Parents organize behind Baxter Academy as charter school vote looms

The proposed Baxter Academy for Technology & Science, which was among the earliest charter school organizations to form in the state, would likely be the last such school approved this year if the Maine Charter School Commission gives Baxter Academy the OK when it’s next scheduled to meet on the topic Tuesday.

James Banks, chairman of the Maine Charter School Commission

Under the new law allowing charter schools in Maine, the commission has punted — for now — on approving virtual charter schools and only approved one other brick-and-mortar charter school during this wave of applications: the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Fairfield.

Last week, a cadre of Portland area reporters gathered in Augusta for the previous commission meeting with the belief that the fate of the proposed charter school, which has been famously opposed by Mayor Michael Brennan but seems popular among area parents and teachers, would be decided at that time. But the vote was postponed.

Click here, here, here, here and here for previous stories and columns on Baxter Academy to catch up on how we reached this point.

Well, leading into Tuesday’s prospective vote, a group of Portland area parents have organized in support of the proposed charter school. Calling themselves Friends of Baxter Academy, the parents plan to be a supportive presence at the commission meeting and in their formation announcement this week, urged other interested parents to join their group and donate to the academy through its website.

Here are some comments from participating Friends parents, as provided by the group.

Ruth Dean of South Portland:

As parents, we are extremely motivated to support this school. There is nothing else like it in the State of Maine. We want people to know that this school is a wonderful and unique opportunity for Maine. Portland  has only one alternative high school and that school has a long wait list. Students living outside the city of Portland do not have access to that school. Right now, the majority of Baxter’s applicants reside in regions outside the city, indicating an immediate need for this type of school. Although Baxter will be located within the Portland city limits, all students in Southern Maine will have an equal opportunity to attend. Our group also appreciates that, unlike magnet schools that my selectively choose their student bodies, Baxter will be open to any student. Students do not have to test in; Baxter welcomes applications from any student with an interest in math and science. Currently, there are no STEM schools anywhere within Southern Maine, so children with this passion have to look at a boarding option in Limestone to fill this need. Parents should not have to send their high school aged children away during their most formative years in order to get a solid STEM education. Baxter will fill a huge void in our current education system. …

We were really surprised that Baxter’s application wasn’t immediately approved. If you look into it, you will find an extremely dedicated and well educated team of people who have put in thousands of hours to create this amazing school. You will also find that the school has financial backing beyond tax dollars in the form of grants and private investors.  The planning is thorough and meticulous, the people involved are outstanding; essentially, this school is an incredible opportunity for Maine. We trust that the committee will see that and vote to approve the school without any further delays.

Rachel Rodrigues of Cumberland:

I’m very excited about Baxter Academy. It would fill a need, provide a unique learning opportunity for Maine students and spotlight Portland as being the progressive city it is. The school would be an asset to the academic community in Southern Maine and students would greatly benefit.

Kelli Keliehor of Gorham:

What my daughter and I love about Baxter Academy is the project based, real world relevant teaching that will take place. I also love that students attend the school free of charge, just like the local public schools. This school is an opportunity for high school students in Southern Maine to gain a competitive edge in our technologically savvy world. without parents struggling to fund private education. It is a win for our children, a win for our workforce and a win for the state of Maine.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.