.

    ReplyDelete