ACNW Authorizer Update

March 21, 2014

Dear School Leaders and Board Members,
 
Welcome to spring! We made it! The cold had us frozen out of completing an authorizer update in February, so here is your March edition.
 
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, MN 55414
(612) 331-4181

ACNW Updates


Board of Directors Update


The ACNW board of directors devoted its March 8, 2014 board meeting to charter schools. In addition to approving the renewal of eleven schools, the board reviewed the organization’s role as a charter school authorizer. The board reaffirmed its ongoing commitment to this work and its ongoing focus on advancing the mission and vision of the organization through authorizing. ACNW’s mission is to instill a connection and commitment to the environment in people of all communities through experiential learning, and its vision is a healthy planet where all people live in balance with the Earth. To this end, you will see a greater focus on environmental education evaluation and support from the Charter School Division and the Center as a whole. Our vision is that ACNW authorizes quality schools in terms of academics, finances, operations, and environmental education helping to advance the mission of ACNW.
 

Staffing Update


As you all should know by now, Melonie Shipman will be leaving her position as Co-Executive Director of the Audubon Center of the North Woods effective May 14, 2014. Her work at the Center has been hugely impactful over the past four years, and I (David) personally have valued her input and guidance as I’ve grown into the work of authorizing charter schools. Melonie will be greatly missed, and we all wish her the best in her future endeavors, which will include working to fight canine cancer, writing, teaching nature programs, and spending time with her family and friends. (And we may try to access her environmental education expertise on occasion!)
 
As Melonie indicated in her letter to many of you earlier this month, my (David’s) title has changed to Director of Charter School Authorizing. This title change has very little impact on our day-to-day work here. Your experience should not change because of Melonie’s departure or my change in title.

Bryan Wood, currently Co-Executive Director of ACNW, will assume the role of Executive Director of ACNW upon Melonie's departure.
 
Another change is that Erin Anderson has moved to part time. As part of that change, she is taking on a greater role around environmental education evaluation with the schools. She will continue to be the Epicenter guru for the foreseeable future.
 
Finally, we are in the process of hiring an administrative assistant for the Charter School Division to provide additional support with scheduling, communication, data gathering and other charter school related projects. We hope to have this person in place by June 1, 2014.
 
Environmental Education Performance Evaluations

We will begin environmental education performance evaluations in the coming weeks for schools that were not in their renewal year. While we have done an environmental education (EE) evaluation each year as part of our other evaluations, this year (and moving forward) we are separating it as a unique report to reflect its importance. We gather the bulk of our information related to this from you, so we will be asking you to complete a questionnaire related to your EE performance. Look for an email in the next week or so. We encourage the school’s EE contact, director and other relevant individuals to work together to complete this questionnaire. We also gather information related to EE performance during our site visits and review of other materials available to us. Please download and review the updated Environmental Education Performance Evaluation.
Operations Performance Evaluations

We will begin operations performance evaluations in the coming weeks for schools that were not in their renewal year. Again, much of the information related to this comes from you, in addition to through site visits, review of board meeting minutes, attendance at board meetings, interviews, and review of annual reports and other available documents. We will be asking you to complete a questionnaire related to your operations performance. Look for an email during the first week of April. We will send this to the board chair and director and encourage you to work together to complete it. Please download and review the Operations Performance Evaluation if you have not already done so.  
2014 Legislative Session

The 2014 legislative session has been moving quickly. We have been aware of a few charter school related bills that are moving through committee, though overall there has not been a lot of charter related bills or issues. Some issues that have been working through committee include:
  • Revision of “Escape Clause” provision for charter school leases;
  • Updates regarding affiliated building companies;
  • Revisions to the supplemental affidavit language;
  • Creation of deadlines for submission of new school and supplemental affidavits;
  • Expansion and clarification of requirements for serving English Learners;
  • Clarification of teacher evaluation for charters, and aligning teacher evaluation and Q Comp;
  • Clarification of the supplemental information to be submitted with the year-end financial audit.
You can find the House version of much of the charter school specific language here:  HF 2706.  We will keep you posted regarding other issues that arise as well as those indicated above, and encourage you to stay abreast of the issues at the capitol. You can sign up to receive e-mail updates from the House Education Finance Committee, the House Education Policy Committee and the Senate Education Committee.
Insurance

Minnesota Statute 124D.10 sets requirements for the amount and types of insurance that charter schools must obtain. As we have begun reviewing the insurance that schools have in place, we have found that many schools do not meet these legal requirements. As part of the operations evaluations this spring, we will be reviewing this for all schools 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 $3,000,000, 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.
Networking & Sharing

The following link provides contact information for directors, board chairs, and EE contacts of all schools authorized by ACNW: ACNW Directors and Board Chairs. Please connect, share and learn from one another.
 
Please contact Erin if  you have updated contact information or need help using the document.
EE Mission Match Funds Available


During the 2013-2014 school year, ACNW will again be offering up to $500 to each authorized school to help complete your environmental education mission match. 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. Contact Melonie for an application. Your project must be pre-approved before you can receive funding.
  2. Complete the application and return to Melonie.
  3. Once approved, funds will be released to your school, 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.
Other Learning Opportunities at the Audubon Center

Mark these dates for easy, inexpensive, educational fun to earn CEUs and meet your EE mission match of developing/using experts in the field. All events held at the Audubon Center of the North Woods. Visit the ACNW website for details.

Food and Farms Weekend
April 4-6, 2014
Enjoy field trips to local farms to meet producers, engaging on-site workshops and classes, guided hikes, renowned keynote speakers, delicious homemade meals and comfortable accommodations.
 
All-inclusive lodging package includes:
  • 2 nights lodging
  • 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners
  • 2 social hours and appetizers
  • All keynote speakers, workshops and field trips.
$295 per person—double occupancy (2 per room)
$245 per person—increased occupancy (3-4 per room)
 
Birding Bonanza Weekend
June 6-8, 2014
With field trips led by seasoned guides, engaging on-site workshops, bird banding sessions, a live raptor presentation, renowned keynote speakers, delicious homemade meals and comfortable accommodations, this all-inclusive weekend is birding at its best.
 
All-inclusive lodging package includes:
  • 2 nights lodging
  • 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners
  • 2 social hours and appetizers
  • All keynote speakers, workshops and field trips.
$295 per person—double occupancy (2 per room)
$245 per person—increased occupancy (3-4 per room)

For more information or to register, please call the Audubon Center at (888) 404-7743 or email audubon1@audubon-center.org.
Grant & Scholarship Opportunities
(A small sampling of the many possibilities that may be out there.)
 
The Captain Planet Foundation, in partnership with the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, is accepting applications from schools and nonprofit organizations for its Ecotech Grant program, a new initiative to support projects that motivate children through science, technology, engineering, and math while challenging them to reimagine the way their world can be.

 
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.
Copyright © 2014 Audubon Center of the North Woods Charter School Division, All rights reserved.
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