STANDARD 5

GOVERNANCE

A quality school is governed by individuals who are responsible stewards of the charter’s mission and of public funds and trust. The Governing Board members carry out their duties in a professional and ethical manner at all times for the purpose of achieving overall school and student success. Download the full rubric and scoring documents here.

Any school can use the Quality Standard; however, it is important to note that the Governance standard is tailored to the unique needs of charter schools and may not directly apply to school districts. We would still encourage school districts to review these standards if they identify Governance as a key area of improvement.

Academic Oversight

5.1: ACADEMIC OVERSIGHT

The Governing Board understands the charter’s academic goals and objectives related to student achievement, and have the systems in place to monitor student achievement.

KEY QUESTIONS
  • Does the Board know the key academic promises made to the school’s authorizer in the charter?
  • Does a written, shared definition of academic excellence exist?
  • Has the Board received training on the state and authorizer’s academic accountability frameworks?
  • Does the Board regularly discuss what academic excellence means for the school?
  • Have board members conducted case studies or visited exemplary schools with the intent of seeing excellence in action?
  • Has the board, along with school leadership, set long term performance goals for students (i.e. what knowledge and skills students should possess when they graduate from/exit the school)?
  • Has the board, along with school leadership, set measureable goals that define an annual target for academic achievement?
  • Are all members of the Board trained on academic accountability measures?
  • Do all members know which standardized tests are administered at the school and how they will be used?
  • Do all members know if interim, formative, and benchmark assessments are administered at the school?
  • Do all members understand what each assessment type measures?
  • Does the Board receive clear, consistent, and timely reporting on state standardized test results?
  • Does the Board receive clear, consistent, and timely reporting on interim test results and benchmarks?
  • Does the Board understand the steps the school is taking to achieve excellence?
  • Do all board members agree on the methodology for measuring progress toward reaching academic goals?
  • Does the Board compare the school’s academic results with the state and/or national averages?
  • Does the Board compare the school’s academic results with the surrounding district and/or comparable charter school results with the goal of meeting or exceeding that district or school’s results
  • Does the school leader work in partnership with the academic excellence committee (or comparable) to educate the entire Board about the key strategies being employed to close the achievement gap or deliver academic excellence school-wide?
EVIDENCE
  • Summary of school academic goals, including key promises made in charter
  • Definition or description of academic excellence
  • Board minutes that indicate discussion of the school’s bar for academic excellence and current performance toward it
  • Academic performance dashboards included in board meeting packets
  • Job description for the academic excellence committee (or comparable)
  • Records of academic excellence committee (or comparable) working collaboratively with the school leader
  • Annual calendar of standardized and interim testing presented to the board
  • Standardized and interim test results and reports
  • School Director report discussing academic achievement progress
  • Board training agendas and materials that reference academic oversight
  • Profile of school chosen as a benchmark
  • Comparison reports to state, district school, charter schools, and/or benchmark school
  • School improvement plans, professional development plans, and strategic plans specifically focused on raising achievement based on current school data or benchmark school data and that have been reviewed by the board.
  • Board approved academic achievement goals

Financial Oversight

5.2: FINANCIAL OVERSIGHT

The Governing Board understands the short and long-term economics of the school and has systems in place to monitor short and long-term financial health.

KEY QUESTIONS
  • Do all members of the Board know the basic sources of revenue and how public sources of revenue are earned for the school?
  • Does the Board know what its break-even enrollment numbers are for the school each year?
  • Does the Board as a whole or the finance committee know a simple breakdown of the annual school budget into major categories (e.g. Personnel, Facilities, Admin, etc.)?
  • Does the Board approve the annual budget and significant revisions thereto?
  • Is the Board involved in the creation of the annual budget?
  • Does the Board articulate school-wide priorities and map them to revenues and expenditures?
  • Does the Board recognize which funding sources are short-term vs. which are long-term, sustainable funding sources, and which are restricted and unrestricted?
  • Does the Board develop at least five-year budget projections annually?
  • Does the Board anticipate future needs that significantly affect the budget, such as adding staff members, expanding transportation, or securing a new facility?
  • Does a financial policies and procedures manual exist?
  • Does the school close its books monthly?
  • Does the board and/or finance committee review the balance sheet, profit and loss statement, and budget to actual reports monthly?
  • Is an annual budget produced in a timely manner and approved by the Board? Are significant revisions to the initially approved annual budget reviewed and approved by the board?
  • Does the Board receive monthly and annual budget v. actual reports that allow the board to ensure the school is managing to budget?
  • Does the school complete an annual independent audit by a qualified CPA?
  • Does the Board receive accurate financial reports in compliance with an agreed upon reporting schedule?
  • Does the annual audit result in an unqualified opinion and no material findings regarding internal controls?
  • Does training for new board members who do not have financial experience include how to read, understand, and interpret financial reports?
  • Does the Board review a detailed checklist of all financial management deliverables that school leadership is responsible for submitting to agencies, authorizers, and auditors annually?
  • Does the Board produce and approve multi-year budgets for long-term planning?
  • Is the school’s 990 reviewed and signed off by the finance committee and filed with the IRS in a timely manner?
  • Has the Board reviewed the authorizer’s financial accountability framework?
  • Has the Board approved financial goals aligned to authorizer requirements and industry standards?
  • Is the Board aware of major long term financial obligations such as loans, bonds, etc.?
EVIDENCE
  • Up-to-date Financial policies and procedures manual
  • Monthly and annual closing schedule
  • Finance committee tasks and responsibilities’ description
  • Clean annual audits with detailed notes and management letters
  • Board and/or Finance committee meeting minutes documenting whether audit reports were reviewed and approved
  • Board meeting minutes documenting whether budgets were approved, regular financial reports were presented and discussed, and members were trained on using financial reports.
  • List of annual financial deliverables to authorities and agencies
  • Completed/Filed and board approved Form 990
  • 5 year budget projections

