LePage: Portland mayor "cynical and shortsighted"

Christopher Cousins/Bangor Daily News

Gov. Paul LePage answers questions from reporters following his education summit at Cony High School in Augusta last Friday.

PORTLAND — Gov. Paul LePage took aim at what he called Mayor Michael Brennan’s “campaign” against a proposed charter school in Maine’s largest city, saying in a letter to the Portland mayor that he is “appalled by your constant attacks upon students who simply want to better learn technology and science.”

Brennan, who has long opposed the proposed Baxter Academy for Technology and Science and charter schools in general, wrote to the state attorney general’s office last week seeking an investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement at the startup school. The mayor said in his request that he planned to ask Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk to withhold tuition payments to the academy until the attorney general makes a decision on the case.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Janet Mills responded to Brennan and declined to look into the school, saying the Maine Commission on Charter Schools has the authority to ensure the academy’s finances are sound. On Thursday, the governor followed up with a tersely worded letter of his own to the mayor, urging Brennan to “seek competent legal advice” before withholding tuition payments.

LePage wrote that Brennan’s letter to the attorney general was “requesting her to conduct a host of inappropriate and unlawful activities designed to harass and intimidate a proposed charter school.”

“Mr. Mayor, it is a stunningly cynical and shortsighted activity to try to stop students who are so interested in learning math and science from getting the education they crave and employers are requesting,” the governor wrote, in part.

Brennan did not immediately respond to a phone call Thursday evening, but in past interviews has argued that students seeking specialized education tracks can do so without leaving the Portland Public Schools, which include the expeditionary learning-based Casco Bay High School and the Portland Arts & Technology High School.

Baxter Academy found itself in the news earlier this month when founding Executive Director John Jaques was abruptly dismissed after what the school’s board of directors called “a pattern of mismanagement,” including allegations that he never set up a line of credit the organization needed to draw upon to prepare its York Street facility in recent months.

But Jaques responded by accusing the board of firing him to appease a large donor who didn’t like him, and kept board members locked out of the academy’s original website and Facebook page, triggering a legal battle between the school and its former director over the ownership of the intellectual property.

That controversy provided Brennan, who had clashed with Jaques publicly about the impact Baxter Academy would have in the city, an opening to further question the academy’s stability in the form of his March 22 investigation request.

The mayor has maintained that charter schools will siphon badly needed government subsidies away from existing public schools.

In the aftermath of his letter to the attorney general, Baxter Academy board chairwoman Kelli Pryor extended an olive branch to the mayor, inviting Brennan to meet with current school leadership.

“We are here to serve students, and in doing so, will serve the future of the city,” Pryor wrote in a March 23 letter to Brennan. “Let’s work together. We want Baxter Academy to participate in the community.”

Charter schools are public schools of choice that operate independently of local school districts. Maine became the 41st state to allow charter schools after the Republican-controlled 125th Legislature passed a law in 2011.

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.



Jason Theriault's picture


BTW - Here is their website if you want to learn more about them...

Cynical and Shortsighted?

Why yes, I do believe that kettle *is* black.


It is high time that the

It is high time that the public school system in this country has to compete for taxpayer dollars. These charter schools fill a need in the communities they serve, a need that the public school system does not fill and does not care to fill.

Jason Theriault's picture

Why stop there?

Why not make the police compete?
Of the Fire Department?
Or the military

I dunno, because it isn't cost effective?

I read their application, and from the sounds of it, they expect more money if they get special needs students. Do individual schools get more money for special needs students?

I still think communities should get to choose(by citywide vote) if a charter school should open. Forcing one seems unfair

Sharon Dudley's picture

Yes, public school do receive

Yes, public school do receive extra funding for special education. The numbers are shocking.

Jason Theriault's picture

You know

If Portland doesn't want them, they shouldn't be forced to have a charter school. And I can see how the mayor would be worried about finances, as LePage wants to cut millions already in state contributions. To then drain even more money seems unwise.

RONALD RIML's picture

Now if anyone has the lock on 'Cynical and Shortsightedness'

The Champ!!!!! (And still undefeated....)

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

The French frog

You should of seen his long sticky tongue snap at you when he didn't take his meds and used the booze...the guy was a pure loony toon, loose cannon...
He had some huge issues....

David  Cote's picture

Jerry, you have a right to your opinion...

That is, until you cross the line by using an ethnic slur. That makes your comment completely worthless.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture


Cote, are you the boy that grew up on Blanchette? The one I made eat some dog turd? Anyway I am half Frog and I have no issue with the tag, just like I am half Mexican...

David  Cote's picture

No Jerry, I'm not the guy you question...

I grew up in the north end in Hartford, CT which was light years tougher to survive in than Blanchette, or any other street in Lewiston. But I am the guy that reported your comment to S/J. And remember, make every bite count.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Good for you

I hope you feel better being so righteous ...


Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...