The director of a proposed charter school in Portland has no students, but he does have a theme:

Science, technology, engineering and math. STEM, for short.

On Tuesday, John Jaques also announced a partnership with Google to provide cloud-based laptop computers for all incoming freshmen and sophomores in the 2012-13 school year.

Of course, Jaques isn’t certain the state will grant a charter to his Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in time to enroll 160 students and hire 10 to 12 full-time teachers for the fall semester, but he’s planning for it.

In December, Jaques reached an agreement to lease space at 54 York St. next to Rufus Deering Lumber Co.

Last summer Maine became the 41st state in the country to establish public charter schools, and last month the seven newly appointed members of the State Charter School Commission held their first meeting.

“The commission is certainly interested in moving quickly, and we know Baxter is interested in moving quickly,” said David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the state Department of Education. “Legislation was passed with the intention of getting schools operational.”

The new law allows the commission to approve up to 10 schools over the next decade. Connerty-Marin said he is aware of only two — Baxter in Portland and the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Hinckley — that are or plan to be up and running. The Hinckley school opened in September.

Jaques earned a master’s degree in instructional technology from the University of Maine and a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Maryland. He visited Google headquarters in California last week and came away impressed with the comapny’s plans for education, including the Samsung 3G Chromebooks that run Google’s Chrome operating system and feature wireless data service from the Verizon cellular network to allow Internet access to students without a home wi-fi connection.

“This is something that’s new for Google,” Jaques said. “To get in on the ground floor has some advantages for our kids. If we’re going to be the largest deployment of Chromebooks in New England, we would be able to host the regional training that Google plans on doing in New England around the Chromebook.

“That would bring technology people from Massachusetts and Vermont and New Hampshire up to Portland to participate in these trainings, and that’s an attractive feature for us as well. We’re looking to be a model school for Google.”

Although Baxter’s STEM theme is meant to attract students with strong interests in math and science, there are no entrance requirements. If Jaques receives more applicants than the school has openings, a blind lottery will take place. No local school district — and Jaques is targeting students within a 25-mile radius of Portland — can lose more than a certain percentage of its enrollment to a charter school.

State and federal money will follow the student from the school district where he or she lives to the charter school.

“So there’s no cost to parents,” Jaques said.

Ken Nye, 69, a retired professor of educational leadership at the University of Southern Maine and a former principal of Yarmouth High School, said if he were 15 years younger he’d probably be starting a charter school himself. He also understands concerns about draining money from local school districts and perhaps even losing staff.

“You could lose your best teachers,” he said. “Oftentimes, it’s the best teachers who are looking for different ways to reach kids and see the charter schools as a wonderful way to do that.”


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