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ACNW Authorizer Update

July 15, 2014

Dear School Leaders and Board Members,
 
We hope your summer is going well and that you have found time to reconnect with Minnesota’s rich environmental resources and natural beauty in order to recharge for the upcoming school year.
 
Please review this Authorizer Update closely and let us know if you have any questions or comments about its contents.
 
We are attempting to include all board members of all charters schools authorized by ACNW. Please reach out to your colleagues to get them signed up if they are not receiving our updates. Thank you.

Sincerely,

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

Upcoming Dates
  • July 21, MDE Legislative Update in Roseville
    • See below for additional information.
  • July 23, Updated Annual Report Guidelines sent to Schools by ACNW – tentative
    • See below for additional information.
  • July 25, Renewal guidelines sent to schools by ACNW – tentative
    • Only for schools in the final year of their contract. More information forthcoming.
  • August 5 and 14, Webinar to review Renewal Guidelines – tentative
  • August 13, Webinar to review Annual Report Guidelines – tentative
    • See below for additional information.
Epicenter

Our first year of using Epicenter has come to a close, and notwithstanding a few challenges, it has served as an important tool for us as an authorizer, and we have heard that it has been of use to many of you as well. We have recently taken time to review how we have used Epicenter and the current requirements. Our goal is to only have tasks for what we need or what is useful to the school. To that end, you will notice some changes in requirements, including removal of a few tasks and changing some tasks to be a certification instead of a document upload. We plan to send you the complete list of Epicenter requirements for FY15 by August 1, pending some deadlines that are set by MDE, and we look forward to an even more successful year in implementing this useful tool.
Leaders Retreat

Although it’s still mid-July, the 2014 Leaders Retreat will soon be upon us. While we have not yet set a date for this annual event, we can assure you that it will not be the weekend of the deer opener. We are looking at several overnight dates and will be sending a poll in the coming days to get feedback on which dates are best for you. This year we will emphasize training in the areas of governance and environmental education in addition to offering learning opportunities in other areas. As a reminder, you are required to send representation from your school to this event. In the past, we have asked that each school send a member of its leadership team, the board chair or another officer, and its EE contact.
Annual Report

MN Statute 124D.10 requires that each charter school produce an annual report and share it with its authorizer and school community. These are due October 1 of each year. ACNW will be providing guidance again as we did last year. To further support the development of quality annual reports that serve the school, public, and authorizer, we will be holding a webinar to review statutory and ACNW guidelines. We will be sending the guidance document to schools on or near July 23, and we plan to hold a webinar on August 13. 
2014 Legislative Session

MDE is hosting a legislative update for charter schools and authorizers on Monday, July 21, in Roseville. The session will begin at 1:00 p.m. and end by 4:30 p.m. and will include an update on the authorizer performance review system. There is no cost to attend this session; however, pre-registration is required. Complete this form to register for the Legislative Update (complete one for each registrant). The registration deadline is Wednesday, July 16.
 
The Minnesota Association of Charter School (MACS) has provided policy briefs related to key legislative changes this year. These can be found here. We strongly encourage your board to take time to review some of these issues as part of its board meeting agenda.
 
You can find the final version of the 2014 K-12 education bill here.
Site and Grade Level Expansions

One important legislative change resulting from the 2014 session relates to site and grade level expansions. For any expansions to be implemented for fall 2015, the supplemental affidavit is now due to MDE by October 1, 2014. Therefore, given the limited time for school boards to make a decision regarding an expansion and submit an application to ACNW, and for ACNW to review the application, make a decision, and prepare a supplemental affidavit, we are not accepting new site or grade level expansion requests for the 2015-16 school year. Depending on the situation, we could make an exception; however, a school must contact David via e-mail no later than July 21.
Safe and Supportive Schools Act - Bullying Policy

We have received a number of inquiries about the new bullying policy requirement and whether ACNW will offer training on the new statute. MACS has provided a Policy Brief on the new requirements which offered substantial guidance, and below is an outline of ACNW’s current approach and expectations, which is based on discussions with Eugene Piccolo from MACS and Cindy Murphy from MDE.
  • Statute passed in 2007 (MN Stat. 121A.0695) already requires every school district (including charters) to enact a board policy prohibiting intimidation and bullying.
  • The Safe and Supportive Schools Act that was passed during the 2014 legislative session goes into effect August 1, 2014.
  • As stated in the new legislation, MDE must create a sample bullying policy and that schools have the option to adopt this sample policy.
  • It is not reasonable to expect schools to have an updated policy in place that is consistent with new statute prior to the start of school (or prior to completion of the sample policy to be provided by MDE).
  • While a specific timeline is not available, previous experience would suggest that it may take MDE up to six months to develop and publish the sample policy.
  • We are requiring that all ACNW schools provide to ACNW their current bullying policy by September 1, 2014. We would recommend that schools review this with their staff prior to the start of the school year.
  • We will wait for the MDE sample policy to be created. We will require schools to provide to ACNW and have in place a new policy that is consistent with new statute within three months of MDE's publication of the sample policy.
  • ACNW will not be providing any specific training on this topic at present and will wait for guidance from MDE.
Please contact David if you have questions.
Insurance

Minnesota Statute 124D.10 sets requirements for the amount and types of insurance that charter schools must obtain. As we have been reviewing the insurance that schools have in place, we have found that many schools do not meet those legal requirements. As part of the operations evaluations, we have reviewed this for all schools this and encourage you to discuss with your agent the school’s current insurance and whether it meets statutory requirements. See MN Stat. 124D.10 (page 17) and MN Stat. 466.04 (page 5). We have found that the most common oversight is the insurance for “hazardous substance” in the amount of $3M, and we are asking schools to share with other schools how they have acquired this coverage so that schools may minimize costs while meeting statutory requirements.
Networking & Sharing

Please continue to reach out to your colleagues for resources, learning, and sharing. We hope you will continue to grow and leverage the connections you made at the Leaders Retreat and elsewhere. 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.
Learning Opportunities at the Center and Elsewhere

Go to this link on the Audubon Charter Schools website for a number of learning opportunities available this summer. Additional events can be found at the main Audubon Center of the North Woods website.
School Highlights

AFSA High School in Vadnais Heights earned national recognition from the Character Education Partnership for the uniqueness of its Farm and Community Service Day. Character Education Partnership is an organization based in Washington DC. The organization aims to benefit society through school reform that addresses not only academics, but also social, emotional, and ethical issues. For additional information, read the 2014 Press Release and visit the AFSA website.
 
Noble Academy in Minneapolis recently was awarded a grant from Hennepin County to support the environmental initiatives at the school for the 2014-15 school year. For more information on the grant the school was awarded, see the Hennepin County website. Noble was awarded a grant as part of the “Root Group.” We look forward to reports from the school on the work they are doing as part of the grant.
 
Please let us know about any great things happening at your school that we can share with others.
Spike the Porcupine goes for a stroll on the grounds of the Audubon Center, sampling the local flora on the way, then playing in the wetland.

(Eat your heart out, Sonic!)
The Audubon Center recently installed a loon nesting platform on Grindstone Lake. There are many loons that frequent the lake, but none that nest due to lack of suitable habitat. We'll see if a pair will nest now that there is habitat for them.
Copyright © 2014 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Division, All rights reserved.
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