January is School Board Recognition month, and while the month is coming to an end, I wanted to be sure to take the time to recognize our many volunteer charter school board members for engaging in this critically important work.

Charter School Accountability

School board members voluntarily dedicate their time and expertise to tackling charter school oversight. For those unfamiliar with the charter school accountability structure, charter school oversight loosely parallels that of traditional public schools: high-level oversight by the state education agency; ongoing oversight, monitoring and technical assistance provided by charter school authorizers, which are either districts or CSI in Colorado; key policy-setting, performance goal setting/monitoring and decision making by charter school boards; and day-to-day operations managed by charter school leaders or through contracted educational service providers.

The charter school board holds the contract with the charter school authorizer and oversees school performance against authorizer standards. Charter school boards also set and monitor performance goals and make key decisions for the future of their schools.  

Without question, my charter board experience has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career. In fact, my charter board work was ultimately the reason that I changed my career from higher education to charter schools. I have met others who share my experience of joining a charter board and quickly realized the amazing impact you can have on students, families, and the broader community. Like me, some charter board members have gone on to join the staff of a charter school. I have served on a charter school board as a parent representative and as a community member, and both roles gave me different perspectives that were valuable to the board’s work. Additionally, I have served as a governance trainer for many years. I’m consistently impressed by the high capacity of the board members who freely give their time to help lead a charter school. While I’m not sitting on a board currently, I remind my husband often that in retirement I plan to join other retirees and once again engage in my civic duty of board work. 

Charter School Governance Resources

Undoubtedly, there are times where school board members face difficult challenges, and I personally have been on boards when this has occurred. Therefore, it is important for board members to have access to resources to guide them in fulfilling their important role. CSI places significant emphasis on the value of strong and effective school governing boards and believes that behind every successful charter school is a high-performing governing board. We strive to provide boards with tools and resources to assist them in meeting expectations.

This year, CSI has been working to develop strategic planning initiatives to help boards create strategic plans that address their school’s specific needs and align with established academic targets. CSI staff members have also been attending school board meetings to review board meeting processes and help explain the CSI Annual Review of Schools (CARS) reports, which provide an annual review of a school’s performance against set academic, financial, and operational standards. Visit the CSI School Board Governance library for more resources.

In addition to resource documents, it is important for board members to remember that while it sometimes feels like they may be on an island, they are not alone. CSI encourages board members to network with and learn from one another to advance the work for each of our school’s boards. Additionally, CSI’s School Support Liaison, John Brendza, supports CSI school boards one-on-one and contributes to the CSI Board Quarterly Newsletter. Access the fall and winter newsletters and feel free to subscribe.

Now is a good time to put a plug in for our upcoming Board to Board Networking event on February 27. The event will be facilitated by Kate Essex of Charter Board Partners and will be a great chance for CSI school board members to network with each other as well as with the CSI Board of Directors.

A Call to Action – Developing a Pool of Board Candidates

This post has been all about recognizing the important work of current charter board members, but it’s also incredibly important to encourage community members to consider sharing their skillsets and expertise by serving on a charter school board. It’s a common misconception that board members need to have an education background. In reality, boards are looking for candidates with expertise in a variety of areas, including finance, legal, marketing, legislative, accounting, non-profit, and education. If you know of someone who might be a great addition to a charter board (including yourself), reach out directly to a local charter school to learn more about board candidacy or connect with Charter Board Partners to join the Charter Board Partners network.

A big THANK YOU to all of our charter board members!

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