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ACNW Authorizer Update

June 10, 2014

Dear School Leaders and Board Members,
 
Congratulations on the completion (or near completion) of the 2013-14 school year. We all hope that it was a successful year, you have some time to plan and recharge for next year, and your summer will be awesome!
 
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 have not received this. 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

ACNW Updates

 

Staffing Update


We are pleased to introduce you to Mike Schultz, our new Administrative Assistant in the Charter School Division.  He will be the first point of contact when you call the office, so please say hello and introduce yourself next time you call the office. He is also reachable at schultz@auduboncharterschools.org.
 
Bryan Wood is now the Executive Director of the Audubon Center of the North Woods. Bryan has been Co-Executive Director for the past five years, in collaboration with Melonie Shipman for the past four years. Melonie’s departure this past May has led to this new role for Bryan, who will take a more active role with the Charter School Division in the coming months. Bryan can be reached at bwood@audubon-center.org.
Environmental Education Performance Evaluations

Environmental Education (EE) evaluations will be completed for all schools within the next week. Look for an e-mail from Erin soon if you have not yet received a completed evaluation this school year.
Operations Performance Evaluations

Operations Performance Evaluations will be completed for all schools this week. Look for an e-mail from Shane or David soon if you have not yet received a completed evaluation this school year.
2014 Legislative Session

The 2014 legislative session has come to a close with some impact on charters. We strongly encourage you to review all changes that impact schools, in addition to charter specific changes. 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. Additional key highlights include:
 
Closure Clause
This is revised language designed to address issues with what was formerly known as the “escape clause.” In order to receive lease aid, any new lease or any lease modified after May 17, 2014 must include a closure clause consistent with statute, which states:
The commissioner must approve aid only for a facility lease that has (i) a sum certain annual cost and (ii) an escape a closure clause to relieve the charter school of its lease obligations at the time the charter school may exercise if its charter contract is terminated or not renewed; the closure clause must not be constructed or construed to relieve the charter school of its lease obligations in effect before the charter contract is terminated or not renewed.

It is our understanding that a closure clause must be included ONLY if you amend or modify the lease in any way.
 
Preschool Programs
For those schools with preschool or pre-K programs, you have been acutely aware of the need to seek and gain MDE approval for your program. Preschool programs are now included in the charter school statute for the first time. The language has led to some questions in the charter community as statute articulates:
A charter school may offer a free preschool or prekindergarten that meets high quality early learning instructional program standards that are aligned with Minnesota's early learning standards for children.
While the word “free” has created come confusion and concern, we have received clear assurances from MACS and MDE that this language does not preclude schools from offering a fee-based preschool or pre-K program as many have done in the past.
 
You can find the final markup version of the 2014 K-12 education bill here.
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. 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 that coverage, so that schools may minimize costs while meeting statutory requirements.
EE Mission Match Funds Available


ACNW has $500 for each authorized school to help complete your EE mission match. Funds may be used to buy equipment or materials, 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.
 
Because these funds MUST BE PRE-APPROVED by ACNW, to use the 2013-14 funds at this late date in the fiscal year, your request must be for the purchase of equipment, materials, or curriculum that you plan to purchase before the fiscal year end.
 
To apply for these funds:

  1. Complete this application. Your project must be pre-approved before you can receive funding.
  2. Submit application to Erin. Application must be received by Erin no later than 5:00 PM, June 16, 2014.
  3. Once approved, funds will be released to your school AFTER an invoice, purchase order, or 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.

If you do not use your funds from the 2013-14 school year, they will not carry over. You will not have access to these funds during the 2014-15 school year, though you can apply for new 2014-15 funds beginning July 1, 2014.
 
Acorn Naturalists offers a great selection of resources for environment-based learning including activity guides, DVDs, educational kits and curricula, outdoor education activities, science and nature games and more. Take a look at the site, and feel free to call Erin if you need some suggestions.

Other 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.

In addition, consider attending the Second Annual Minnesota Charter School Conference.

Share all these training opportunities with you board and staff.
Grant Opportunities

(A small sampling of the many possibilities that are out there.)
 
The Land O’ Lakes Foundation is accepting applications for the Hunger Initiatives grant round of its Community Grants Program, with grants ranging from $500 to $25,000 to support hunger and nutrition programs in regions where Land O’ Lakes operates, including Minnesota.
 
Youthprise has posted its 2014 Capacity Building Grant guidelines and deadlines, with applications accepted starting on June 9th. Grants funding is available up to $35,000 or 10 percent of applicant’s organizations budget. Youthprise will continue to focus on two key strategies for engaging youth in 2014: Build a Coordinated Out-of-School-Time System and Test Innovations in Youth Engagement to Influence Systems.

You can subscribe to the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Minnesota Grant Alert for ongoing updates regarding Minnesota grant opportunities. In addition, you can review the MDE website for upcoming opportunities.
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 Erin if you have updated contact information or need help using the document.
Just seen at the Audubon Center: A white tailed deer fawn! 

It's important to remember this spring that if you see a fawn by itself it is not necessarily orphaned. Unless you see something obviously wrong with the fawn it is best to leave it be so that its mother feels comfortable coming back.
May 23 was World Turtle Day! Remember you can help turtles like this snapping turtle cross the street to get out of harm's way. Just remember to stay out of snapping reach (we suggest using a stick) and to help them in the direction they were already going.
Copyright © 2014 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Division, All rights reserved.
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