School Board Quarterly Newsletter
Fall 2018
In this edition of the quarterly board newsletter, we will review:

Upcoming Trainings
Fall Regional Meetings & Board Trainings
Colorado Springs Regional Meeting & Board Training
Tuesday, September 18

CO Springs Charter Academy
2577 N Chelton Rd.
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Denver Regional Meeting & Board Training
Thursday, September 20
Colorado Early Colleges - Aurora
350 Blackhawk St.
Aurora, CO 80011
Western Slope Regional Meeting & Board Training
Wednesday, September 26
Ross Montessori Charter School
109 Lewies Lane
Carbondale, CO 81623
All Regional Meetings will be held from 8:30am-3:30pm, and all Board Trainings will be held from 4:30pm-6:00pm.

For more information and to register, click here for Regional Meetings
and click here for Board Trainings.
You've Been Selected to Serve on a Charter School Board...
What Did You Get Yourself Into?
By: John Brendza , CSI School Support Liaison

Serving on a charter school board is one of the most important roles that parents and community members serve, and it is no easy endeavor. To begin, board members are all volunteers who must be willing to commit the time and energy necessary to ensure that the school is governed effectively. It requires individuals who are self-driven, team oriented and dedicated to the mission and vision of the school. Members must be willing to work together to make strategic decisions that will impact the academic, financial and cultural health and future of the school. Simply put, serving on a charter school board is hard but critically important work to the success of the institution.
 
The start of the new school year is a great time for boards to review and evaluate their roles and responsibilities. In doing so, the board can determine what needs they have in order to position themselves for success. A good starting point is to review your charter contract from your authorizer (CSI) and your board bylaws. The contract represents the agreement between the board of your school and the CSI board and is a legally binding agreement that establishes terms for compliance with all state and federal mandates. The contract is often mistaken to be between the head of school and executive director of CSI, but it is a board-to-board agreement . Failure to meet the terms of the contract can result in serious consequences for a school. The bylaws represent the rules that govern how the school is managed and how the board conducts business. This includes how board members are selected, the means by which board meetings are structured and managed, and the process for identifying officers of the board and their obligation and responsibility to the school. Charter boards have the ability to change the bylaws through a comprehensive review and collective vote process, and the revised document must be submitted the CSI Director of Legal and Policy Initiatives ( Trish Krajniak ) pursuant to the Charter Modification Process . Because both the contract and bylaws are legally binding agreements, it’s good practice to review them at the beginning of each school year.
 
Next, it is important to ensure all board members understand and adhere to a common set of performance expectations. These are generally common sense expectations that ensure that board members conduct themselves in a professional and civil manner, meet board attendance and participation requirements, and agree to act in accordance with the board bylaws, charter contract, and mission of the school. It’s common for boards to request members to sign an agreement stating that they understand the expectations and will follow the board’s norms. It may even be helpful to have board members review and sign the agreement annually. Click here for a sample board agreement. The beauty of having boards agree to norms is that it provides each director with a standard code of conduct and the ability to monitor one another’s performance. When board members are not adhering to the agreed norms, it’s the responsibility of the board, typically through the president, to remind their colleagues of what is expected of their performance. When a board commits to a set of performance standards, they position themselves to successfully govern the school and operate as a collective body and to hold themselves and their staff accountable for their actions.
 
Last, it is important that all directors have a thorough understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the officers of the board. This typically includes the Secretary, Treasurer and President/Chair. In some cases it also include a Vice President/Chair and other titles applicable to the individual school. You should discuss each officer’s job description and provide members a chance to ask questions and make suggestions to improve the overall efficiency of board leadership. This will be especially helpful for new board members. It will provide them a better perspective of what to expect and how you can direct your efforts to support the officer’s work. The following are the general responsibilities of board officers in most charter schools:
Board President/Chair: 

  • Assists the school leader to prepare meeting agendas
  • Calls board meetings to order, ensures that board meetings follow Robert’s Rules of Order, adjourns board meetings
  • Calls special meetings when issues arise
  • Understands group dynamics and are capable of developing consensus
  • Is an excellent listener and problem solver
  • Works with the school leader to ensure that board resolutions are implemented
  • Oversees and assists with new board member orientation
  • Facilitates search for new school leader
  • Coordinates the school leaders annual evaluation  
  • Is the primary spokesperson for the board
  • Consults with board members in assessing their performance
Board Vice-President/Chair: 

