FAIRFIELD — In reneging on its job offer to House Speaker Mark Eves, the Good Will-Hinckley board failed to live up to the ideals espoused by the school’s founder, according to the parent of one former student.

Christopher Cooper of Alna brought his son Graydon to Good Will-Hinckley in the late 1990s after the 15-year-old’s behavior threatened to tear the family apart. Cooper said the program at Good Will-Hinckley helped his son more than his family could have alone.

In the three years he was at the school, Cooper’s son was exposed to the values that founder George Hinckley believed were necessary to make a good and useful citizen: integrity, decency and honesty, Cooper wrote in a letter to the board Thursday.

“I am disappointed and disgusted that those of you who now are chosen to guide this wonderful institution cannot live up to these simple values in our present time,” Cooper wrote.

He reiterated his criticism Monday, joining other parents and alumni who said the board’s decision to rescind an offer to hire Eves as the school’s next president after Gov. Paul LePage threatened to withhold state funding showed students that it’s OK to give in to bullies and that money trumps values.

“My disappointment is that the people on this board have tried to make the controversy and the press attention go away at the cost of reneging on their promise to the kids,” Cooper said. “Cowardice, that’s what it looked like to me.


“Are you going to let the governor shove you around, or are you going to stand up for the kids? That’s the question.”

Leann Hewey, 19, of Cornville told the Morning Sentinel on Monday that the pressure the governor put on the board to retract its offer to Eves was a clear case of bullying, and the takeaway for students is that education and skills might not guarantee success.

“I think it shows you can be qualified for the job and still someone can not like you and just push you out,” said Hewey, a 2013 graduate of the Maine Academy for Natural Sciences, the charter school overseen by the Good Will-Hinckley nonprofit.

Jennifer Grant, whose son Robert was with Hewey in the academy’s first graduating class in 2013, worries that the Eves episode may cause parents to lose confidence in the school.

“I think it will be harder for them to trust the school because it chose money over what it believed in,” she said. “The power of the dollar changed what they thought was right.”

Robert Grant, 20, said the board dropped Eves before he could prove himself.


“They should have at least given him a chance to do something before booting him out,” he said. “It wasn’t a good message they sent with that one.”

But at least one parent of a student at the school backed the board, saying the school isn’t the same one that helped Cooper’s son.

Karen Corson, of Athens, whose son is entering his senior year at the academy, was unhappy with Eves after hearing him talk about his new role in a television interview, saying he made disparaging remarks about the school that weren’t in line with how it currently works.

In an interview with WCSH-TV after he was picked to lead the nonprofit organization, Eves referenced the school’s 125 years of helping at-risk students who have “had a rough start.”

“I didn’t like how I heard Mark Eves talk about Good Will-Hinckley students because he talked about them like they weren’t going to achieve, like they were still back in the day when they were a school that targeted children that were troubled, not going to amount to anything,” Corson said. “It pissed me off to no end that they hired someone that didn’t know anything about the school.”

Jack Moore, chairman of the Good Will-Hinckley board, said in a telephone interview Monday that every decision made by the board was in “the best interest of the students,” and that he had no further comment on the issue.


In a written statement later Monday, he repeated the board’s stance that “we decided to keep the school open so all of our current and future students would continue to have a place to learn lessons and improve their lives. As fiduciaries faced with the loss of state and significant private funding, the very real financial consequences for the school made the board’s unanimous decision on June 24 black and white.”

Three weeks ago, the Good Will-Hinckley board announced that it had selected Eves as the school’s next president in a unanimous vote. Eves was to start his new job Wednesday.

The board abruptly withdrew its offer to Eves last Wednesday after LePage threatened to pull funding from the academy, the state’s first charter school.

LePage acknowledged Monday to reporters that he threatened to pull $530,000 in annual funding from Good Will-Hinckley because he didn’t believe Eves, who has opposed charter school legislation, was the right leader for the academy.

“Yeah, I did,” he said. “If I could, I would. Absolutely. Why wouldn’t I? Tell me why I wouldn’t take the taxpayer money, to prevent somebody to go into a school and destroy it.”

Founded in the 1890s, the school has offered a residential education and social experience for generations of at-risk youths. In 2009, the school shut down its core service because of financial problems, but in 2011 it opened the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, which became the state’s first charter school the next year. The organization also operates the Glenn Stratton Learning Center, a day program for students with significant social-emotional and behavioral challenges, and the L.C. Bates Museum.

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