Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Case of the Missing State E-mails (and some virtual schools updates)

My story in today's Maine Sunday Telegram is on the strange saga of Jeff Mao's state email accounts.

Mao heads Maine's $13 million annual laptops-in-schools programs at the state's education department, has overseen or is presently overseeing hundreds of millions in state contracts related to the project. But when a computer firm concerned about the way contracts were being rewarded filed a public records request for correspondence related to two recent contracts, they eventually discovered Mao's emails weren't and never have been on the state's servers or backed up by the state's network. It gets stranger from there.

Enjoy the read.

Meanwhile, two updates on the virtual schools front.

First, Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education -- which promotes expansion and deregulation of full-time virtual charter schools -- has been receiving bad press recently for its activities and corporate entanglements, many of which my reporting in the Telegram and Portland Press Herald first exposed. This week, the Foundation suddenly decided to change the way it pays Patricia Levesque, whose status as an online services company lobbyist-turned contracted Foundation executive director was perhaps hard to defend with a straight face.(Levesque is a featured speaker at Maine Gov. Paul LePage's education conference later this month.)

Secondly, the editorial board of Maine's third largest daily, the Lewiston Sun-Journal,weighed in on virtual charter school policy here in Maine, and found it lacking. (The Bangor Daily News editorialized on the topic in September, shortly after my Telegram investigation appeared.)

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