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ACNW Authorizer Update

May 7, 2015

Dear School Leaders and Board Members,
We can’t believe the end of the school year is fast approaching. For many of you, the end of the school year is only one month away. Time sure does fly!

Statewide assessments have wrapped up, and we hope they provided an opportunity for your students to demonstrate their learning and for your staff to assess and celebrate students’ progress. We are aware that at least a couple schools authorized by ACNW experienced issues with the online testing system. If you encountered problems, we encourage you to reach out to the commissioner at to describe your experience. (Please feel free to “cc” us on any such communication.)

We hope the rest of your school year proceeds glitch-free!


David & 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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Site and Grade Level Expansions

If your school is planning a site expansion or grade level expansion (including prekindergarten/preschool) for fall 2016, you must submit a board approved Notice of Intent (NOI) to submit an application for grade level and/or site expansion to ACNW by June 1. Please note that while Epicenter indicated a deadline of March 15, this was an error, and the deadline is actually June 1. The NOI, along with other resources regarding expansions, can be found on our website.

ACNW will only consider site or grade level expansions for schools that submit a Notice of Intent by the deadline of June 1.
FY15 Environmental Education Survey

We are currently in the process of updating the EE survey for 2014-15. The revised survey will be posted to Epicenter next week and the deadline for submission to ACNW will be June 30. 

How Effective is Your Board?
A 2015 survey and study conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business reports that the skills, resources, and experience of board directors are not sufficient to meet the needs of most nonprofit organizations. Check out the report here.
Questions to consider as you review the report:
  • Do the board members of your school have a strong understanding of the mission and strategy of the school?
  • Are your board members confident that the data they review accurately measures the success of the organization?
  • Does your school have a succession plan for the executive director?
  • Does your board have explicit performance targets against which executive director performance is evaluated?
  • Does your board evaluate its own performance?
Open Meeting Law
ACNW reviews your board meeting minutes monthly, and have noticed a couple trends recently, particularly related to Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law.
1. Closing Board Meetings.
We have seen evidence that schools have inappropriately closed board meetings. With limited exceptions, the Open Meeting Law says that all meetings of public bodies in Minnesota must be open to the public. The Open Meeting Law also describes when a public body is required or permitted to close a meeting. See this document for guidance on this issue.
2. Meetings by Telephone or Other Interactive Technology
We have seen that schools have inappropriately held meetings by telephone or other interactive technology. School board members may not participate as voting members in meetings via telephone; however, they may participate in meetings via “interactive TV” when among other things: “all members of the body participating in the meeting, wherever their physical location, can hear and see one another and can hear and see all discussion and testimony presented at any location at which at least one member is present.” Other conditions also apply and are outlined in Open Meeting Law.
See this presentation for additional information on the Open Meeting Law.

Agenda Item for School's Next Board Meeting
As per MDE, if your school has not already done so, arrange to add as a school board meeting agenda item the designation of the Identified Official with Authority for MDE’s External User Access Recertification System. Until the Identified Official with Authority is designated, new charter school staff may not be able to get access to MDE secure systems, including Test WES. To begin using the External User Access Recertification System, your school must designate the Identified Official with Authority to assign job duties and authorize user access during a school board meeting. The school board meeting minutes must clearly designate the person as the Identified Official with Authority, and these minutes must be provided to MDE in order to authorize this person. For more information, see MDE’s External User Access Recertification System launch page
Authorizer Access to Data

ACNW and other authorizers are in the process of entering into a data sharing agreement with MDE under which we will have access to de-identified student level MCA performance data. Within the next couple months, we will have access to data from FY12-FY14, and then we will receive additional data annually once it is released. This data will help us better understand and evaluate each school’s performance in ensuring that all students are meeting state standards, specifically in the areas of reading and math. We will provide you with additional information as we gain a greater understanding of the data we will be receiving and the ways in which this data will enhance our work.
Upcoming Trainings

MACS Spring 2015 Board Leadership Trainings

The course catalog for MACS Spring 2015 Board Training Courses is now available. You can view the catalog by clicking on this link. Courses are available in three series: Governance, Finance, and Personnel. To register, visit the MACS Board Governance Page.

ISES Board Member Training
Thursday, May 21, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

This training presented by Innovative Special Education Services (ISES) is for charter school board members and will provide participants with an in-depth knowledge of what every charter school board member needs to know about special education. Topics include: laws governing students with disabilities, enrollment of students with disabilities, staffing/service providers, discipline of students with disabilities, and special education funding. This training is free to all charter school board members.

To view the agenda or register online, visit the ISES training website.

University of Minnesota Course: "School Choice and Educational Opportunity”
June 26, 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. & June 27, 8:30 – 3:30 p.m.
The purpose of the course is to introduce participants to current issues related to school choice, with an emphasis on charter schools in Minnesota, in the rest of the U.S., and internationally. The focus will be on thinking about the future – using what we know about school choice to design improved opportunities for all students to participate in creating their future success. For more information, contact Joe Nathan at

