May 22, 2018
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Maine’s first virtual charter school hires principal

Courtesy of Maine Connections Academy
Courtesy of Maine Connections Academy
Karl Francis was named the new principal of Maine Connections Academy, the first virtual charter school in Maine.
By Nell Gluckman, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — As principal of Maine’s first virtual charter school, Karl Francis said every student in his school will have an individualized learning plan.

“In a larger setting, we do the best we can to track those needs,” said Francis, who worked most recently as an administrative intern at Westbrook High School. “In this environment, we’ll be able to track it on a regular basis and step in to help out.”

Maine Connections Academy, the virtual charter school that was approved by the state to open this August, announced Francis’ hiring in a statement released Wednesday. The Maine Charter Commission will vote whether to approve the hire on Tuesday. Information about his salary was not immediately available.

Francis said his experience working with families in schools has taught him there is a critical need for a virtual school in Maine.

“I hear from families who really don’t know where to turn next because the traditional setting is not working out,” he said. When that happens, he said, “often the attendance drops.”

Besides the internship, Francis has worked as a guidance counselor at Westbrook High School, according to the school’s website and held various other administrative roles at the school, according to the Maine Connections Academy press release.

Through Maine Connections Academy, students in grades seven through 12 will work from home with a program called Connexus, which students use to take classes, submit work and communicate with their teachers.

The teachers will work with Francis out of a facility in South Portland. They will deliver online lessons, assign homework, submit grades and answer questions from students online.

Virtual charter schools have been criticized for placing unreasonable expectations on teachers. Francis said if that issue comes up, he would need to react to it as the school year gets underway.

“I know that I will be vigilant to make sure they have what they need to be successful,” he said.

Francis will hire the teachers for the school in the coming months, who he said will be from Maine.

The charter school missed its most recent deadline to enroll 243 students, the minimum amount the charter commission said would justify the need for the school.

The commission granted the school an extension to continue to build enrollment until July 15, citing the time it takes to officially enroll students and the fact that the numbers are climbing consistently.

The school had received 240 intent-to-enroll applications as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Amy Linscott, a member of the Maine Connections Academy’s school board.

“I’m going to take an active role in spreading the word about the opportunity,” Francis said. “I will be available as much as possible to speak with any student and family.”

Correction: A previous version of the photo caption misidentified Karl Francis as Kirk Francis. It has been corrected.

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