Over the past few months, I have written about the efforts of a group formerly known as the American Christian Academies to form a tea party charter school in Brighton, Michigan that would use tax dollars to run as a public school. The name of the group was later changed to American Classical Academies and its leader Pasquale Battaglia has been leading the charge to get Brighton Public Schools to charter their conservative ideology-driven school.
One of the main opponents of this effort is Glenn Ikens, a Brighton parent who lives near the proposed Lindbom Classical Academy. He has been vocal at school board meetings, in op-eds for the Livingston County Press & Argus, and on social media.
Over the weekend, Ikens attended an “open house” at the former Lindbom Elementary school. However, once he was recognized, Pasquale Battaglia demanded that he leave. When Ikens refused, Battaglia called the police and had him arrested for trespassing at the open house.
The following is Ikens’ account of what happened to him and what Battaglia’s actions tell us about the group he runs.
Today, Saturday, February 28, I attempted to attend an Open House at the proposed Lindbom Classical Academy. The event, scheduled from 1:00 to 3:00 pm, was billed as an open house to show “community support to our potential authorizers.” The “Come one, come all!” salutation was certainly welcoming. I figured everyone included me, a life-long Brighton resident who lives in the neighborhood. The American Classical Academy people had also indicated on several occasions, in print and at board meetings, that they would like to sit down and have a friendly talk with those who may disagree with them. I thought about refraining from attending, as I did the last time they had an open house, because I wanted to respect their space and didn’t want to stir up trouble for them in their house. Yet I was eager for the opportunity to hear the comments of their promised special guest Phil Kilgore, Head of the Barney Charter School Program at Hillsdale College, creators of the “classical” curriculum the American Classical Academy at Lindbom intends to employ. At the last minute, with the school building only a block and a half from my house, I decided to walk over to the meeting.
I arrived a few minutes before 1:00 pm. Immediately upon entering I was recognized by a vocal supporter of the the ACA, a woman who recognized me from occasions when I had spoken against the Brighton Schools’ chartering the ACA at Lindbom many times over the course of the past year at Brighton Area Schools School Board meetings. She was obviously agitated, insisting that I wasn’t supposed to be there and that I must leave at once. Without breaking stride, I calmly informed her that I intended to stay for the presentation, as I am a Michigan taxpayer with legitimate interest in the affairs of a school that proposes to become a public school using my tax dollars in my neighborhood.
At the registration desk, I was told that I was not on the list of approved guests. I attempted to sign at the bottom of an attendance roster. It was hastily pulled away from me. I attempted again on another roster. That too was pulled away, and I was told I was not welcome and I must leave. I reiterated that I was there to attend the meeting, continuing down the hall to the meeting room. Once there, I drew myself a cup of coffee and sat down quietly in the front row to wait for the presentation.
Within minutes, Mr. Pasquale Battaglia (landlord of the Lindbom property and founder of the American Classical Academy) entered, accompanied by several men. I remained seated. Mr. Battaglia introduced himself. I introduced myself. (Mere formalities. While our first face-to-face meeting, we both recognized each other after a year of public disagreement regarding his attempt to have the Brighton Area Schools charter his academy.) We shook hands. His cordiality ended there as Mr. Battaglia promptly asked me to leave. I calmly responded that as a citizen of Michigan and of Brighton and as a taxpayer, I intended to stay in order to hear the plan for a proposed “public school” to be opened in my neighborhood. He accused me of proving myself an “unreasonable man,'” presumably because I have disagreed publicly with his views and his so called educational mission. He said he preferred I leave. I said I preferred to stay. He informed me the building was private property, much like “his own home,” and that I must leave. I again refused, insisting I should be allowed to stay as his organization is still seeking a public charter. He then turned to one of his ACA men and directed him to contact the police.
I remained sitting quietly. In short order the police arrived. They asked me if I understood Mr. Battaglia was the “owner” of Lindbom Elementary. I said I certainly understood that. They asked me to leave again. I refused, again based on my authority as a taxpaying citizen who is interested in “public” schools. They informed me I must leave or be arrested. I refused. I was then, upon Mr. Battaglia’s insistence, arrested, cuffed, escorted to the police vehicle, taken to the county jail, placed in a holding cell, charged with misdemeanor trespassing, booked, and finally, released on $500 bond.