Regulatory Oversight

5.3: REGULATORY OVERSIGHT

The Governing Board monitors compliance with local, state and federal laws and regulations, monitors compliance with charter contract and authorizer requirements, and has a process for developing, approving, and enforcing appropriate policies and procedures.

KEY QUESTIONS
  • Does the Board have a process in place to monitor the submission of required information and reports to regulatory agencies?
  • Does the Board participate in training on relevant local, state, and federal laws?
  • Does the Board have regular communication with the staff to ensure policies are followed?
  • Does the Board ensure legal compliance with board policies and school handbooks by seeking legal counsel and financial experts to review, when necessary or appropriate?
  • Does legal counsel review all written policies and school handbooks (where appropriate), checking for compliance with applicable laws and regulations at least annually?
  • Has the Board developed a compliance calendar to ensure timely submission of required data and reports each month?
  • Does the Board know the promises made in its charter (if applicable) related to financial stewardship and academic performance?
  • Does a board-approved calendar outline required submissions by the charter’s authorizer?
  • Have all Board members read the charter contract and asked clarifying questions, as needed?
  • Is reading the charter and understanding the requirements embedded within part of new board member orientation?
  • Does the Board have policies established related to governance?
  • Does the Board have policies established related to financial management, ensuring adequate internal controls?
  • Does the Board have policies established related to personnel decisions?
  • Does the Board have policies established related to students and families?
  • Does the Board have a standard operating procedures manual aligned to its policy manual?
  • Does the Board have an articulated process for developing and approving new policies that are required for the board to approve?
  • Does the Board ensure that all board members and staff read and have a working understanding of all policies and related operating procedures at least annually?
  • Are policies and procedures reviewed and revised at least annually?
  • Are proposed policies reviewed by legal counsel or other qualified expertise before being considered for approval?
  • Are all policies approved by a quorum of the full board?
  • Are policies relevant to staff included in the staff handbook?
  • Are policies relevant to students and parents included in the student handbook?
EVIDENCE
  • Board and school policy manual
  • Staff handbooks that are aligned to relevant school policies
  • Student handbooks that are aligned to relevant school policies
  • Documented procedures
  • Board minutes demonstrating review and approval of board and school policies
  • Legal counsel and financial expert submitted notes or revisions after review
  • Board member orientation procedure
  • Compliance calendar
  • Training agendas
  • Training attendance log
  • Compliance dashboard
  • Documentation of communication between board and staff regarding board policy enforcement

Leader Support and Evaluation

5.4: SCHOOL LEADER SUPPORT AND EVALUATION

The Board ensures organization-wide performance goals monitors and evaluates the school leader’s performance, and provides adequate support for the school leader.

