Shoreline Media continues to provide free advertising to John Wilson’s new for-profit charter school, Gateway To Success Academy. The school that his wife, Anita, promised would “never be for alternative ed” has a new facade to hide the old grocery store while they hire staff and recruit students from cash-strapped real public schools. Jamie Bandstra gushes about how wonderful everything is, with 60 students currently enrolled for the inaugural year this fall.
The district, also known as G2S, has changed its cap on the number of students who will be accepted in the coming school year, from 135 to 125.
The academy, a charter school being designed especially for students who struggle in a traditional school environment, will draw from the area covered by eight local school districts, Baldwin, Mason County Eastern, Mason County Central, Ludington, Pentwater, Hart, Shelby and Walkerville.
There is a limited pool of students from which to draw, Bandstra said, so the districts were more comfortable with a 125 number, knowing all of the public schools earn money to operate based on the number of students enrolled. The more enrolled at one district, the less at another, and the battle over limited dollars ensues.
Bandstra and the neighboring/existing districts aren’t at battle; instead, he said, they’re working together.
Working together until it becomes obvious you can’t run a for-profit charter school without competing with real public schools, because that’s the whole purpose of charter schools in Michigan. Another reason G2S will need more student enrollment is stated by Bandstra:
“Anything given will help reduce our mortgage and will be huge for the success of the program,” Bandstra said.
Gateway To Success will be starting their first school year in debt. The only way they will pay off that mortgage is through donations and recruiting enough students. That means tax dollars going toward paying a bank note and not educating children. Schools are not supposed to be in debt. In fact, the Michigan Department of Education requires schools that are in debt to submit debt reduction plans showing they have some way to pay off their debt. This becomes increasingly difficult to do when you have to educate children while making a profit. Just ask Grand Traverse Academy or Bay City Academy.
Jamie Bandstra is busy hiring new staff too. Journey Junior Senior High School had a full staff who lost their jobs when their school was closed down to make way for G2S. I wonder how many of those teachers were offered a job at the charter school?
It’s gone now from the G2S website, but here is their hiring notice:
Very few certified teaching positions offered, and the most curious of all are the lack of endorsement codes for the special ed teacher/technology coach they want to hire (Do they really expect one person to do both jobs?). This staff G2S wants to hire is very lean on certified teachers, and relying mostly on people with what appears to be no education background. The state of Michigan does require building trades and auto engineering instructors to be certified. One candidate expressed their delight at being interviewed.
Matthew Miller used his facebook account to reply to this blog. Social media can be an open window that either sinks or floats a candidate seeking a job offer.
Wonder if he wore that to the interview.
So why did John Wilson and Jamie Bandstra do this? Bandstra was already principal of a successful alternative education program that had an enrollment of 125 students and helped young people graduate. The Ludington Daily News article provides another clue:
A graduation rate below 80 percent in Lake, Oceana and Mason counties is just too low, those who made plans for the school decided, and G2S is designed to give kids another option rather than dropping out.
Except for the fact that there already was an option for students in those counties – Journey Junior Senior High School.
This quote comes from John Wilson, who informed Up North Progressive back in February that an 80 percent graduation rate is shameful. What Wilson likes to forget, or is completely ignorant of because he’s not an educator is the national average currently is at 82 percent, and never in the history of the United States has that statistic ever been higher. The schools in the three counties G2S wants to siphon students from actually do remarkably well. Most of them, including Ludington, are above the national average. Ludington in fact exceeded the goal the US Department of Education has set for the year 2020 with a 91 percent graduation rate. . Baldwin is the lowest at 60 percent, but keep in mind 88 percent of the students attending that school live in economically disadvantaged homes and Lake County is the poorest county in the state. There are other factors besides assuming failing schools are the reason kids don’t graduate.
For-profit charter school Gateway To Success is not a solution. They lowered enrollment levels in an effort to be supportive of the public schools they claim they’re not competing with, and it’s uncertain they will even make it to 125 students in time for the 2016-2017 school year. Include that problem with start up costs, a mortgage, and paying a staff that according to their website many will not be certified teachers. Things are not looking good for Gateway To Success Academy.
The local school districts losing students to G2S already had an alternative education program that gave students another chance to earn their diploma. That school had to be shut down for this untested and untried debt-ridden experiment that has a very slim chance of making the difference John Wilson and Jamie Bandstra think it will. These are facts you won’t find in the Ludington Daily News.