New schools proposed to Charter Commission

AUGUSTA – The Maine Charter School Commission (MCSC) has received applications from four groups interested in opening public charter schools in the fall of 2014.

Those submitting applications by the Dec. 2 deadline to join Maine’s five existing public charter schools included Lewiston-Auburn Academy Charter School, Lewiston; Maine Connections Academy; Maine Virtual Academy; and Many Hands Montessori School, Windham.

The applications will be reviewed for completeness by the Commission this month, and then posted on the MCSC website.

Commission members working in small review teams will then begin their consideration of the applications, voting at their Jan. 30 meeting as to whether each application should move to a public hearing and review by the entire Commission or be denied. Public hearings would be held in February, with the Commission voting at its March 4 meeting whether to enter into contract negotiations with the applicant or deny the application.

In 2011, Governor Paul R. LePage signed legislation making Maine the 41st state to allow charter schools and establishing the seven-member Commission as an authorizer of up to 10 schools through June 30, 2022. Local school boards can authorize additional public charter schools.

Charter schools are public schools of choice that have more flexibility than traditional public schools over decisions concerning curriculum and instruction, scheduling, staffing and finance.  They are accountable to the terms of the charter contracts that authorize their existence and the academic standards to which all other public schools are accountable.

Currently, there are five charter schools operating in Maine. Cornville Regional Charter School in Cornville and the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Hinckley opened in 2012 and received positive reviews from the Commission and the Maine Department of Education this fall for engaging students and quickly adapting to meeting their emerging needs.

Meanwhile, Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland, Fiddlehead School of Arts and Science in Gray and Harpswell Coastal Academy in Harpswell opened in September and recently underwent 90-day reviews by the Commission. Reports of those visits, which were accepted by the Commission at its meeting Tuesday, will soon be available at the MCSC’s website at www.maine.gov/csc/.

Considering the new school applications will be two new members of the Commission, who were appointed late last month by the State Board of Education. Filling the vacant seat left by the resignation of Dick Barnes is Mike Wilhelm, of Casco, and Laurie Pendleton, of Belfast, will fill the seat recently vacated by William Shuttleworth.

For more information about the Maine Charter School Commission, visit www.maine.gov/csc.

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