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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

LET'S MOVE THOSE DECK CHAIRS, PEOPLE! Bay City Academy Closes Old Y Building; Dismal School Count Expected In November

The Edward J. Smith of the Bay City Academy has begun rearranging its remaining deck chairs, but will he go down with the sinking school...or commandeer a life raft from steerage passengers?

While the Bay City Academy's official 2013-2014 Michigan school count reported 551 students at the Bay City and Mancelona locations (North Central Academy), it appears the charter school's Dickensian death knell has begun tolling—the public charter school owned by Steven Ingersoll recently closed its Old Y campus, located at 111 N. Madison Avenue.

And the closing comes after a controversial school year for the Bay City Academy, which experienced unexpected changes in its leadership, poor standardized test scores and the federal indictment of its founder, Steven J. Ingersoll, who is charged with fraud and tax evasion. 

Brian Lynch, shown at left in a photo that appeared this month in the Bay City Times, was appointed by the Academy's board in March as the school's new superintendent and president of educational services (and chief deck chair rearranger). Lynch has worked under the Smart Schools model for most of the last seven years... interrupted in early 2012 when he abruptly left his position as classroom teacher at the Grand Traverse Academy to become an insurance agent in Kalkaska.

Lynch is the son-in-law of Mark Noss, who in March assumed control of the Grand Traverse Academy from Ingersoll. 

As I reported last month on this blog, Noss was still in charge of the Grand Traverse Academy Board when its members voted unanimously during an early morning March 19 "special meeting" to "dissolve" its relationship with Steven Ingersoll's Smart Schools Management. That vote resulted in Noss being awarded a two-year contract to management the Grand Traverse Academy that could pay him up to $4.0 million dollars.

The Academy resolution, acquired after a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals that Mark Noss was still Board chair when the "urgent" decision was made to dissolve the contract with Smart Schools—so that the Academy could execute "a Management Contract with Full Spectrum Management, L. L. C."

Noss actively remained on the Grand Traverse Academy Board, at least through its April meeting—an arrangement that is illegal in Michigan and expressly prohibited by the Academy Board's ethics policy.

Lynch, whose tenure as superintendent of the Bay City Academy is akin to having a defrocked priest say mass at the Vatican, had been issued a Michigan provisional teaching certificate on March 30, 2005. Lynch received a two-year extension in 2010, but let his teaching certificate lapse in 2012.

Brian Lynch, in a Bay City Times interview, said his charter school is "plenty transparent by releasing quarterly financial statements, which are published on the school's website".

"We also have an extra layer of compliance to make sure we're doing everything that's required of us through our charter with Lake Superior State University," he said.

Still, the public cannot access detailed financial information from the school, such as employee salaries and benefits because it's protected behind Smart Schools Inc., the school's management company.

"In that sense, we are similar to a private company," Lynch said.

Following Ingersoll's indictment, the Bay City Academy's Board of Education invited parents to ask questions about the school's future. Lynch said two board meetings have been held this school year and Ingersoll's name hasn't been brought up.

"No one has mentioned it," he said. "We're moving full steam ahead."

Iceberg ahead, Captain Smith!

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