KEY QUESTIONS
  • Do the school leader and the Board work collaboratively to develop annual goals for the school and for the school leader related to academic performance?
  • Do the school leader and the Board work collaboratively to develop annual goals for the school and for the school leader related to financial health?
  • Are annual goals aligned with the performance goals of the charter?
  • Are annual goals SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely)?
  • Is there a detailed, up to date job description for the school leader that accurately reflect the full scope of the leader’s job and responsibilities?
  • Have the Board and the school leader agreed to a process for monitoring and evaluating the school leader on at least an annual basis?
  • Is the school leader evaluated at least annually following the agreed upon process?
  • Does the evaluation process include the setting of clear performance goals for the school leader each year?
  • Ultimately, does the full Board speak with one voice to the school leader regarding his/her performance?
  • As part of the evaluation process, does the school leader complete a self-assessment reflecting on his/her performance against annual goals?
  • Does the evaluation process include input from the larger school community (parents, teachers, partners, etc.)?
  • Is there a clear timeline for completing the school leader evaluation?
  • Does the school leader provide a report toward goals and other school activities at each board meeting?
  • Does the Board formally check-in with the school leader at least twice during the year about his/her performance?
  • Does the Board provide meaningful feedback to the school leader about his or her performance based on data gathered through observations, surveys, and other data collected?
  • Has the Board and school leader collaboratively developed a leadership development plan for the school leader?
  • Has the Board developed an emergency succession plan for the school leader?
  • Has the Board developed a formal, long-term succession plan for the school leader?
  • Has the Board developed a communication plan with the school leader and ensures it is adhered to?
EVIDENCE
  • Minutes from board meetings that document discussion of charter promises
  • Written performance evaluation process and procedures
  • Written process of monitoring progress toward annual and long term established goals
  • Up to date job description for the school leader
  • School leader development plan
  • Line item in budget that allocates money for school leader training opportunities
  • Procedures for regular feedback process between the Board and the school leader
  • School leader mentorship log
  • Documentation of annual performance goals for the school and school leader
  • Completed performance reviews
  • Documentation from regular check-in meetings noting key discussion points
  • School leader self-assessments
  • Parent and staff survey results
  • Board minutes demonstrating the establishment of a committee charged with evaluating school leaders
  • Board minutes and approval demonstrating that annual school leadership performance reviews occurred.
  • Succession plans, both emergency and long term, are in place and Board approved.

Composition and Structure

5.5: COMPOSITION & STRUCTURE

The Governing Board ensures the board has a diverse set of skills and backgrounds adequate for effectively governing the school and has a clear and active structure of officers, members and committees.

KEY QUESTIONS
  • Are there consistently five or more members of the Board?
  • Does membership represent a broad cross-section of skills needed to govern effectively (e.g. finance, legal, academic, governance, facilities, human resources, fundraising, community representation, etc.)?
  • Does membership reflect a broad level of ethnic, racial and gender diversity that reflects the community being served?
  • Does the Board have a targeted, ongoing recruitment plan for its membership?
  • Does the Board consistently adhere to a formal and transparent process for nominating and selecting new members?
  • Does the Board have a targeted, three-year profile of the skills and expertise it will need?
  • Has the Board developed a formal evaluation process to determine whether a candidate has the skill set, necessary time, philosophical alignment with the school, and temperament to serve as a member?
  • Prior to being nominated for membership, are candidates required to participate in a trial period by serving on a committee or having ample time to interact with other board members?
  • Is it true that all members of the Board have no personal or business ties to the school leader, staff, or each other which could result in conflicts of interest during decision-making?
  • Is the school leader the only employee, if any, of the school that is a member of the Board?
  • Do new members participate in an effective orientation process that includes training in the roles and responsibilities of being a member and Open Meeting Law?
  • Does the Board have a comprehensive set of bylaws and Board policies, to include specific delineation of the role, responsibilities, term limits and authority of the Board vis-à-vis the school leader?
  • Does the Board have the following or equivalent officers: chair, vice-chair, treasurer, and secretary?
  • Are there individual performance expectations for members?
  • Are there job descriptions for each committee and for each officer position?
  • Are job descriptions and performance expectations reviewed annually?
  • Is there a clear process for nominating officers?
  • Are there an adequate number of members on each committee to achieve committee goals?
  • Does each member have a copy of or easy access to up to date bylaws and Board policies/Board manual?
  • Does the Board have multiple committees or periodic task forces to take on specific duties?
  • Is each committee or task force chaired by a member of the Board and include a senior member of the school’s leadership team?
  • Does each member miss less than 25% of the meetings each year?
  • Are sanctions in place for frequent absenteeism?
  • Is there a succession plan for board members and officers?
  • Is there a clear plan for removing officers and members written into the bylaws and/or policy?
EVIDENCE
  • Updated Board Manual
  • Member recruitment plan
  • Policies and procedures for nominating and selecting members
  • Minutes from meetings documenting adherence to the nominating and selection process
  • Minutes from meetings documenting participation of non-members on committees
  • Matrix documenting the skill sets and diversity of current members and what is being sought in candidates
  • Standard list of interview questions asked of all candidates
  • Written evaluation of candidates
  • Schedule of trainings
  • Orientation program guidelines
  • Bylaws or policies specifying limitations on the school leader’s formal role in governance
  • Bylaws
  • Job description and succession plan for the Board and officers
  • Job descriptions for committees and lists of its members
  • Job descriptions for officer positions
  • Board approved Policies and procedures for nominating officers

Meetings

5.6: MEETINGS

The Governing Board adheres to an established annual board calendar provides public transparency and follows an agenda that focuses on fulfilling the board’s role and fiduciary responsibilities.

