AUGUSTA — Ande Smith, a member of both the Maine State Board of Education and the Maine Charter School Commission, has resigned from the commission because only three commissioners can serve on the education board at the same time.

On March 23, the Senate confirmed Gov. Paul LePage’s nominees to the education panel, including charter school commissioner John Bird.

Both Bird and Smith said Tuesday at the Charter School Commission meeting in Augusta that they were caught off-guard by the immediate need to have one of the charter school commissioners step down.

“I didn’t realize I had to jump off immediately,” said Smith, who was vice chairman of the commission.

Smith, who is running for the 1st Congressional District seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, said he decided to be the one to leave the seven-member Charter School Commission once the conflict was pointed out.

“I just want to say I regret having needed to withdraw,” Smith said. “When John was appointed to the board, I got an email from (Board of Education Chairwoman Martha Harris) saying we had four and we needed a change.”

Smith, a small-business owner and attorney from North Yarmouth, served nearly 30 years in the U.S. Navy and owns a cybersecurity consulting firm in Maine.

With Smith’s resignation, five of the nine members of the State Board of Education have ties to the Charter School Commission. The three current charter school commissioners on the education board are Bird, Jana Lapoint and Nichi Farnham, and the two former commissioners on the panel are Smith and Heidi Sampson, who resigned from the commission in March 2014.

The other commissioners are Shelley Reed, Mike Wilhelm and Laurie Pendleton.

Bird said he didn’t realize his appointment would trigger the change.

“I had no idea all this was going to happen,” he said.

At Tuesday’s Charter School Commission meeting, Smith told his former fellow members: “I have appreciated working with you all. It’s probably the hardest-working board in the state. You all do fantastic work and it’s been a great honor to be with you all.”

Lapoint agreed to serve as temporary vice chairman of the charter commission until a new chairman and vice chairman are selected in July.

The seven charter school commissioners are appointed by the State Board of Education.

Also Tuesday, the commission announced the resignation of Carl Stasio, executive director of Portland’s charter school, Baxter Academy for Technology and Science.

Stasio, who was headmaster of Saco’s Thornton Academy for 26 years before joining Baxter when it opened in 2013, will continue as a consultant for the charter school, according to a letter from Baxter board of directors Chairwoman Kelli Pryor.

Commission Executive Director Bob Kautz said Stasio, who came out of retirement to take the Baxter job, had long planned to step down and that the resignation was not a surprise.

Pryor said Head of School Michele LaForge would lead Baxter, and the school would hire a chief operating officer to support LaForge as she “restructures the administrative team.”

Baxter’s enrollment is at capacity with 320 students, and had a fall 2015 waiting list of almost 100 students. The four-year high school also opened a satellite campus at 561 Congress St., where it rents five classrooms.

The commission also discussed, but did not vote on, the idea of hiring an additional analyst at $53,000 a year to assist with oversight of existing schools. The commission, which is responsible for visiting and monitoring all the charter schools, currently has an executive director, a program director and an administrative assistant.

Three percent of all state funds going to charter schools is automatically withheld and used to fund the commission. It is used for staff salaries, per-diem payments for commission members, travel costs and other expenses.

The commissioners also discussed a proposal to create a website and logo for the commission, at an anticipated cost of $20,000. The commissioners decided to discuss those proposals, and the possible new staff position, at a strategic initiatives meeting to be held in June.

For about a year, the commissioners have increasingly discussed how their role has been shifting from work that focuses on approving new schools to monitoring existing ones.

State law allows a maximum of 10 charter schools. The commission has already approved seven brick-and-mortar charter schools and two virtual charter schools. The next round of applicants for the last open slot can apply this year to open in the fall of 2017.


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