Thursday, April 25, 2013

Florida investigators ding K12 Inc; alewives free at last; Connor under fire

After a long period of workflow-induced radio silence, a few updates of interest to Mainers and, perhaps Floridians, New Brunswickers, and some Pennsylvanians as well:

Investigators ding K12 Inc.: K12, the nation's largest online education provider, has been under investigation in Florida over accusations it used unqualified teachers in a taxpayer-financed virtual school there. As I report in today's Portland Press Herald, a draft report has been made public which finds against the company on two of three counts. Testimony to investigators also reflects on the sort of attention -- or lack thereof -- students of the school receive.

K12 has been seeking to operate a virtual charter school here in Maine, but has been rebuffed by authorizers, angering Gov. Paul LePage, who strongly supports their creation. It was at the center of the Sept. 2 Maine Sunday Telegram investigation that won this year's George Polk Award for Education Reporting.

St. Croix alewives free at last: Last summer I reported on the bizarre odyssey of the spring spawning runs of St. Croix River alewives, which had been banned from the sprawling international watershed by an act of the Maine legislature. After many twists and turns -- and reflecting the scientific and economic evidence that the fish help, not hurt the ecosystem there -- a bill ordering the state to open the fishways to the schooling fish has become law, after Gov. LePage chose not to veto it.

Former Press Herald chief Rich Connor accused of stealing $500K from company: The parent company of the paper I work for, the Portland Press Herald, has accused former CEO and editor in chief Rich Connor of essentially stealing over half a million dollars from the paper while it was in precarious financial condition.

Long before I ever expected to work for Maine Today Media, I covered the Press Herald's plight for Maine-based magazines. Connor -- who is being sued by his other former employers, the Times-Leader of Wilkes-Barre, for appropriating another quarter million -- did a lot of damage to journalism as well as the paper's balance sheets. Here's his "no scoops" vision as articulated to me for this 2010 feature in Down East and, for context, a bit about how he left the paper on the eve of its rescue (ultimately to S. Donald Sussman, not Harte and company, as it turned out.)

DePoy-Warren moving from state DEP to Department of Education: For inside baseball people, Samantha DePoy-Warren, the iconoclastic communications chief at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection is redeploying to the Department of Education, where she will take the communications portfolio from David Connerty-Marin. Warren confirmed her last day at DEP is this Friday. Marin said he's switching to another position within the education department.

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