Mapping the Journey with GIS
Monday, June 29 – Thursday, July 2
Hosted by River’s Edge Academy.
The workshops will build on a recent successful project where GIS was used in an experiential, place-based, environmental education unit, implemented over the course of a year at River’s Edge Academy. The project, “River Journey: Exploring the Value of the Mississippi” was a year-long exploration of water as it connects the students’ school to the larger environment. Students used online mapping software (ArcGIS online) to share their learning about the water cycle and increase public awareness. Community contributors included the National Park Service, St. Paul Regional Water Services, Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, and the Lower Mississippi River Watershed Management Organization. More information, including registration, may be found here.
Third Annual Minnesota Charter School Conference
Tuesday, July 28
The Third Annual Minnesota Charter School Conference is a unique opportunity to learn from charter school experts and each other, share successes and challenges, and build stronger relationships. The goal: create a more informed, organized, and connected charter school community for Minnesota. The conference is presented by CliftonLarsonAllen, in partnership with Center for School Change and the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools. Mike Feinberg, co-founder of Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), will be the keynote speaker. For more information, please visit this website.
Positive Classroom Climate
Elementary: August 3-4; Secondary: August 6-7
For schools that want their teachers to learn successful strategies for developing positive classroom climate and for improving student behavior, there is a two day session that will equip teachers with knowledge and skills from Chris Hagedorn, who has trained thousands of teachers in Responsive Classroom techniques. This would be ideal for schools that use the Responsive Classroom type approaches but have new teachers that need foundational training.  Visit or contact for more information.
Project Based Learning
Wednesday, August 5 – Thursday, August 6
For schools that do any sort of project based learning, there is the opportunity to learn practical strategies for making PBL more rigorous and impactful from proven practices from High Tech High in San Diego. Chris Wakefield from High Tech High will lead a two day intensive training session to "Go Deeper with Project Based Learning."  Visit or contact for more information.
EE Mission Match Funds

During the 2014-2015 school year, ACNW will be offering up to $500.00 to each authorized school to help achieve your school’s 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.
  3. 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.
Grant Opportunities
A small sampling of the many possibilities that are out there.

Grants for Meteorological Education Projects  â€“ National Weather Association
Applications due Monday, June 1, 2015.
The National Weather Association is accepting grant applications to its 2015-16 Sol Hirsch Education Fund, which supports projects designed to improve K-12 education in meteorology and related sciences. The program will award grants of up to $750 to help teachers purchase scientific materials for the classroom, school, or community; create school or community science outreach and education programs; enhance or expand existing meteorology/science education programs; and/or attend accredited courses, workshops, or conferences related to meteorology that will significantly enhance their teaching. Priority will be given to projects that show the most creativity and have the potential for greatest impact.
See the National Weather Association website for complete program guidelines and application instructions.

Education Grants  – Frey Foundation of Minnesota
Letter of Inquiry due Monday, June 15, 2015
The Frey Foundation is currently accepting Letters of Inquiry for programs supporting education initiatives in the Twin Cities.  The Education and Self-Sufficiency program is the largest of the Foundation, representing nearly half of all Foundation grants.  The Foundation recognizes education as a key component of self-sufficiency and believes education is a critical investment in the future of our community. For more information, visit this link.

Participatory Action Research  – MN Campus Compact and Youthprise
Applications accepted between June 1, 2015 and October 1, 2015
Minnesota Campus Compact and Youthprise are offering a new pilot program to provide professional development and funding to high school youth, college/university students and community-engaged staff/faculty to conduct participatory action research (PAR) projects related to educational environments, community engagement, and preparation for college, careers, and civic life. Youthprise will provide a 1:1 match for funds raised by campuses to support PAR projects. Up to $10,000 will be matched per campus. The program will also send interested high school and college/university students, faculty, and staff to either a pre-conference workshop at the Upper Midwest Civic Engagement Summit or one of three regional workshops in the fall of 2015 to learn more about PAR. Teams of students with staff/educators from campuses, schools, and youth-serving organizations can apply to Youthprise between June 1, 2015 and October 1, 2015 for matching grants and support to implement PAR projects.
Networking and 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.
School Highlights

State Senator Carrie Ruud recently visited Crosslake Community School to talk to students and express her support for a bill that would increase funding for small charter schools. School director Todd Lyscio had previously traveled to the capitol to hand-deliver letters from students supporting the bill, which Ruud is authoring in the Senate. Ruud was given a tour of the school by two high school students, then spoke to the third and fourth graders who wrote letters in support of the bill. She told the students about her job and answered questions. Lyscio told students why he felt Ruud's visit was important: "You wrote letters and our lawmakers hear what you are concerned about. When you write and make phone calls, it makes a difference.”

Hosting lawmakers at your school is a great way to engage students in the democratic process and to help our elected officials better understand charter schools and their unique strengths and challenges. Kudos to Crosslake!
Students at La Crescent Montessori Academy celebrated Arbor Day 2015 by, naturally, planting some trees. The school helped the Army Corps of Engineers plant more than 300 trees. This isn't the first time they've helped the Army Corps. They also planted more than 100 trees with them last fall. Students say they've had a lot of fun with the project. "It's a good way to get out into the environment and not be stuck in a classroom all day," said Abby Kreutzman. "It feels good, because you're helping the environment and helping a whole bunch of people."
Winona County Master Gardeners recently awarded a library grant to Riverway Learning Community. This project helps fulfill the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener mission of educating the public of all ages about gardening. Each year the schools in Winona County are given the opportunity to apply for the library grants which are funded by plant sales, extra proceeds from Gardeners Day, compensation from Garden Center education, and occasional donations. These materials will aid the students in learning more about working with plants and the environment around them. The materials will be available in the school library for students and teachers to use. Riverway Learning Community raises vegetables and chickens as a part of their emphasis on healthy eating.
Learning Opportunities at the Audubon Center

Visit the main Audubon Center of the North Woods website to find out more about the learning opportunities, family events, and summer camps being offered by the Center this year.

Meet Our Wild Staff!
Woody the Bald Eagle
Warm air means the birds get their bath pans back. Watch Woody as he takes his first bath of the year!
A few ACNW staff members recently enjoyed smelting in a local creek, and they were kind enough to donate a few fish to Woody for an "active" dining experience.
Copyright © 2015 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Division, All rights reserved.
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