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Friday, December 18, 2015

BLAME IT ON KAYE! Grand Traverse Academy Board President & Management Company Honcho Blame Mentley; Throw Her Under The School Bus.

So why was Kaye Mentley fired, and who fired her?

That depends on who's telling the story, and for now, Kaye Mentley's not talking. (Must have been some sweet severance package!)

However, Grand Traverse Academy Board president Brad Habermehl testified about the matter during Steven Ingersoll's sentencing hearing on December 8.

We pick up at 9:24am in the hushed courtroom, minutes after Habermehl finally admitted fundraising for Ingersoll, seeking a $300,000 "loan" to bankroll a potential business deal after being confronted by the prosecution with his March 15, 2015 email that revealed: "There are currently five investors that are perusing the school project. I and Steve a 2 of the five. One of the investors just retired from Lake Superior State University." 

Habermehl initially claimed he couldn't recall the other three investors before finally admitting that former LSSU Charter Office head Bruce Harger was one of the "investors".

(Shhh! The show's about to start!)


Q. Two months ago you were asked about the firing of Kaye
Mentley. Can you outline again the reasons for why Kaye
Mentley was let go by the board?

A. Kaye Mentley was not let go by the --

MS. PARKER: Your Honor, I'm not sure that's

MR. GEHT: It was inquired into by the Government on

MS. PARKER: I don't believe I did.  

THE COURT: Overruled. We'll take the testimony.  

MR. GEHT: Thank you, Your Honor.

THE WITNESS (Habermehl): Kaye Mentley was not released by the Board of Directors of Grand Traverse Academy. She was released by Full Spectrum Management, Dr. Mark Noss. 

Basically we were concerned as far as the performance of the school. 

It was brought to our attention by -- the board's attention by Lake Superior State University's Bruce Harger that in 2010 Grand
Traverse Academy students scored in the 90th percentile in its
rankings of other schools in the state of Michigan.


In 2011, it had again scored in the 90 percentile; 2012 it had an all-time high of 91 percentile, but it was in 2013 that we saw a drop down to 71 percentile, and then in 2014 we saw a significant drop at the 44 percentile.

[NOTE: Habermehl is referring to the Michigan Department of Education's Top-to-Bottom list, part of Michigan's school accountability system which ranks schools on their student performance in mathematics, reading, writing, science and social studies and graduation rate data (for high schools).  School performance components include student achievement, improvement and achievement gaps between the highest and lowest scoring 30 percent of students in each school.]

And while Habermehl is under oath in a federal courtroom, he makes a misleading statement.

Although it appears the Grand Traverse Academy scores cited by Habermehl are accurate, the "44 percentile" figure was included in the 2013-14 report, information only released by the State of Michigan in mid-August nearly six weeks after Kaye Mentley was fired, and unlikely to have been a factor in her abrupt termination.

And if Harger had indeed "sent out an email to the Board of Directors and Kaye Mentley" in 2014 as Habermehl testified, where's the proof that the email, and Harger's supposed concern about the school's academic performance, were ever discussed during a Grand Traverse Academy board meeting?

And why did Harger sing the praises of the GTA's "impressive results" in an October 17, 2013 letter to Mark Noss (excerpt shown below) instead of raising an alarm about the school, as Brad Habermehl asserted Harger did just weeks later? 

And when Habermehl used a similar excuse to explain the Grand Traverse Academy's departure from Ingersoll's Smart Schools, Mentley and Noss issued a joint statement debunking Habermehl's claim. 

So what's up? 

Let's return to Habermehl's testimony:

HABERMEHL: So it was back in 2014 that Lake Superior State University was concerned about the performance of the students and Bruce Harger sent out an email to the Board of Directors and Kaye Mentley asking about the particular academic model in regards to Integrated Visual Learning and Icon Mapping. 

And Kaye Mentley had mentioned that -- that she had changed that model, and it brought some concern to the board members and with investigation into what changes she had made, it concerned that she had watered down and was not using the model as it was in the past.

So we brought out attention to Mark Noss on this issue, along with some of the other happenings of hiring Meg Hackett without the board's approval. We brought our concerns to her -- or to Mark, and it was Mark's decision to release her from Full Spectrum Management and to go into a new superintendent. [NOTE: It's odd Habermehl would concede the decision to fire Mentley was solely the right of Mark Noss. Under the Michigan School Code, that right belongs to the board.]


Q. Okay. Thank you. Speaking of Meg Hackett --

MR. GEHT: May I approach, Your Honor?

THE COURT: Yes, sir.


