Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

May 4, 2014

Academy still cutting ties with indicted founder

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse Academy board members created a new committee to give members more financial involvement in the institution following the revelation the school’s old management company was prepaid and still owes the school $1.6 million.

Administrators at Grand Traverse Academy, the k-12 public charter school on Hammond Road, scrambled to cut ties with founder Steven Ingersoll, who was indicted on federal bank fraud and tax violation charges last month. They replaced Ingersoll’s management company, Smart Schools Management Inc., with a company created by Mark Noss, another school founder and the former board president.

School officials insisted the formation of the new Finance Committee had nothing to do with the prepaid fees. They said the move was adopted upon the recommendation of Lake Superior State University, which authorizes the school’s charter.

“This has been a recommendation across the board to every charter school (Lake Superior State University) has been involved in,” said Mark Noss, the president of the school’s new management company, Full Spectrum Management, LLC. “We certainly embraced it because it makes a lot of sense.”

Grand Traverse Academy will now operate the school’s janitorial and child care programs, which were previously affiliated with Smart Schools and Ingersoll.

“(They) were brought in house to watch them more closely and to ensure complete separation from Smart Schools,” said school attorney Doug Bishop.

The full school board met after the finance committee meeting. About 10 parents attended the meeting to voice their concerns about how the transition to Full Spectrum was handled.

“I don’t understand why, when we say we cleaned house, people are on the board that are even associated with Dr. Ingersoll, that know him. I don’t know why

damage control wasn’t done and we didn’t wipe the slate clean,” said James Ducharme, a parent who felt Lake Superior State University should have been more involved.

Ducharme also criticized the school for switching companies without the “due diligence” of a several months-long search.

“I would like to see a complete overhaul of the board, a new management company and a new authorizer,” said parent Jane Breederland, who attended the board meeting.



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