March 11, 2013

Portland charter school sues its founder

But an attorney for John Jaques says he plans to countersue the Baxter Academy on grounds of defamation.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

A screen shot of Baxter Academy's new website, www.baxter-academy.org.

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Baxter Academy has been approved by the Maine Charter School Commission to open this fall, under a state law passed in 2011.

As of the March 1 application deadline, about 160 students were interested in attending the school, which needs about 150 students to open. The board plans to meet with interested families Saturday, Crean Davis said.

Under state law, the school must meet a strict timetable and the dispute could prove a distraction, according to the lawsuit.

The school must notify students by April 1 of their right to enroll, and the students then have 14 days to send in a commitment letter. Baxter officials said they wanted to have teachers in place before that 14-day enrollment window, "or Baxter will be at a significant disadvantage in achieving its enrollment goals," according to their suit.

Crean Davis said the board was feeling "very positive" after relaunching the Facebook page and getting a new website running.

"We're 'making it work,' doing a bit of an end-around, putting up these alternate sources as the original web resources remain in his hands," she wrote in an email to the Portland Press Herald.

But the civil lawsuit paints a different picture, describing the material Jaques controls as "critical to (the school's) operation."

"Baxter Academy cannot continue its day-to-day operations -- nor can it proceed with its plans to enroll an entering class for September 2013 and hire teachers and staff for the coming school year -- unless Jaques immediately relinquishes control of such property to the school," reads the complaint written by Baxter attorney Carver.

By retaining control of the website and Facebook sites, Jaques has "already begun using such tools to damage Baxter Academy ... The harm done by Jaques' actions will be immediate and irreparable, is already occurring and is ongoing."

Getting the information back is not a minor issue, even though the board has found a way to reconnect with the families, Crean Davis said.

"It's all part of getting the doors to this school opened, which (Jaques) claimed to be so passionate about and now it seems like he is intent on tearing down," she said.

Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

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