Published Date Written by David CarkhuffMaine's first public charter high school, Portland-based Baxter Academy for Technology and Science, is experiencing a shake-up, with the ouster of John Jaques, the school's founder and former executive director.
Jaques said the board decided to remove him as executive director at the request of a potential donor, who had promised the school $250,000.
A press release from the board, with Allison Crean Davis, vice-chair to the board, listed as the contact person, alleged that "finances proposed within Baxter Academy's budget were never put into place. Without the proper financing, the school did not meet one of the key requirements necessary to sign our charter contract and open our doors to students in the fall. This discovery was a catalyst for reckoning with what we deemed a pattern of mismanagement."
The press release added, "The Board has decided it is in the best interest of the Academy to obtain new leadership, and is in the process of interviewing highly qualified candidates for the position of Executive Director."
In an interview Thursday, Jaques said, "There's no financial mismanagement, basically they're trying to change the focus of the story."
While he said he was "not comfortable" with giving the name of the donor, Jaques stood by his contention that the board fired him to placate a donor. In a press release of his own, Jaques stated, "The board made a decision that it would support a large donor, who promised a lot of money if they would get rid of me. It feels like the board has sold me and the school's students out."
The board's press release presented the situation much differently, starting by talking about "an exciting new phase in the development and start-up of Baxter Academy," and explaining that "the Board has secured a $250,000 funding pledge from local donors, part of which will be in the form of a matching grant, and is establishing a $500,000 line of credit from a local bank. Both of these financial commitments will support Baxter Academy in our start-up period. The Academy is now in a stronger financial position than ever before."
Jaques said this $250,000 pledge was the donation that he alleged was tied to his removal.
"Three of the five board members have resigned in the last two weeks, and the remaining five wanted to move forward with my ouster," he said, calling this recent period "very tumultuous."
"You don't take a donation that has conditions that require any changes in staffing or any changes in curriculum," Jaques added, contending that the board is following a course that critics of charter schools say are examples of why these types of schools are flawed.
Jaques said he thought the donor would come forward in the coming days, but alleged that this contributor did not act altruistically.
"Now somebody has pretty much just bought themselves a charter school," Jaques said.
Efforts to reach Davis for comment were unsuccessful.