Bay City Academy, posting test scores in the bottom 5 percent of Michigan schools for two consecutive years, is on the bubble.
Steven Ingersoll's fraud-tainted, perennially low achieving Bay City charter school, appears on the Michigan School Reform office's February 2016 priority schools list. (See graphic below.)
Schools on the priority list are ranked in the bottom 5 percent of schools statewide based on achievement and achievement gaps, according to the Michigan Department of Education.
The Bay City Academy landed on this list in 2014.
The School Reform Office (SRO) has vowed to shutter any school whose test scores put them in the bottom 5 percent statewide for three straight years. The public won’t know how many schools have met that threshold until later this fall, when scores from the last two rounds of state exams are released.
The SRO plans to tell schools whether they're on the closure list by the end of 2016.
Governor Rick Snyder seized control of the SRO last year from the Michigan Department of Education, transferring the reform office to a state office directly under his control: the Department of Technology, Management and Budget. And although under the Department of Education, the SRO had the power to close schools, it had never done so.
Snyder cited that sorry-ass record when he seized control of the office.
However, there's an escape clause built into the effort, an "unreasonable hardship" exemption that would exempt schools meeting the closure criteria to stay open because the SRO decides shutting them down would leave their students without access to a better schools.
In some parts of Michigan, closing a low-performing school might require students to travel far distances. In other neighborhoods, students might have another option nearby — but those schools might not be better. In either case, the School Reform Office has given itself the option not to pursue closure.
It appears that escape clause may not save the Bay City Academy from closure next year.
|February 2016 Michigan Priority School list excerpt|
Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, a charter school advocacy group, said the state's decision to close chronically failing schools is long overdue. "There seems to be no level of failure that was low enough to spark state action," he said.
Naeyaert pushed back on the assertion that closing failing schools will do little good if high-quality options aren't available. "Just because you have to leave a terrible school to go to a less than average school, that's still progress," he said.
Bay City Academy operates out of two buildings in Bay City: the Farragut School and the Madison Arts building, 400 N. Madison Avenue. It closed its Old Y campus, 111 N. Madison Avenue, following a steep drop in student population.
In addition, the Bay City Academy includes a Mancelona campus, the North Central Academy.
The Bay City Academy was first listed as a priority school by the Michigan Department of Education, meaning it ranks in the bottom 5 percent of the state's top-to-bottom rankings list based on 2013-2014 school data.
In April 2014, Steven Ingersoll was charged with federal fraud and tax evasion offenses.
Shortly before Ingersoll's indictment was unsealed, the Bay City Academy board, headed by Milford resident and longtime Ingersoll crony, Craig Johnston, made a big show of shitcanning the charter school's founder and president of educational services.
Claiming disappointment of low academic performance at the Bay City Academy, Johnston (presumably with a straight face) said Ingersoll was removed because the school needed an administrator whose full-time job is to oversee the school's day-to-day operations.
So, just four days after former Grand Traverse Academy board president and covert Ingersoll business partner Mark Noss assumed management control of the school on March 19, 2014, the Bay City Academy board appointed Noss' fortunate son-in-law and Traverse City resident, Brian Lynch, as its new superintendent and president of educational services.
Will the circle be unbroken? Bye and bye Lord, bye and bye.