Kelli Pryor - Executive Director
Ms. Pryor began her career early—as a sixteen-year-old reporter at her hometown newspaper. From that lucky jump-start, she developed a keen respect for the power of letting young people do the real work of the world. That respect is what attracted her to being part of the founding board that secured Baxter Academy’s charter and helped open the doors for students ready to get their hands on projects they love.
After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Ms. Pryor pursued her career in New York City, where she worked as everything from an intern at Life magazine to head of the research department at New York Magazine. She was on the start-up team for Entertainment Weekly, an experience that deeply informed the work of Baxter’s rigorous early years. Ms. Pryor is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books and is also a Sundance Screenwriting fellow, writing for studios such as Dreamworks, Warner Brothers, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, as well as for television.
Ms. Pryor also served for more than a decade as director of the CAFAM Chinese School in Portland, where she helped engineer a program that inspires learning through meaningful explorations of Chinese innovation, art, language, and culture. Her work at the Chinese School was inspired by her twin daughters’ love for Chinese culture, and it was her daughters’ interest that also first brought Baxter Academy to her attention. After graduating with Baxter Academy’s second class in 2017, her daughters are now pursuing engineering and chemistry majors at Smith College.
In her quiet hours, Ms. Pryor loves reading, watching the birds, swimming in Sebago, and growing tomatoes and hollyhocks. She is an introvert.
Chad Strout - Head of School
Head of School Chad Strout joined the Baxter Academy family in August, 2019. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Secondary Education and History from the University of Maine at Orono and a Master of Arts Degree in Education Administration from the University of Denver. Chad has over a decade of experience in the educational field as a teacher and administrator.
Chad joined the U.S. Army right out of high school and went to college after exiting the service. He first started teaching at Ridge View Academy in Watkins, Colorado as a high school social studies teacher. After moving back to Maine, he became the Reintegration Specialist at Cony High School. He then moved on to become the Dean of Students at Bonny Eagle High School and then Assistant Principal at Spaulding High School in Rochester, NH. Chad was most recently the Head of School for Maine Connections Academy, serving from 2017-2019.
In his free time, Mr. Strout enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter, and dog. Together, they like to go to the movies, to hike, and to spend time in the gym. He believes that staying healthy helps keep the mind sharp.
Fun facts about Chad: His favorite week of the year is Shark Week, and he does not swim in oceans because he is scared of sharks. If he weren’t an educator, he would be an archaeologist. And...in the summer of 2019, he won an ax-throwing contest!
Lauren Arnold - Dean of Students
Dean of Students, Lauren Arnold joined Baxter Academy in August, 2019. She holds a Master of Science degree in Education for Educational Leadership, from Saint Joseph’s College and a Bachelor of Arts degree in French, from the University of Maine, Orono. Lauren has taught at Mattanawcook Academy and Richmond Middle/High School. Lauren was most recently the French Teacher at Erskine Academy, serving from 2015-2019. In her free time, Mrs. Arnold enjoys spending time with her husband and two dogs. Together, they like to hike, camp, fish and go on canoe trips. Mrs. Arnold also enjoys long distance running, reading, and athletics.
Fun facts about Lauren: She has played semi-professional soccer, coached both soccer and tennis and has a border-collie named Baxter. Lauren also enjoys traveling and has led many group trips to Europe.
Kerry Bush - Accounts Manager
Bio coming soon!
Blair Clancy - Facilities Supervisor and Assistant to the Executive Director
Ms. Clancy grew up in Massachusetts, went to college in Bowling Green, Ohio and has lived in Indiana, Virginia and now Maine. Her son is a 2017 graduate of Baxter Academy is now a cadet at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA (Go Hokies!) making her a SUPERFAN! She and her husband have filled their empty nest with 2 beloved dogs, Daisy and Droste.
You may find her out on the golf course or at the skating rink in her spare time.
Amos Cooper - IT Manager
Mr. Cooper graduated from Gorham High School and studied Broadcast Communications and Film Studies at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. He is now back in Maine, serving as the IT Manager for Baxter Academy.
At Susquehanna University, Mr. Cooper was the Technical Director for the student-run radio station, where he helped keep the station running smoothly and dealt with any computer and audio issues. In addition, he was the treasurer for the Model United Nations Club. He managed all of the club’s funds and organized fundraisers.
Mr. Cooper came to Baxter after doing in-home computer work for clients of Techport, a technology company in Portland. He loves the environment at Baxter, especially how it encourages self-taught learning, critical thinking, and personal responsibility. He is constantly impressed by the outstanding work that students do, especially on their Flex Friday projects.
Fun Facts: Mr. Cooper really enjoys playing music, especially the bass guitar. He has been in several bands with friends and plays gigs in pit bands for musicals. In the winter, he loves to snowboard at Sunday River, and in the summer, he enjoys fishing at Pine Point. Mr. Cooper loves to read for pleasure; his favorite authors are Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut.
