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ACNW Authorizer Update

January 13, 2016

Dear School Leaders and Board Members,
 
Happy New Year!
 
We hope you had a great winter vacation and actually took a few days off to relax, spend time with those you love, and re-energize in preparation for the second half of the school year. It’s amazing how noticeable those extra minutes of daylight are each day, even though the recent bitter cold might inspire you to stay inside.
 
As I write this, my eyes are wandering to peer out my office window that overlooks residential and office buildings and the Mississippi River. I see two hawks seemingly playfully circling above the buildings and am reminded how our human created world interacts so closely with the natural world and vice versa. Even in the heart of the city we can experience the natural environment. Doing so provides a great opportunity to slow down, reflect, and let our minds wander, even in the midst of our day to day work. I hope each of you finds such a moment today.
 
Sincerely,

David Greenberg & the ACNW Charter School Team
ACNW Charter School Division
43 Main Street SE, Suite 507
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414
(612) 331-4181

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ACNW FY16 Leaders Retreat

The recent ACNW Leaders Retreat was a great success. We hosted approximately 85 school directors, board members, teachers, and other staff from 33 ACNW authorized schools.

Please visit this link to find session materials and other information from the November 2015 ACNW Leaders Retreat. Thanks again to all of you who participated and helped to make the retreat a great learning experience. 
Minnesota Authorizer Performance Evaluation System (MAPES)

MDE has issued ACNW’s final authorizer evaluation report. ACNW achieved a rating of “Satisfactory” and an overall score of 3.44 out of 4. We earned scores of 3 (commendable) or 4 (exemplary) on all indicators except for B.9 Charter School Renewal or Termination Decisions, for which we earned a score of 1 (approaching satisfactory). This lower score was related to the lack of clarity around how ACNW determines the length of contract renewal terms. This is something we have already begun to work on; new contracts executed beginning July 2015 outline clearer expectations for performance and related renewal tracks based on achievement of performance outcomes.
 
Overall, we are pleased with our evaluation and feel that it validates our progress on improving systems and practices related to our authorizing responsibilities. MDE will be sending a copy of ACNW’s final report to each school in ACNW’s portfolio on or near January 31, 2016. In the meantime, you can find the report on our website

Authorizer Annual Report

Minnesota Statutes 124E.16 Subd. 2(b) requires authorizers to complete and submit to MDE an annual report. Our second annual report is due on January 15, 2016 for FY15 and includes general information on our organization and authorizing activities, portfolio-wide performance information, as well as school-specific performance information. ACNW’s FY14 report is available on MDE’s website. Our FY15 and FY14 reports will be posted to ACNW’s website in the coming days. 
FY15 Academic & Financial Evaluations

We are currently working on FY15 academic and financial evaluations. We hope to have these reports out to schools within the next two to four weeks. For more information on ACNW’s performance evaluations, please review your school’s charter contract and our website.
Professional Development and Training Opportunities

Check out ACNW’s Charter School Division website for upcoming opportunities.
Grant Opportunities
A small sampling of the many possibilities that are out there.

Captain Planet Foundation: Grants for Hands-On Environmental Education Activities
Applications due January 31, 2016
 
The mission of the Captain Planet Foundation is to promote and support high-quality educational programs that engage children and youth in active hands-on learning experiences focused on the environment in their schools and communities. Grants are intended to serve as a means of bringing environment-based education to schools and to inspire youth and communities to participate in community service through environmental stewardship activities. The foundation will fund unique and innovative projects that do not precisely match the grant guidelines but otherwise promote the foundation’s mission of hands-on environmental activities. Visit the CPF website for complete program guidelines and the online application form. â€œThe power is yours!”

National Endowment for the Arts: Challenge America Grants
Applications due April 14, 2016

The National Endowment for the Arts is accepting applications for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations. Through the Challenge America grants program, NEA will award grants of $10,000 to professional projects that have a $10,000 match from an outside funder. Applicants are encouraged to consider partnerships among organizations, both in and outside the arts, as appropriate to their project.

For complete program guidelines and application procedures, visit the NEA website.

Karma for Cara Foundation: Youth Microgrants
Applications accepted on an on-going basis.

The Karma for Cara Foundation is a nonprofit founded by 21-year-old Cara Becker and her family while she was undergoing treatment for leukemia at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Cara and her two brothers began volunteering at a young age as part of their family’s commitment to community service. She and her family saw a tremendous need to help support other patients and their families who were also challenged by cancer. Tragically, Cara passed four months after her diagnosis, yet her wish to help others through K4C lives on with the support of an ever-growing circle of family and friends.

As part of an effort to promote and support youth voluntarism, K4C started a microgrant program in fall 2014 to encourage kids 18 and under to apply for a grant of between $250 and $1,000 to complete service projects in their communities. Examples of fundable projects include but are not limited to turning a vacant lot into a community garden, rebuilding a school playground, and helping senior citizens get their homes ready for winter. Grants will be distributed as gift cards to home goods stores, office supply stores, grocery food chains, and toy stores.

For complete program guidelines, profiles of previous projects, and application instructions, visit the Karma for Cara Foundation website.

EE Mission Match Funds

ACNW is offering up to $500.00 to each authorized school to help achieve your environmental education goals. Funds may be used to buy equipment, provide a match for an EE-related grant, hire a presenter, or pay for a field trip to the Audubon Center or any other EE-based location of your choice.
 
To apply for these funds:
  1. Download the application from the CSD website. Your project must be pre-approved before you can receive funding.
  2. Complete the application and return to Erin.
Once approved, funds will be released to your school only AFTER an invoice or other proof of payment is received. Our Business Manager is diligent in sending out funds within 5-10 business days. Proof of fund use is a requirement of the Audubon Center audit and funds will not be released without this.
Networking and Sharing

Please continue to reach out to your colleagues for resources, learning, and sharing. The following link provides contact information for directors and board chairs of all schools authorized by ACNW: ACNW Directors and Board Chairs
 
Please contact Mike if you have updated contact information or need help using the document.
School Highlights

This year, in an effort to increase productivity, engagement, and student mental health, Riverway Learning Community implemented a mindfulness training program for all students at the school (PreK-12), as well as the entire faculty and staff. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to thoughts, physical sensations, and the environment. The practice is considered to have a number of benefits that have significant implications for the classroom — improved focus, better self-awareness, and increased impulse control. Read more about Riverway’s mindfulness training program in this article.
 
Students at Vermilion Country School organized a “Penny War” as part of a school fundraiser, and every staff member at the school agreed to participate. The staff member with the largest amount of donations in their bucket would be duct-taped to a pole, and the staff members with the three largest totals would be pied. On Friday, December 18, the last day of school before winter break, students celebrated the successful end to the fundraiser by taping school administrator Kevin Fitton to a pole, and then slathering Fitton and staff members Andrew Workman and Mandy Northrup with cream pies. Read more about the fundraiser in this article.

Learning Opportunities at the Audubon Center

Visit the Audubon Center of the North Woods website to find out more about the learning opportunities, family programs, and other events offered by the Center this fall and winter.
In December, ACNW welcomed a new member to the team – a Great Horned Owl from Ohio! You can vote to name our newest avian educator at this link.
Athena doing her best impression of a snowy owl.
Copyright © 2016 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Division, All rights reserved.
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