LEWISTON — After its first year, Lewiston-Auburn’s only public charter school, Acadia Academy, received high praise from the state agency that oversees public charter schools.

Acadia Academy opened in the fall of 2016 at 12 Westminster St. with 130 students in grades prekindergarten to second.

In its report, the Maine Charter School Commission said it looked at 10 areas, ranging from academics to attendance to school climate with three possible outcomes: meets, partially meets, or does not meet the contract agreement.

Acadia Academy met the agreement in seven areas: achievement gaps, attendance, enrollment, financial performance, facilities maintenance, transportation and parent engagement.

The school partially met the agreement in three areas: governance board performance, student academic proficiency and school climate.

It did not receive any “does not meet contract agreement.”

“We’re very pleased with how Acadia Academy has done,” Bob Kautz, executive director of the Maine Charter School Commission, said Tuesday. “The governing board, the leadership, the staff, they’ve all been extremely dedicated to the whole school being successful,” Kautz said.

The school receives good support from its school community, “a very nice thing to see,” Kautz said. “We’re very pleased with their overall performance.”

Asked what the school is doing well and what it needs to work on, Kautz said Acadia “is doing well on all things. They have already looked at academic results. They’re making changes to improve. Their social-emotional (teaching) area is very strong.”

Julie Colello, executive director of the school, said she was pleased with the commission’s findings.

“I don’t like to toot our own horn, but we worked hard last year,” she said. “When we didn’t know something, we sought out support. We worked hard at designing our own teacher evaluation system, tweaking them within the building so that things are being done well. The charter commission recognized that and our efforts.”

Every student at the school does a WINK, a “what I need to know” project, researching something they’re interested in. For example, Colello said, last year one kindergarten student wanted to know why some horses are brown and others are spotted. “That led to science and genetics,” Colello said. Another student studied the snowy owl, another boy studied mythology.

Acadia Academy was approved in 2015 and received backing from John F. Murphy Homes in Auburn, an agency dedicated to offering life-enriching services to people with development disabilities and autism spectrum disorder.

Founders said it would be different from public schools because it would emphasize social and emotional skill development, alternative, hands-on learning in small classes and teach to students’ interests.

Acadia and other public charter schools are financed with taxpayer money; families don’t pay tuition. Acadia’s budget last year was $1.5 million, this year it is $1.8 million.

Kautz said public charter school students have the same academic expectations as regular public schools, and charter schools have more oversight, including visits by charter commission staff and board members.

In the monitoring report, test results showed that the percentage of students reading at grade level last year was 58 for kindergarten, 52 for first grade and 70 percent for second grade.

In math, percentages were 65 for kindergarten, 83 for first grade and 91 for second grade.

Demographics of Acadia Academy are different than Lewiston-Auburn public schools. At Acadia there are fewer students from poor families — 32 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Fourteen percent are special education students, 100 percent speak English and the majority are white.

This year, the school added third grade, boosting enrollment to 170. About 100 are from Lewiston. There are 30 teachers and assistant teachers.

Next year, the school plans to add a fourth grade, but must first receive state approval. Those plans will be delivered to the commission in the next several months, Colello said.

Long-term plans are to have fourth, fifth and six grades. Colello said there is room for those grades at the current site, a former bowing alley.

Kindergarten teacher Brittiny-Rae Perron selects one of her students to answer a math problem at Acadia Academy in Lewiston on Tuesday. 

Rebecca Trujillo works with a first-grade student during a math assessment in Jodi Pollack’s classroom at Acadia Academy in Lewiston on Tuesday. 


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