ACNW Authorizer Update — December 2016. 
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Authorizer Update
December 15, 2016

As the calendar year winds down, we want to thank you for all of your hard work! We hope that the winter break is an opportunity for you to enjoy the holidays, spend time with family and explore the great, wintery outdoors. One of our favorite memories from the year was the ACNW Leaders Retreat in November. Whether you attended or not, check out our post-conference website for resources on strategic planning, board meetings, school finance, and more. This Authorizer Update contains a lot of information about board best practices and policies. If improving board operations is one of your school’s New Year’s resolutions, we hope this will help!
Best wishes for a relaxing break, and Happy New Year,

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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Upcoming Dates: 
  • December 15th — WBWF Summary Report due to MDE
School Spotlight: 

Congratulations to Best Academy, Discovery Woods Montessori School, East Range Academy of Technology and Science, Harvest Preparatory School, Higher Ground Academy, New Discoveries Montessori Academy, and Noble Academy for receiving High-Quality Charter Schools recognition from MDE.
In this Authorizer Update:
(Click a heading to go to that section. May not function on mobile version.)
Board Meeting Observation Feedback 

To promote greater transparency, ACNW will be sharing the forms that evaluators use during board meeting observations with schools. We hope this information will help you in evaluating the strengths and areas of potential improvement in your board meeting operations.

The topics listed on the board observation form relate to MN statute, your school’s charter contract, or what ACNW considers to be practices of effective charter school boards. The topics align with ACNW’s Operations and Financial Performance Evaluation Frameworks, which are available on our website, and these observations are part of the body of evidence used by ACNW to inform evaluation of your school’s performance. Within a few days of an ACNW’s visit to your board meeting, the board chair and school director will receive an email with the completed form for the meeting observed. If there are concerns about potential violations of MN statute, they will be noted on the form and will need to be immediately addressed. Otherwise, the information provided in the ACNW Charter School Board Meeting Observation Form is for your own internal use. While ACNW welcomes any questions, it is not necessary to reply unless so indicated. 

FY16 Leaders Retreat Materials Available

ACNW hosted over 80 charter school directors, board members, teachers and other staff at our annual retreat in Sandstone, MN this November. Thanks to all who attended and made the event a success! Whether you were able to attend or not, please check out our post-conference website to download resources from our presenters.

School Spotlight: High-Quality Charter Schools

The following ACNW authorized schools were recently identified as meeting MDE’s definition of “High-Quality” for the purposes of Minnesota's Federal Charter School Program (CSP) Grant. Congratulations to all!

  • Best Academy
  • Discovery Woods Montessori School
  • East Range Academy of Technology and Science
  • Harvest Preparatory School
  • Higher Ground Academy
  • New Discoveries Montessori Academy
  • Noble Academy

As part of the Federal Charter School Program (CSP) Grant, MDE has developed a definition of High-Quality Charter Schools (HQCS) based on the proposed federal definition. Schools that are identified as “high-quality” per this definition are eligible to compete for a CSP replication/significant expansion grant and/or best practice award opportunities in 2017. Measures used to determine eligibility include academic performance on statewide assessments along with a financial check and compliance check.
Visit MDE’s website for more information.  
Important Open Meeting Law Information

Charter school boards are public bodies subject to MN Open Meeting Law. This is a topic we have brought up in previous Authorizer Updates, but wanted to do so again. A number of resources related to Open Meeting Law can be found on our website in the governance section.

Important Open Meeting Law highlights:

  • Open Meeting Law requires that at least one printed copy of the board packet be available in the meeting room for public inspection.
  • Before closing a meeting, a public body shall state on the record (on the agenda and in the minutes) the specific statutory grounds permitting the meeting to be closed and describe the subject to be discussed.
  • We strongly encourage schools to post on the front door of the school on the day of the board meeting the time and location (room number) of the meeting. Members of the public who come to the school should be able to find the meeting with no trouble.
  • Consider the date and time of your board meeting, and how it advances the spirit of transparency and an open public meeting. Can parents and community attend at the scheduled time, and does the meeting time support parent and community board member participation?
  • A board member may participate and vote in a meeting at which s/he is not physically present only if:
    • All board members can both see and hear one another (e.g., via Skype)
    • The public can see and hear all discussion and votes
    • At least one board member is physically present at the regular meeting location
    • Each location where a board member is present is open and accessible to the public

If the above conditions cannot be met, the board member is not considered present at the meeting for the purposes of determining a quorum and participation in board proceedings (i.e., voting). Consider taking time during a board meeting to review as a group the information provided here and on our website as well as other information related to MN Open Meeting Law. Such activity could be considered “ongoing training.”

Board Membership: Conflicts of Interest

ACNW has observed board practices that are prohibited by Minnesota Charter School Law 124E, which outlines who can and cannot be a member of the Board of Directors. Examples of violations include:

  • A community or parent board member who is paid by the school to serve as an intermittent substitute teacher at the school;
  • A board member whose spouse or family member is a teacher or employee at the school;
  • A teacher board member who is not fully licensed, but has permission to teach at the school on a non-licensed community expert waiver from the Board of Teaching.