KEY QUESTIONS
  • Does the Board meet at least quarterly?
  • Does the Board generally meet once a month?
  • Does the Board hold very few, if any special or emergency meetings?
  • Does the Board cancel fewer than two meetings a year?
  • Has the Board created an annual calendar of all board meetings, retreats, etc.?
  • Does the annual calendar delineate when key decisions will need to be made, such as approval of annual budget, evaluation of school leader, submission of state and federal required documents, etc.?
  • Have all members participated in training on open meeting law?
  • Do all trustees understand applicable open meeting laws?
  • Are meetings posted in compliance with applicable open meeting law requirements?
  • Are minutes consistently taken at all meetings, including committee meetings, and include an accurate record of what was discussed and decided?
  • Are closed, executive sessions properly documented and conducted in accordance with law?
  • Does the Board have and implement a conflict of interest policy?
  • Do members recuse themselves from discussions or decision-making when a conflict of interest exists?
  • Annually, do members disclose in writing any actual or potential conflicts of interest?
  • Does the meeting agenda allow for public comment?
  • Does the chair of the Board and the school leader work collaboratively to develop agendas?
  • Is there a balance of meeting time spent on of current year oversight and future strategic direction of the school?
  • Do minutes represent an alignment with the agenda, providing sufficient details for what was discussed and decided related to each agenda item?
  • Do meeting agendas consistently conform to a standard format and/or sequence delineating topic, duration, supporting materials, and actions to be taken?
  • Do committees submit reports ahead of time and present to the full board when there is something strategic to discuss?
  • Does the Board evaluate meeting effectiveness, at least annually?
  • Are meeting materials well organized to facilitate the work of members?
  • Are meeting materials distributed at least three days in advance?
  • Do all trustees read all materials in advance of each meeting?
  • Is input from committee chairs reflected in agendas?
  • Do committee chairs predominately lead presentations or discussions rather than the school leader taking charge?
EVIDENCE
  • Annual calendar of board activities including meetings, training, board evaluation, etc.
  • Annual calendar of meetings
  • Meeting agendas from prior meetings
  • Approved Minutes from prior meetings
  • Conflict of Interest Policy and evidence it is being adhered to (i.e. completed forms disclosing conflicts of interest, minutes noting recusals)
  • Copy of Arizona’s open meeting laws
  • Meeting evaluation
  • Record of open meeting law training completed

Goals and Accountability

5.7: GOALS AND ACCOUNTABILITY

The Governing Board advocates for and sustains the school’s mission and vision, sets and measures progress towards mission driven goal, and conducts self-evaluations.

KEY QUESTIONS
  • Does the school communicate time and duties expected of its board members, and do new board members formally acknowledge their understanding and commitment?
  • Do 100% of members actively contribute to the success of the Board?
  • Does substantive committee work happen between meetings?
  • Does each member bring concrete, professional expertise that is needed by the Board?
  • Does each member come to meetings prepared, having read all materials in advance?
  • Is there a system in place to hold each member accountable to a consistent high standard?
  • Annually, is each member expected to serve on at least one committee?
  • Does each member contribute or help to get a donation to the school that is personally meaningful?
  • Does each member participate annually in school activities such as special programs and fundraising events?
  • Does each member make and achieve a personal fundraising goal annually?
  • Is each member well-informed about national and local charter school issues?
  • Does each member excel at tapping personal and professional networks to benefit the school?
  • Can each member serve as an informed spokesperson and advocate for the school?
  • Is there a formal orientation process for new members with veteran members coaching or mentoring new members to ensure effective performance?
  • Does the Board have a clear set of charter goals, strategic goals, and annual school improvement goals that will add value to the school, in areas such as academics, finance, and operations?
  • Do all committees have a set of annual goals?
  • Are committee goals aligned with the overall Board goals?
  • Does the Board have a consistent process to measure progress toward achieving goals?
  • Does the Board evaluate its performance annually?
  • Is the work of individual members of the Board evaluated annually?
  • Is the individual member evaluation used to determine who should be invited to continue to serve on the Board?
  • Is the self-evaluation used to identify gaps in board composition and training opportunities?
EVIDENCE
  • Job description for the Board
  • Job description for individual members
  • List of Board goals
  • List of goals for each committee
  • List of goals for each member
  • Minutes from Board and committee meetings demonstrating attendance
  • Minutes from Board and committee meetings demonstrating completion of self-evaluation and/or goal setting.
  • Resumes or biographies of members
  • Formal evaluation of the Board
  • Evaluations of members
  • Fundraising records demonstrating member participation
  • Attendance records from events shows board member participation
  • Board approved Annual board priorities or improvement plan

 

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