November 1, 2012

Two virtual schools reapply to Maine commission

The panel that will review their controversial bids to open in September wants to be sure it can assess what students are learning.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

One flyer from the PAC, Citizens Who Support Maine's Public Schools PAC, criticized her involvement with the virtual school.

Summers, who is married to Republican U.S. Senate nominee Charlie Summers, did not respond to interview requests.

Peter Mills, executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority and secretary of the board of the Maine Virtual Academy, defended the board's decision to stick with K12 Inc. as the operator of its proposed school.

"I don't think anyone can question the richness of their curriculum and their ability to deliver -- their capacity is extraordinary," Mills said. "They're in 32 states and they're surely large, but they're large for a good reason: They've been successful.

"The responsibility of the board is to make sure we take responsibility for making sure the contractor performs," he said.

K12 Inc. is under investigation by the Florida Department of Education's inspector general over allegations that it used uncertified teachers in one of its virtual schools in Seminole County, in violation of state law. Emails submitted to investigators by the school district appear to show K12 officials attempting to get certified teachers to claim they had taught students with whom they had never had contact.

A spokesperson for Florida's Department of Education said there is no firm time line for the completion of the investigation.

K12 Inc. has denied any wrongdoing and has said it is cooperating with investigators.

Ned Julian, the attorney for Seminole County Public Schools, said investigators visited the company's facilities last week to "interview individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the alleged misconduct."

In the past month, two Florida school boards rejected applications to open K12-managed virtual charter schools. Officials in Marion County and Pasco County expressed concerns about the allegations in Seminole County in announcing their decisions.

The Maine Charter School Commission also expected applications from five brick-and-mortar charter schools Wednesday: Harpswell Coastal Academy, Heartwood Charter School in Kennebunk, Inspire Me Academy in Springvale, Queen City Academy in Bangor and Monson Academy in Monson.

Lapoint, the commission's chair, said one school that previously expressed an intent to file by the Oct. 31 deadline, the Penobscot Bay Community School in Stockton Springs, had withdrawn.

Lapoint said she is certain of one thing: "Charter schools are being held much more accountable than any of our public schools are.

"In a charter school," she said, "if the students don't perform or make the grades, they can be closed, so they have the most difficult row to hoe of anybody."

 

Staff Writer Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@pressherald.com

 

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