Commissioner Bowen to help honor inaugural grads of Maine’s first charter school

HINCKLEY – Less than two years after Governor Paul R. LePage’s landmark student choice legislation finally allowing public charter schools in Maine went into effect, his Education Commissioner will help celebrate the state’s first charter school graduation.

Commissioner Stephen Bowen will speak this evening at the ceremony for the 10 students in the first class to graduate from The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will-Hinckley (MeANS). The event will be held at 5 p.m. at the Moody Chapel on the campus of Kennebec Valley Community College in Hinckley.

Maine’s first public charter school prepares young people for careers in farming, forestry, sustainability, alternative energy and other related fields. Students develop knowledge and skills through hands-on projects including internships with local businesses, running the school’s organic food farm stand and maple sugar shack and joint coursework with the local community college.

School officials estimate as many as half of the 46 current students were close to dropping out of traditional public high schools or already had before having the opportunity to attend MeANS.

“The future of our students shouldn’t be determined simply by their street address,” said Governor LePage. “We want Maine families to be empowered to make their own educational decisions. The student choice option we’ve brought to this state in the form of publicly-funded charter schools provides parents yet another opportunity to do what’s best for their children.”

Choice is central to the LePage Administration’s ABC’s of education reform that also includes accountability and best practices, Commissioner Bowen said.

He and Governor LePage emphasize that allowing student choice is not an indictment of traditional public schools but a shift to putting students first.

“This is a historic day for these graduating students, and for our state,” Commissioner Bowen said. “Choice is not about schools, it’s about students. Our education system needs to be built around learners, not institutions. Conventional public schools work well for many Maine students and we’re trying to improve them so they foster even better student outcomes. But students who learn differently deserve the same opportunities to be successful, and their chance to attend a charter school like The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences may make the difference in whether or not they graduate, go on to college and have productive, rewarding careers.”

Since Maine authorized charter schools under the leadership of the LePage Administration, five schools have been approved by the state’s Charter School Commission.

MeANS was joined by Cornville Regional Charter School in opening last year.  Baxter Academy for Technology & Science, Fiddlehead School of Art and Science and Harpswell Coastal Academy will welcome students starting next month.

Forty other states allow public charter schools.

For more information about The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will-Hinckley, visit http://means.gwh.org. For more information about charter schools in Maine, visit www.maine.gov/doe/charterschools/.

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