Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Tuesday

August 27, 2013

TCAPS, Leelanau Montessori strike deal

TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools has taken over business administration services for a Leelanau County charter school.

Paul Soma, TCAPS associate superintendent of finance and operations, said TCAPS’ agreement with Leelanau Montessori Public School Academy, located in Suttons Bay, equates to a “win-win” for both public school entities.

They can save a dime by hiring us and we can make a dime by doing this for them,” Soma said.

The public school academy is paying TCAPS $15,000 annually, plus a one-time $5,000 set-up fee for business services, including financial reporting, treasury functions and audit preparations, according to a shared services agreement that was finalized late last month.

TCAPS officials also will consider requests for other services like capital planning, employee background checks, and operations and maintenance on a separate fee basis.

Randy McMillan, president of the LMPSA Board of Directors, said the charter school previously partnered with a private Brighton-based education services provider called CS Partners, but school officials were not happy with the firm.

“We were pretty small potatoes in their view and we weren’t really getting the attention we needed,” McMillan said.

Suttons Bay Public Schools authorized a charter for LMPSA in 2010 and oversees the charter school’s finances. SPBS Superintendent Mike Murray first suggested charter school and TCAPS officials meet to discuss a possible partnership.

“I thought that would be a good fit for them,” Murray said.

TCAPS, a district of about 10,000 students, holds a similar agreement with Traverse City’s The Greenspire School. Soma said the agreements are an example of shared government services in action. TCAPS provides a high level of expertise to such small schools at a minimal cost without having to hire additional staff, he said.

About 90 students attend LMPSA in grades K-6.

Montessori schools follow an educational method based on the work of the late Italian physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori. The Montessori method includes multiage groupings designed to foster peer learning and guided choice of work activities, according to the American Montessori Society.

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