GROWING DEBT, INGERSOLL-RELATED "RECEIVABLES" THREATEN TO SINK SWINDLE SCHOOL! Will academic and financial mismanagement close the Bay City Academy? Or will it limp along, finding novel ways to pay its "Ingersoll tax"? Read all about it...next year!
If that remark came from one of Bill Cosby's lawyers, I'd buy it.
But when it's uttered by both Craig Johnston, a Milford resident who's president of the Bay City Academy's Board of Directors, and Brian Lynch, the head of the wobbling charter school's education service provider, Mitten Educational Management, it gives me a good reason to believe the fix is in.
As I reported on Monday, December 28, the charter school founded by convicted felon Steven Ingersoll did submit a "Deficit Elimination Plan" on December 22. However, according to Jeff Kolb of the Michigan Department of Education's office of State Aid and School Finance (whose email is reproduced above), "the plan does not show the deficit eliminated." So what is it exactly with the Bay City Times and its cautious, almost pussyfooting coverage of the Bay City Academy?
And why keep throwing shade at the Essexville-Hampton Public Schools? That district finished the 2013-2014 school year in deficit of approximately $90,000. That deficit was projected to grow to nearly $600,000 the next year if nothing was done. But, unlike the Bay City Academy, which actively concealed its ominous financial straits and only reacted after the Michigan Department of Education interceded in November and ordered the stumbling charter school to file a formal deficit elimination plan, Essexville-Hampton filed a timely plan that included concessions made by every single employee in the entire district. Scratch the surface at the Bay City Times, and I'll bet there's an Ingersoll/Noss connection in the bunch somewhere! As usual, the Bay City Times comes late to the party. If you thought the shrinking fishwrapper would at least show up with the deluxe shrimp tray equivalent of a news story, you'd be wrong.
Where do I start?
First, the piece reveals that although the Bay City Academy board ostensibly submitted a deficit elimination place, it was sent without its approval. WTF?!
There's a direct, and glaring, contradiction here...and I have proof! Jeff Kolb stated in his December 28 email to me (shown above) that the MDE requested the Bay City Academy board submit another plan, because the plan it submitted on December 22 did not eliminate the stumbling charter school's $1.3 million dollar deficit. But the Bay City Times story quotes Chad Urchike, identified as an MDE financial analyst, telling the reporter that "within the next 30 days, the state is going to review that plan and determine if it can pull the charter school out of the hole." (In its "who to call" State School Aid information directory, the MDE lists Urchike under "Budget Transparency Reporting". That's got to be a joke, right?) So, what's really happening? Did the MDE, as Kolb stated in his December 28 email, request another plan from the Bay City Academy, or did the MDE effectively say (as Urchike implied) "we'll take your nearly-blank Excel spreadsheets and, because you sent us a plan-ish, you lucky fools won't have to miss any state aid payments"?
Well, if Steven Ingersoll's felony fraud conviction wasn't enough to shut it down, I don't know what will. No heat? Stripping the plumbing fixtures? Stealing all the bathroom doorknobs? Nah!
On a more serious note, the Michigan Department of Education's official Deficit District Requirements state the MDE can immediately withhold State School Aid payments from a district that submits a plan that "is missing required information (approved budget, spreadsheet detail, narrative, etc.)" or that doesn't eliminate the deficit within two years of the plan's inception.
Why the department didn't do that is a mystery to me.
But that still doesn't explain the apathetic reactions of Craig Johnston and Brian Lynch. Or could it be that the duo's feigned apathy is an insincere cover for what's really going on: an effort to conceal evidence of wrongdoing, incompetence or other, even more embarrassing, information?
Johnston actually had the audacity to claim that the board never approved the plan because it "wasn't able to get a quorum of its members to vote on it" by the December 23 deadline. In my opinion, that's just more insincere rhetoric (you can tell I'm trying not to use the word "bullshit" so much).
And here's the capper: Johnston said, "It would be inappropriate for me (the board president) to comment on the plan before the board (including me) has approved it."
(My commentary is italicized.) And Brian Lynch? Like a good capo, he practiced omerta...and kept his yap shut.
Oh, and here's the section of Michigan's Revised School Code relating to deficits. You'll see that a Deficit Elimination Plan must be approved (and I quote) "by the board of the school district, intermediate school district, or public school academy".