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Monday, January 27, 2014

FORMER GRAND TRAVERSE ACADEMY ASST. PRINCIPAL SUDDENLY LEAVES STEVEN INGERSOLL'S BAY CITY ACADEMY: State Rep. Charles Brunner Calls For Michigan Department of Education Investigation; And On Another Note, Vacant Building Owned By Ingersoll Burns And He Says It Was "Clearly Set By Someone"

Former Bay City mayor and now State Rep. Charles Brunner says parents of students at the Bay City Academy charter school deserve answers from optometrist Steven J. Ingersoll about the sudden departure of Ryan Schrock, the school’s superintendent and principal.

Schrock, former Asst. Principal at another Ingersoll-owned school, Traverse City's Grand Traverse Academy, abruptly resigned from the Bay City school on Tuesday, January 21. In addition, Schrock's wife Melissa, who worked as a "specialty instructor" at Bay City Academy, has also left.

Parents were sent home a letter (above) last Tuesday informing them that Schrock and Smart Schools, the management company run by Ingersoll that operates Bay City Academy, had parted ways.

Schrock, Ingersoll (2nd, 3rd left)
Steve Ingersoll, the optometrist and entrepreneur who is financing the school, and who developed the school’s education model, confirmed Schrock’s departure. Ingersoll said it was an amicable decision between Schrock and the Bay City Academy board, and added that Schrock could return to the school as an educational consultant. However, local reports say the Bay City Academy board members were not informed of Ingersoll's decision, and were as surprised as the parents.

“Ryan put in 15 hours a day into this job,” said Ingersoll, who is also president of Smart Schools Inc., the management company that operates Bay City Academy and Grand Traverse Academy in Traverse City. “He put everything he had into this school, and I think our paths will cross again.”

Some parents have already removed their children from the charter school, while others have lobbied for a meeting with school officials, including Ingersoll, to discuss why Schrock no longer is with the school.

But Ingersoll's comments seem to indicate he's not having it, telling the Bay City Times that says he has no such plans and thinks the entire matter eventually "will blow over".

“It’s in our best interest to focus on the school and not be distracted by a burgeoning controversy,” said Ingersoll. “This thing just needs to pass. We had a little personnel change — it’s not a huge deal.”

Ingersoll says the school won't hire anyone to fill Schrock's role at the school.

"We are developing leadership from within," he said. "If this place depends on just one guy, then we've got a problem."

Bay City Academy, which is chartered through Lake Superior State University, has 470 students, kindergarten through ninth grade, enrolled this year. There are more than 50 people on staff at the school, which has three campuses in Bay City.

While superintendent, Schrock oversaw the expansion of the charter school's footprint across Bay City. The school opened in September 2011 at its Madison Arts building, 400 N. Madison Ave, which is geared toward humanities and the performing arts. Math, science and physical education classes are being taught at the former YMCA building in Bay City, 111 N. Madison Ave.

At the beginning of this school year, the academy opened the doors on its Farragut School campus, a kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school.

But Bay City parents and former Bay City Academy staffers claim sudden, unexplained staff changes over the past couple years appear to have undermined the original mission of the school.

Bay City Academy teachers and staff reportedly pulled all-nighters prior to the fall 2013 opening of the Farragut Street buildingassisting the building renovation by scraping floors, painting and arranging furniture in the classrooms.

Other staffers (present and former) claim that Bay City Academy teachers and aides are required to perform janitorial tasks during their lunch hours, like taking out trash and sweeping and cleaning the buildings.

In addition, the Bay City Academy has in the past reportedly announced "layoffs" in letters to parents that stated if the financial situation changed those cut would be welcomed back. In some cases, the staffers in question were were replaced with new employees. It's unclear if the former staffers simply chose not to return, however.

And while it appears that Schrock and his family have returned to the home they own in the Traverse City area, they were living in a Bay City home owned by Ingersoll.


Ingersoll, an eye doctor and entrepreneur who splits his time living in Traverse City and Bay City, had been active in recent years purchasing properties he hoped to fix up through his now-defunct Bay City Front Porch Renaissance movement. 

616 N. Grant Street
One of those properties, a vacant home located at 616 N. Grant Street, was gutted in a mysterious fire back on January 10.

According to property records, Ingersoll purchased the property at 616 Grant St. for $7,000 on Oct. 8, 2009, from Main Street Bank.

And even while the investigation is still ongoing, in the eyes of Ingersoll, it was "the work of an arsonist".

“It was clearly set by someone,” Ingersoll said of the fire at 616 N. Grant St. “The insurance adjuster said it was clearly set by someone, it wasn’t a spontaneous fire.”

Ingersoll added that the blaze gutted the house, but said "it’s still a fine building with the best architecture and build quality on the street". He added it’s not a total loss and hopes to rebuild it back to habitable condition so a teacher from the Bay City Academy may find a local home. (I'm not kidding...he actually said that!)

Bay City Fire Chief Karey Prieur, however, disagrees with the condition of the building, saying his investigators consider it a total loss. He added that the cost of the damage is estimated at $16,600, though there were no contents. According to Bay County property records, the home has a cash value of $29,000.

Prieur also said he could neither confirm nor deny that the fire was an arson.

“As far as our end goes, it’s still an open investigation,” he said.

Ah yes, so were charter schools privatized so eye doctors could buy them and make a profit from out tax dollars?

Something tells me this is just starting to get very interesting...especially if Miss Fortune hears from you Grand Traverse Academy folks.

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