AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine's Charter School Commission has voted unanimously to once again enter contract negotiations with the Baxter Academy of Technology and Science. The charter commission and the school do need to finalize the contract, but Monday's vote was the big hurdle.
The school had received preliminary approval to open as a charter school in the fall, but it's had more than its share of controversy in recent weeks. Last month, Baxter's board fired executive director John Jaques over the school's financial management. Jaques then accused the board of giving in to the demands of a wealthy donor. Then, Portland's mayor got involved, asking the attorney general to investigate whether the charter school commission did its due diligence in vetting the school. She declined. But a legislative committee plans to discuss whether the Office of Program Evaluation and Governmental Accountability should look into how the charter commission does its work.
Monday's unanimous vote by the charter commission to approve Baxter came after members told school leaders they were impressed with how far Baxter has come in the past few months. The school's board has done a lot of work on its academic and financial plan.
Baxter Academy is what's known as a STEM school, a school that will focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Its future students were thrilled with the charter commission's decision.
Incoming Sophomore Alec Gagne said, "As calm as I seem right now, I'm about ready to explode. I'm just so happy that I have this great opportunity for my education and for my life. As many people think it's just high school. It's high school, and it's going to set you up for the rest of your life."
Baxter Academy plans to open with 160 students in the fall. And there is a waiting list of students wanting to join the first classes. School officials are now in the process of hiring teachers and a new executive director. But there is a head of school, Freeport teacher Michele LaForge.