August 3, 2012

Maine Voices: Charter school's mission: rigorous, innovative education for all

Baxter Academy, which is set to open in Portland in 2013, will focus on science and technology.

By JOHN JAQUES

PORTLAND - There has recently been a great deal of press regarding the approval of the first three charter schools here in Maine. While there exists considerable enthusiasm for Baxter Academy for Technology and Science and we have a very strong board and a dedicated group of parent supporters, we would like the opportunity to dispel some misinformation and address some concerns that have recently been expressed.

First, regarding our financial plan: Baxter Academy is, in fact, financially sound, with the backing of a half-million-dollar line of credit. This credit line will support our preparations for opening in September 2013.

In addition, we've been awarded a $20,000 Davis Family Foundation Grant and have other pending grant applications, including a half-million dollar grant that President Obama created to help charter schools get started.

We have a robust fundraising plan and an energetic group of community advocates from which to draw additional interest and support. We have more than a dozen letters of support from local business leaders including Josh Broder, CEO of Tilson Technology in Portland, and Mike Heffron, CEO of DeLorme in Yarmouth.

In terms of our school facilities, Baxter Academy will be centrally located in the downtown business district of Portland in an area already zoned for school use. Our location at 54 York St. is ideal in order to give students access to the city's significant science and technology-related resources. The building was a former call center with a high-speed fiber optic network. Portland is a great city that offers a substantial array of opportunities for our students. We intend to take advantage of these resources as an integral part of our project-based curriculum.

Baxter Academy will bring innovation to the educational landscape here in southern Maine. Baxter Academy will provide a unique learning environment for students, including a comprehensive technology-rich and digital portfolio-based platform for learning, including providing Google Chromebooks for every student, a focus on experiential learning with built-in weekly time for field-based work, student internships with local companies and organizations and an interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum.

Baxter Academy will offer students a unique and personalized educational environment and will be the first science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) high school in southern Maine.

There is a misconception that Baxter Academy will be elitist -- that we intend to recruit the "best and the brightest" away from local schools. This is not the case. Baxter Academy is a public charter school and as such will accept any interested student based on a randomized lottery system. All students deserve a rigorous and challenging education. All of Maine's charter school applications are available online at www.maine.gov/csc. Our application shows a clear mission to implement a rigorous college preparatory education in an innovative educational environment, suited to individual ability and interest. We are prepared to work with students who have a variety of learning styles and educational needs.

Our objective is simple: to attract students with an interest in STEM-related subjects who will benefit from a project-based, experiential learning environment. Baxter Academy will foster a creative and challenging learning environment that is both inviting and inclusive. More details about our school can be found on our website, www.baxteracademy.org, or on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/BaxterAcademy.

When we look down the road a few years from now, it is our intention that Baxter will be a stellar example of a Maine charter school -- one that the state can look to as an example of a school developed from the ground up.

Baxter will provide a road map for other startup charter schools, from their earliest inception to physical reality, to a successful school with engaged and energized students, teachers, staff and community partners.

The Baxter Academy team is looking forward to becoming an innovative, integral and vibrant part of the educational community here in southern Maine.

John Jaques is executive director of the Baxter Academy for Technology and Science, a charter school that will open in 2013.


 

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