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ACNW Authorizer Update

March 22, 2016

Dear School Leaders and Board Members,
 
The Season of Spring arrived this weekend, and the Season of Statewide Testing started a couple weeks ago. That’s right folks. MCA March Madness is upon us! We know the opportunities and challenges that the testing season brings, as well as the stress that testing can lead to for some. Results from state assessments are an important (but not the only) indicator of your school’s academic performance, and these results provide valuable information to ACNW, parents, school staff, and other stakeholders about your school’s successes and areas in need of improvement. We hope that you are able to utilize the MCAs and other statewide tests to gain a greater understanding of your students’ learning and to refine instruction to ultimately improve student outcomes.

We are always hoping that this newsletter reaches all board members as well as staff in leadership roles at all charters schools authorized by ACNW. Please forward to your colleagues and ask them to subscribe if they are not receiving these updates.
 
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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Quality Board Practices

As we conduct board meeting observations of the 34 schools in the ACNW portfolio, we often see great practices that are worth sharing. Here are a few from David’s recent observation of the Northern Lights Community School (NLCS) board meeting in March 2016.

Posting
All charter school board meetings are public, and ideally members from your school community feel welcomed to attend those meetings. While your school posts its meeting dates and times on its website, it is also effective practice to post the meeting at the entrance of your school where families and other stakeholders can see it and be reminded of the upcoming meeting. NLCS does this with a very simple posting, and all schools are encouraged to do the same.

Director’s Report
Typically school board meetings include on the agenda a report from the school director. This report may include academic performance data, information on enrollment, programming updates or current happenings, and more. While this report may be given orally at the meeting, it is also effective practice to have a written report. Nick Pretasky, NLCS school director, provides a high quality report at each board meeting, an example of which can be seen here.

Board Training
At the close of the board meeting, the NLCS board engaged in 20 minutes of self-guided training and development. Board members read a chapter from the book Charter School Board University entitled “Governing Versus Managing: What’s the Difference.” This four page chapter included questions for discussion at the end, which led to rich reflection by board members. Such activities not only fulfill statutory requirements for ongoing training, but also help improve your board’s effectiveness and clarity of purpose.

Thank you to NLCS for hosting David at this meeting. Keep up the good work!

Every Student Succeeds Act

MDE is holding a number of stakeholder meetings over the coming months to gain feedback in preparation for the development of MN’s new accountability system now that No Child Left Behind is in our rearview mirror. Check out MDE’s ESSA webpage for information on these meetings and consider attending one or more to ensure your voice is heard.

Desegregation Lawsuit

You may be aware that a desegregation lawsuit was filed against the State of Minnesota this past November alleging that state education policies, including charter schools, have created and are creating segregated public schools. Three charter schools - Higher Ground Academy (St. Paul), Friendship Academy of the Arts (Minneapolis), and Paladin Career and Technical High School (Blaine) - and their parent representatives (collectively) went into court on March 1 with the goal of ensuring charter schools are protected during this lawsuit. These three schools along with the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools and others are requesting support from other charter schools to finance this legal effort. For more information, please read the memo from the school leaders and Eugene Piccolo from MACS.

Professional Development and Training Opportunities

Uniform Grant Guidance (UGG) Training
Date: April 5, 2016, 9:00-11:30 a.m. 
Location: Indigo Education, 1170 Red Fox Road, Arden Hills
 
Last year, the federal government modified a number of regulations for recipients of federal grants. As such, the Minnesota Department of Education provided guidance to public schools. Indigo Education synthesized the information to provide further support to its clients.
 
Indigo Education is hosting a training for school directors, coordinators, business managers, and related service providers that will provide an overview of the modifications in regulations as well as highlight procurement essentials.
 
Concepts such as invoicing, contract language, time and effort tracking, and conflict of interest will be reviewed. For more information click here
 
Special Education Law & Leadership – The Dance for Social Justice
Date: April 28-29, 2016
Location: Earle Brown Heritage Center, Minneapolis
 
This conference will focus on engaging participants from across the region to deepen participants' understanding of special education and discrimination issues through a social justice lens. For more information click here.
 
Check out ACNW’s Charter School Division website and ACNW’s main website for other upcoming opportunities.
Grant Opportunities
A small sampling of the many possibilities that are out there.

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.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program
Applications due April 19, 2016

The Minnesota Department of Education, Division of Nutrition, Health, and Youth Development, will be soliciting applications for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) from school food service authorities of elementary schools. Eligible applicants must: 1) be an elementary school; 2) participate in the National School Lunch Program; and 3) have at least 50 percent or more of its student’s eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Priority will be given to schools with the highest level of free and reduced-price enrollment. Recipients of the FFVP will offer free fresh fruits and vegetables as healthy snack options to elementary school children during the school day outside the breakfast and lunch meal services.

Application instructions and more are available on the FFVP website. Questions can be directed to mde.ffvp@state.mn.us or 651-582-8490, toll free at 1-800-366-8922.

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.
School Highlights

Justin Balvin, Academic Dean at Excell Academy, was recently featured in the Star Tribune and other media outlets for accomplishing the improbable feat of making a half-court shot after successfully completing 12 other consecutive basketball shots - and now he’s challenging others to do the same! The “Beating the Odds Challenge” is to attempt to make 13 shots in a game of “Around the World” without missing. The purpose of the challenge is to celebrate the achievements of Excell Academy’s students and teachers as well as to raise funds to build a new playground at the school. The challenge was inspired by the school’s students, 96% of whom are eligible for free or reduced priced lunch, for their strong academic performance in 2015 which resulted in the school being selected as a “Beating the Odds” school by the Star Tribune and designated as a Celebration Eligible school by the Minnesota Department of Education. For more information about the challenge, please visit the Excell Academy Beating the Odds Challenge webpage.
Spike the Porcupine samples the Audubon Center's local delicacy – a tree.
Gibwanasii the Kestrel is an avid rock collector. He also collects stamps and Bazooka Joe comics.
Copyright © 2016 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Division, All rights reserved.
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