The Minnesota Charter School Law, 124E, clearly outlines who can and cannot be a member of the board of directors. Statute states that board membership must include:
(1) at least one licensed teacher employed as a teacher at the school […]; (2) at least one parent or legal guardian of a student enrolled in the charter school who is not an employee of the charter school; and (3) at least one interested community member who resides in Minnesota and is not employed by the charter school and does not have a child enrolled in the school.
In addition, statute places the following limitations on board membership related to conflicts of interest:
(b) An individual is prohibited from serving as a member of the charter school board of directors if the individual, an immediate family member, or the individual's partner is a full or part owner or principal with a for-profit or nonprofit entity or independent contractor with whom the charter school contracts, directly or indirectly, for professional services, goods, or facilities. An individual is prohibited from serving as a board member if an immediate family member is an employee of the school.
If we become aware of any situation contrary to statute, we will make your school aware of the issue and require actions to remedy the matter. That said, we expect that your board will self-monitor to ensure situations such as those listed above do not occur.

School Credit Cards

Many schools use credit cards, as they are often the easiest way to make purchases. But their used can be problematic if clear policies and oversight are not in place. You may have seen the recent article in the Star Tribune about what can happen when policies and practices are not in place and implemented. ACNW expects all schools to have a credit card policy to help ensure that issues like this do not arise. Here are some sample policies for reference. Additionally, boards should get detailed credit card reports as part of the monthly financial packet.  

Email 101: Keeping Everyone in the Loop

ACNW sometimes sends email communication that is shared with school leaders, board chairs and other key people. Please remember to reply all in your responses to ensure that all involved are updated, unless your response includes information specific to just one person. Our purpose in including multiple people on an email is to ensure everyone in the group stays in the loop on conversations or decisions. 
Professional Development and Learning Opportunities More training opportunities and events can be found on our website.

Minnesota School Boards Association: Charter School Board Training Workshop
January 11, 8:30am–3:30pm
Registration deadline: January 4

The MSBA Charter School Board Training Workshop offers all three state-required training components for new charter school board members:
  • Board Governance
  • Financial Matters
  • Employment Matters
To register, fill out the registration form and follow the fax/mail instructions at the top. Contact Sandy Gundlach with any questions.

Apply for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Cohort Training
Application due January 11 by 2pm
Join over 580 schools around Minnesota by applying to be a part of the next cohort training for School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Schools and districts across Minnesota have found that implementing PBIS contributes to improved academic performance as well as school climate.
Selection for school teams to participate in Cohort 13 (Summer 2017 ‒ Spring 2019) is based on this application process. A strong emphasis will be placed on evidence of a data system that informs behavioral practices; administrative support and participation; and demonstration of staff buy-in. All training dates for each region are included in the application. Regional Implementation Projects will coordinate training and coaching, and support implementation in the northern, southern and metro areas of the state. View additional information and the application on the Minnesota PBIS website
The completed application is due no later than 2pm on Wednesday, January 11, 2017. Only electronic submissions will be accepted and should be submitted to Any questions about the application can also be sent to this address.

Smithsonian Water/Ways
November 19, 2016 @ 8:00 am - January 1, 2017 @ 5:00 pm
We are proud to announce that ACNW will host the Smithsonian’s “Museum on Main Street” traveling exhibit Water/Ways from November 19th, 2016, to January 1st, 2017. Four large presentation panels from the Smithsonian, as well as companion exhibits contributed by MN Pollution Control Agency and a storytelling kiosk assembled by the MN Humanities Center, will be on display at the Audubon Center in Sandstone for the duration of the exhibit.
In addition to the physical exhibit, this project invites connections between residents and visitors who celebrate shared heritage and a love of our waterways. The exhibit aims to celebrate our relationship with water and to strengthen community understanding of our regional water resources in a region where water is sometimes taken for granted. The exhibits will highlight personal stories and emphasize our common responsibility for and dependence on the safety of water, now and for future generations. Please see the ACNW website for more information.

Grant Opportunities
A small sampling of the many possibilities that are out there.

CenturyLink Clarke M. Williams Foundation Teacher Technology Grants
Applications accepted through January 12, 2016
CenturyLink Clarke M. Williams Foundation's Teachers and Technology grants are designed to help fund projects that advance student success through the innovative use of technology. Teachers in public or private PreK-12 schools in CenturyLink's residential service areas are eligible to apply for a Teachers and Technology grant for the 2016-2017 school year.
Applications may be submitted online between October 1, 2016 and January 12, 2017 by visiting

Apply for the 2017 MACS Innovation Award
Applications accepted through February 3, 2017
The Minnesota Association of Charter Schools (MACS) is looking for schools with innovative programs addressing the five different statutory purposes of charter schools. One school will be recognized in each category and will receive a monetary award. To be considered, fill out the application by February 3, 2017 and send it to Adnan Gutierrez. Visit the MACS website for more information, or contact Stephanie Kimble with your questions. 

Teaching Tolerance Spring Webinar Series
Teaching Tolerance’s spring semester webinar lineup is here! The schedule includes the four-part Equity Matters series, which includes discussions about empathy, family engagement, implicit bias and equity literacy. They will also continue the conversation they started in the fall about the Black Lives Matter movement with a webinar on the movement’s education platform and information about how to bring the topic into the classroom.

Equity Matters: Developing Empathy
Tuesday, January 10, 2017—3:30pm (45min)
Equity Matters: Engaging Families Through Home Visits
Tuesday, January 17, 2017—3:30pm (45min)
Let’s Talk! Teaching Black Lives Matter
Tuesday, January 31, 2017—3:30pm (45min)
Equity Matters: Confronting Implicit Bias
Tuesday, February 21, 2017—3:30pm (45min)
Equity Matters: Understanding Equity Literacy
Tuesday, February 28, 2017—3:30pm (45min)
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.

Winter has arrived at ACNW!
Copyright © 2016 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Division, All rights reserved.

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