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ACNW Authorizer Update

February 19, 2016

Dear School Leaders and Board Members,
This month’s authorizer update is arriving in your inbox a little later than we had hoped. We have been focused on completing academic evaluations, financial evaluations, and reauthorization evaluations as well as our ongoing monthly reviews of board meeting minutes and financials. You should all be seeing evaluation reports and other feedback from us in the coming weeks. We hope this feedback can help drive your ongoing improvement this year and as you begin planning for next.

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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Every Student Succeeds Act

It’s hard to believe that the days of No Child Left Behind are (pardon the pun) behind us. This past December, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 that is replacing the No Child Left Behind Act.
MACS recently held a webinar to highlight some of the key changes, and MDE has substantial information including the state’s implementation timeline on its website.
We do know that annual assessments will continue in grades 3-8 and once in high school for math and reading, and that science assessment requirements remain substantially unchanged. ESSA does encourage the “development of richer, performance-based assessments, using multiple measures.”  Additionally, ESSA has abolished AYP (adequate yearly progress) which will be replaced by state-defined goals, and states will continue to identify schools in need of “comprehensive support and improvement.” In general, the law seems to move more control back to states and increases the focus on career and college readiness for all students.
We strongly encourage you to continue to familiarize yourself with the provisions of ESSA by reviewing information at the MDE website and other means.
FY15 Academic & Financial Evaluations

We are currently working on FY15 academic and financial evaluations. These have begun to go out slowly to schools, and we hope to have many of them to you by the end of February or early March. For more information on ACNW’s performance evaluations, please review your school’s charter contract and our website.

School Highlights

High Quality Charter Schools
We are pleased to congratulate Crosslake Community School, Great Expectations School, Noble Academy, and World Learner School for being identified by the Minnesota Department of Education as 2016 High-Quality Charter Schools (HQCS) for the purpose of determining eligibility for a significant expansion/replication grant from Minnesota’s federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) grant project. Awesome job!
School identification is based on a Comprehensive Performance Framework that incorporates multiple measures of academic, operational, and financial performance. Thirty-five of Minnesota’s charter schools were identified as HQCS.
Two additional schools, East Range Academy of Technology and Science and North Lakes Academy, met nearly all criteria to be eligible for the HQCS designation and were invited to submit additional data as part of an appeal process for the 2016 HQCS identification. Each school submitted additional information but ultimately did not achieve the designation. Nonetheless, these schools were identified as high performing charter schools by MDE and merit congratulations as well. Keep up the good work!

MDE Finance Award
MDE recently released information on the recipients of the 2016 MDE Finance Award for FY15 financial reporting. Ninety-four percent of schools authorized by ACNW earned the award! Congratulations to all schools who met the criteria for timely and accurate financial reporting to MDE. For complete information and a list of schools and districts that earned the award click here.
Why Does Your Board of Directors Exist?

When is the last time your board of directors had a discussion about its primary purpose?

I (David) was recently reviewing the book Charter School Board University by Brian Carpenter, and I found his discussion of the board’s purpose intriguing. He shares that when he talks to board members about why their board exists he often hears the following: to govern the school, to make policies, to conduct strategic planning, to raise money, to oversee the school, to evaluate the school’s director, etc. While boards do these things, it is not their purpose. He suggests that these answers would be the equivalent of answering the question “Why do you work out?” by saying to run, to stretch, to lift weights, etc. In Carpenter’s words, his purpose for working out is “to enjoy a long life free of unnecessary medical problems.” While this reason may not be the same for all people, those of us who do work out certainly don’t do so for the purpose of running or lifting weights. We do so to become healthier, to lose weight, to avoid getting sick, or to achieve some other goal.

Similarly, the purpose of a charter school board of directors is not to make policies or evaluate the school director, but in Carpenter’s words “the reason your board exists is to make sure, on behalf of the school’s owners, that all students learn and that nothing illegal, unethical or imprudent is allowed to exist in the school.”

Who are the “school’s owners” according to Carpenter? He puts forth that it is not the parents and students, the teacher and school leaders, or other stakeholders, but the people whose money you are using to pay the bills – in other words, the taxpayers of Minnesota. Certainly the stakeholders are a subset of that group, but not the entire group.

Ensuring that all students learn is something we can all grasp intuitively, but Carpenter puts forth that perhaps the most suitable measure of this would be whether the school is meeting academic outcomes outlined in the contract with the school’s authorizer.

Finally, ensuring that nothing illegal, unethical, or imprudent exists at the school involves many aspects of the school including but not limited to managing funds, protecting student and staff rights, maintaining facilities, following statutory requirements, etc. Board members must have training, information, and systems in place to ensure this level of accountability exists at the school.

We strongly encourage your board to engage in a discussion regarding its purpose if it has not recently done so. Getting clarity on why your board exists will help your board be more effective and engage in good governance.

Professional Development and Training Opportunities

Check out ACNW’s Charter School Division website and ACNW’s main website for upcoming opportunities, which include two upcoming free or low cost teacher workshops – Flying WILD and Project Learning Tree – and information on other programs for adults and recently released summer camp information for youth.
Grant Opportunities
A small sampling of the many possibilities that are out there.

Voya Foundation: Grants for College Readiness Programs
Applications due March 18, 2016

The Voya Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Voya Financial, has issued a Request for Proposals for projects designed to help more students graduate from high school prepared for success in college and future careers. To be eligible, programs and organizations must be a year in length and operate in-school/afterschool activities or create resources that increase parental involvement in children’s academics and engage employee volunteers at one, several, or all areas where Voya Financial has a major office

Proposals are due by March 18, 2016. Finalists will be informed by April 15 and must submit their final application by June 10. Visit the Voya Financial website for complete program guidelines and application instructions. Also check out the complete RFP.

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 away 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.

Good Sports Accepting Applications for Sports Equipment Program
Applications reviewed on a rolling basis.

Good Sports helps lay the foundation for healthy, active lifestyles by providing athletic equipment, footwear, and apparel to disadvantaged young people nationwide. By working closely with teams, coaches, and community leaders across the United States, the organization is able to focus on the respective needs of each individual program and help offset the main factors causing the greatest challenges.
Good Sports is accepting applications from organizations and schools for equipment, apparel, and footwear for a wide range of sports. Organizations that are approved will have access to equipment, apparel, and footwear inventory for a two-year period. During that time, organizations can make up to six separate donation requests — as long as need is well documented, donations will be granted.

See the Good Sports website for complete program guidelines, an FAQ, and application instructions.

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.
In December, ACNW welcomed a new member to the team – Artemis, the Great Horned Owl, named after the Greek goddess of the wilderness and the hunt.

Love birds.

Copyright © 2016 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Division, All rights reserved.
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