I find it intriguing that the American Classical Academy had me removed from their private premises so they could have a private open house regarding a school they intend to make a public charter school, answerable to the public and taxpayers of our state. This attempt to thread the needle between the public and the private, the community and the corporation, is at the heart of the problem with the charter school movement in Michigan.
For-profit charters want to be private when it serves their private operational and financial interests, then public when it suits their profit interest.
Those who assert that charters are subject to the same standards as public schools should reflect upon my arrest for merely exercising my rights as a citizen to know exactly for what purposes my tax dollars are to be used. This is the veil of opacity that charter schools in this state are being afforded by the current wild-west, entrepreneurial charter system. It can only result in misuse and abuse.
It is particularly interesting to me that the American Classical Academy and its supporters– in an effort to distance themselves from Mr. Battaglia’s publicly proclaimed incendiary views on race, guns, gender, religion and government as well perhaps as his overtly stated political aims for ACA—continue to characterize Mr. Battaglia as a mere landlord with no influence over curriculum or operations. If merely a landlord, he is a curiously powerful landlord, indeed. He appears to control the guest list in what he terms his “home.” His influence would seem to exceed that of landlord, when he directs the events, heads the promotion, and commands the his people to take police action.
I too am a landlord. I rent a small home to tenants in Brighton. However, I have never claimed the power over the guests my tenants may invite to the home they rent from me. Indeed, I do not have the power to do so. It is quite an irony that my renters have more rights in regard the property they rent from me than the Lindbom Classical Academy appears to have in relation to the property they rent from Mr. Battaglia.
Mr. Richard Streetman, the man who has claimed repeatedly that he is the head of the Lindbom Classical Academy and asserted repeatedly that Mr. Battaglia is only the landlord was present at the event. In fact, I passed him while being escorted from the building in police custody. One has to wonder why, if indeed, Mr. Streetman and his team are in charge did they not lead in determining whether or not I was to stay. Clearly, Mr. Battaglia controls this group, from founding to promotions to philosophy to the purse strings, he is the major mover.
You might also find it interesting that John Conely, our Tea Party Brighton Board of Education member, was in attendance at the open house. Also Nick Fiani was in attendance and apparently addressed the group. Conflict of interest?
Another point I find most intriguing is the continued association between Battaglia’s ACA and Hillsdale College. It seems to me that Hillsdale’s incursion into public education is one of the most disconcerting developments in the charter school experiment across the country. Hillsdale partnerships with Battaglia and the Tea Party are really worth investigating. They need to be exposed for the religio-political agenda they are trying to push in the public schools.
After sending this account to me, Ikens told me, “I guess I assumed that my ease of access to decision makers at LCA would be similar to my access to decision makers at my local schools. I learned accessing information at LCA is more akin to accessing information from the CEO of BP Oil or the CFO at Lehman Brothers.”
One more thing: Ikens mentions former Brighton Area Schools board Chair Nick Fiani. Fiani has left the board to try to get on the Intermediate School District Board, presumably to get them to charter the new tea party school. On January 14th, the day after he resigned from the BAS board, he posted this on Facebook (it has since been removed):
It isn’t clear what Fiani was referring to but what IS clear is that he was not working in the best interests of students and teachers but instead was setting traps that would spring after his departure that would benefit him and his tea party friends. BAS is well rid of him.
UPDATE: The Brighton school, originally called the “Lindbom Classical Academy” has now been rebranded and renamed the Livingston Classical Academy. Their Facebook page is HERE. This is very typical of this group who keep changing their branding in an attempt to attract/fool more people and surely has something to do with Fiani’s efforts to be elected to the Livingston County Intermediate School District.
UPDATE: 2: Here is the invitation that was sent out by the
Lindbom Livingston Classical Academy:
Clearly the suggestion that “your attendance is important” and that you should “come as you are” was only for supporters, not people who were asking legitimate questions and weren’t supportive.
[Graphic by Vectorportal | Wikipedia]