March 23, 2013

Portland mayor calls for AG probe of charter school

The mayor also wants the attorney general to look into financial mismanagement and how the commission reviewed its application.

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

(Continued from page 1)

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Portland Mayor Michael Brennan has long opposed Baxter Academy, which is expected to cost the Portland school district about $500,000.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

Related Documents

PDF: Mayor Brennan's letter to AG Janet MIlls

One of the key hurdles is making sure there are enough students. The school has already received about 160 letters of interest, but at least 140 students must sign letters of commitment to attend the school. Those letters have not yet been sent out to interested students.

Brennan has long been an opponent of the school. Baxter is expected to cost the local school district about $500,000, as state funds normally allocated to the district will instead follow students who attend Baxter. Brennan said in his letter that he has asked Superintendent Manny Caulk not to pay any city funds to the state until the attorney general's investigation is complete.

"As mayor of Portland, I have a responsibility to all Portland students to ensure that they receive a high-quality education in a stable instruction environment. I also have an obligation to the taxpayers to make sure that city funds are spent appropriately," Brennan said in a statement. "I am hopeful that the attorney general's review will answer the questions I have regarding the management and approval process for this school."

Baxter officials will cooperate with any investigation, said board Vice Chairwoman Allison Crean Davis. "We certainly don't have anything to hide," she said.

Crean Davis said the board believes the fiscal and management issues related to Jaques are behind them, and they are focused on moving forward with the school.

"I understand that charter schools in general, and this one in particular, have been the subject of a lot of political discussion. It's part of the process, but our focus can't be on that," Crean Davis said. "Our focus has to be on the parents and the students and opening the school. All of that is just kind of noise. Sometimes it's noise we have to deal with, but it can't be our focus."

Lapoint said Brennan "seems intent on not having any charter school" in Portland.

"He's going to protect Portland no matter what, instead of joining us to work things to get the best for students," she said. "This to me is grandstanding and it's not in the best interest of Portland and of charter schools."

Lapoint said the commission spent months setting up the rules and expectations of the commission on how to review and approve charter schools. Commission members visited other states, consulted national organizations and used a consultant to come up with the process.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said it had received Brennan's letter and had no comment.

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

ngallagher@pressherald.com

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