Heather D’Ippolito - Partnership and Outreach Coordinator
Heather D’Ippolito is a fifth-generation Mainer who began her teaching career in New York City—five years in Brooklyn and three in the Bronx. At the Bushwick School for Social Justice, she was a tenth-grade English teacher who used project-based learning to explore texts ranging from Persepolis to Senegalese poetry to news articles on how social media played a role in the Egyptian revolution.
Her work wasn’t confined to the classroom in Brooklyn. She developed and implemented programs to help struggling students while aligning their work with the Common Core Learning Standards. She worked on a team to develop the school’s standards-based grading policy. She served as a coordinator for student affairs and helped plan college tours and job fairs, as well as .
She returned to Maine and began the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates (JMG) program at Bonny Eagle High School. Led by student interest, she has guided service projects with local elementary schools, the Ronald McDonald House, and USM Enactus Club.
After two years as a Humanities teacher here at Baxter, the role of Partnership and Outreach Coordinator seems liked a natural progression, considering that she has always looked for ways to integrate community organizations into her classroom.
She holds a bachelor of arts in English literature with a focus on environmental literature from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, and she also studied at the School for International Training in Jaipur, India. She has a master of science in education from Herbert H. Lehman College in New York.
Why does she want to be part of Baxter? “This is a great time to call Portland my home. The city's landscape and its community members create an ideal setting and cast of characters for the kinds of collaborative work students and staff are creating at Baxter. I feel very fortunate to be involved in education right now!”
Fun facts about Ms. D’Ippolito: If she weren’t a teacher, she’d probably be a pastry chef. (Her favorite iced treat she’s made to date: vanilla bean ice cream pie with raspberry compote and fudge swirl...in a graham cracker crust.) She lives in Portland with her husband, daughter, and two cats.
Anna Gervais - Student Services & Program Coordinator/Admissions Manager
Anna Gervais grew up in Lyman, Maine and graduated from Catherine McAuley High School. Anna studied secondary education, history and political science at the University of Southern Maine.
During her time at USM, Anna became involved in the Maine Model United Nations Program. The program holds a conference every May for over 600 New England students, including students from Baxter. Anna has been involved in the program for five years and has served as Secretary General, Chief of Staff, and Under Secretary General of Media and Public Relations, as well as a chair on several committees. Currently, Anna is Deputy Director of the program. Anna has taught global issues and Model UN at many middle and high schools across the state for several years.
Anna spent many years working at Camp Hinds, a Boy Scout Camp in Raymond. She quickly became involved in venturing - a section of the Boy Scouts that includes both boys and girls from ages 14 to 21. As a venture scout, Anna earned her Silver Award, which is the equivalent to becoming an Eagle Scout. Additionally, Anna directed the Outdoor Skills and First Year Camper Program at National Camping School. At National Camping School, Anna taught future camp directors from across the country how to lead a successful camp program centered around camping, backpacking, wilderness survival, leadership skills, and more.
Fun facts about Anna: She is fascinated by boats and ships of all sizes (especially oil tankers) and regularly goes boat watching. Anna helps to run an after school program for elementary school students in South Portland and is a camp counselor for middle school students during the summer. Her name is actually pronounced "Uh-na" and she is terrified of skunks.
Donna Schwarz - Front Office Manager
From the welcoming face in the front office to the woman who is behind the wheel of one of Baxter's School buses, Donna is always there to greet the staff and students with a warm smile and a boisterous laugh! She's the voice behind tracking down absent students and making sure your kids get their lunch orders in on time! Her dedication and organizational skills are a huge assets to the Baxter community!
Donna grew up in South Portland, ME and graduated from South Portland High School. She married her high sweetheart Steve and had three daughters, two of which are twins. She is also a brand new Grammie to a beautiful baby girl! She looks forward to the day when she can take her shopping and spoil her with goodies!
Fun fact about Donna: Donna loves to travel! She has been to Aruba, Jamaica, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. She would love to someday venture outside of the Caribbean Islands and visit Ireland and Scotland where her Grandmother originated from.
Krista Simonis - Data Specialist
Krista Simonis comes to Baxter after moving to Maine to start The Fresnel Theater, an improv theater in downtown Portland. She’s worked in many different industries and brings her diverse skill set and jack-of-all trades mindset to her position as Data Specialist in the front office.
A native of Northern California, she received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Riverside, in Political Science and worked in state politics in Sacramento before deciding to continue her education. She left her home state to get her graduate degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Portland in Oregon.
While in Oregon she coached the University’s Speech & Debate Team for four years while completing her thesis about the experience of safari guides in Tanzania and adjunct teaching at the University of Portland. She again worked in politics for the state’s League of Conservation Voters as a Digital Coordinator. She was also a regular improviser and Applied Improvisation trainer for CSz Portland. When she’s not at Baxter, she’s performing, training, and teaching with CSz Maine at The Fresnel Theater.