Q. If I could ask you to turn to page 2 on -- of Exhibit 500 [note: Thrun Law Firm letter], first full paragraph. Do you see it says, "With respect to our involvement and the review undertaken by the firm, Kaye Mentley initally contacted our office after being approached by the IRS and the EPA." 

Do you see that? 

A. Yes.

Q. Is that consistent with your recollection as to who contacted Ms. Hackett?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. If I could ask you to turn to the next page, page 3, first full paragraph starting with "during this follow-up," do you see where I am?

A. I'm in the first paragraph. I'm not seeing "during".

Q. First full paragraph on page 3.

A. Okay. I'm with you now.

Q. Okay. "During this follow-up discussion with Ms. Mentley on May 6th, she suggested a meeting between our firm, herself and Steve Ingersoll prior to scheduling a meeting with the board". Do you see that?

A. Yes.

Q. Is that consistent with you recollection that the board did not meet with Ms. Hackett?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. Does the board, on an annual basis, pass a resolution designating its outside counsel?

A. It does.

Q. Okay. Do you recall off the top of your head who that person was for the two years that you were on the board?

A. Doug Bishop.

So Habermehl claims that Kaye Mentley brought in Meg Hackett, without authority and without board approval.

But what does Kaye say and, more importantly, what does Meg Hackett say about the circumstances of her association with the Grand Traverse Academy?

First, Kaye Mentley, from her affidavit:

I learned that GTA was owed $3.5 million when I was interviewed by federal agents on May 2, 2013. I also contacted the Thrun law firm on the morning of May 3, 2013 and spoke to Meg Hackett. The GTA board had retained two attorneys -- Doug Bishop and the Thrun law firm.

Mentley's contention that the Grand Traverse Academy had some sort of retainer relationship with Thrun is backed up by the testimony of Meg Hackett, given under cross-examination by Ingersoll's former attorney, Martin Crandall, during the federal fraud trial.

When asked by Crandall if she represented Kaye Mentley, Hackett replied she did not represent Mentley. Explaining that Mentley worked for Smart Schools, Hackett stated that Mark Noss had come to her for the opinion.

Crandall countered, asking Hackett again if Mentley at some point had come to her for her legal opinion. Hackett replied, telling Crandall that "Mark Noss, the board president" was her client.

In addition, Hackett testified that after the May 13, 2013 meeting ended (Steven Ingersoll and Kaye Mentley having left the room), she met "separately with my client, the board president, Mark Noss, after the group meeting." Miss Fortune wonders if Noss spent the time disputing his client status with Hackett.

However, in his September 10, 2015 affidavit, Noss asserted that "Meg Hackett was not retained by the GTA board. She was retained by Kaye Mentley."

In his affidavit, Noss also stated that, based on his "extensive knowledge of the relevant matters", the conclusion reached by Meg Hackett and the Thrun Law Firm in its May 30, 2013 letter was "simply erroneous and inconsistent with the ultimate conclusion reached by the accountants." 

Which accountant might that be? Tony Henning of Midwest Professionals from Gaylord, who described himself to federal investigators as feeling like a "dumbass"?

Noss claims that while "the board ultimately paid Meg Hackett, it only did so out of "professional courtesy".


Just how stupid do these people think you are?

Miss Fortune has more insights tomorrow, December 19.

By the way, here's the joint email that Kaye Mentley and Mark Noss sent to Grand Traverse Academy staffers on April 11, 2014, countering misinformation from Brad Habermehl, who blamed MEAP scores for the board's decision to cut Steven Ingersoll's Smart Schools Management, Inc. loose.

Can't these people get their stories straight? I mean, if Noss is called to testify in January, he's gonna need a cheat sheet!


  1. With all Ms Mentley knows, maybe she'll throw them and all the others under several semi trucks after she gets off and dusts off the scratches and some scars from when Noss/Habermehl/etc. throw her under the proverbial bus. Maybe she'll make a real divulsion of mounting evidence against them all? We can all bet that this mess will become even more interesting.

    1. What a brilliant idea come on Kaye take the challenge bust this wide open.

  2. Go for it, Kaye! Do the "right thing" and spill all the beans! Do it for justice for the students, parents of days past, present and future.

  3. How can Habermehl, Noss and company keep all their stories (oops, I mean lies!) straight. They'll be tripping themselves up even more. Hopefully when a Grand Jury is deciding whether to prosecute past GTA board members for their negligence.

    1. A grand jury would not be called to prosecute GTA board members for negligence, unless it would rise to criminal negligence. It's more likely any future investigation would focus on a criminal conspiracy, embezzlement, money laundering, and wire fraud.

  4. Well that is just too darn bad. Obviously, they are all in this together and have incriminate themselves in court.