  • Understands the roles and responsibility of the board president and acts as the presiding officer in the absence of the president/chair
  • Is a vital part of the board leadership team


Board Secretary:

  • Maintains all board records and communications including meeting minutes and posts minutes once final
  • Guides the board voting process and documents results
  • Post notice and draft agendas of all board meetings
  • Facilitates public input during board meetings
  • Drafts and/or reviews all board press releases
  • Is the spokesperson of the board in the presidents’ absence
Board Treasurer:

  • Thoroughly understands school finance and accounting procedures 
  • Understands and monitors the legal financial requirements of the board
  • Serves as chairperson of the school finance committee
  • Guides the development and completion of the annual budget and audit
  • Works with the school leader and business director/CFO to develop monthly financial reports to the board
  • Oversees the board financial responsibilities
Each board officer is critical to the proper functioning of the board. The officers’ roles require individuals willing to assume a greater level of responsibility and commitment to the board. It is important to remember that each board member, including officers, represents one vote. It is the responsibility of the board collectively to hold one another accountable for their performance and to commit to decisions that are in the best interest of the school. 
 
For boards interested in improving their performance, there are several resources available. The Charter School Institute and other organizations like the Colorado Department of Education, Charter Board Partners, and the Colorado League of Charter Schools offer a variety of board development opportunities. As a board, it’s vital to the school that you invest in your leadership development. It will make the board an effective governing body and play a key role in the success of the organization and the future of the institution. It has never been said that serving on a charter school board is easy work. But when members take the time to better understand their roles and responsibilities, they position themselves to become an effective and successful governing body. And that’s good for the school and ultimately the students.
8 Simple Things to Know About Your CSI Charter School Board's Bylaws
Bylaws are the rules that the governing board follows to conduct their work and monitor their performance. These should be specific to the school mission, core values and practices. They provide the foundation for how the board will operate as a governmental entity. The result is to provide a check system to ensure that the board operates legally and ethically in all decision-making efforts. The following are realities for CSI boards to consider when looking at your current bylaws.
1) Bylaws are written by the board of directors and can be modified only through a majority vote of the board. In developing the bylaws, it is important for the board to have them reviewed by their school attorney. Any revisions to the bylaws can’t violate state laws or authorization contract terms and must be communicated to CSI through the Charter Modification Process.

2) The bylaws define the size of the board, terms of directors’ service, term limits and how it will function as the governing body of the school.

3) The roles and responsibilities of directors and board officers are established within the parameters of the bylaws. They reflect the importance that directors operate in the best interest of the school act within the boundaries of the law.

4) The process used for electing/appointing directors will be established within the bylaws, as will the terms for the board to appoint officers (President/chair, Secretary, Treasurer etc.). It will also outline the reasons and procedures to remove directors from the board. 
5) Bylaws include specific details as to how and when meetings will be held and the procedures for conducting board business. It should include details regarding how voting will be conducted and results documented and communicated. They should include specific requirements for holding open meetings and executive sessions in accordance with state law. 

6) Board committees that are required by law, such as the school accountability committee, and those created to meet the specific needs of the school should be outlined in the bylaws. Typically these will include finance, governance, executive, marketing/public relations and facility committees.

7) Bylaws will confirm that the school is responsible for the indemnification of directors and that D&O (Director and Officers) insurance will be provided. 

8) The bylaws identify what constitutes a conflict of interest and the process by which the board will monitor and avoid these from interfering with board work.
It is best practice for boards to review their bylaws annually, and to have them periodically reviewed by your school attorney. When revisions are made, they should also be sent to the CSI Director of Legal and Policy Initiatives, Trish Krajniak .

This is a great time of year to talk about your board bylaws to give members a clear understanding of how business will be done at your school. Click here for Do's and Don't's of Board Bylaws.
Colorado Charter School Institute | CSI_Info@csi.state.co.us | 303-866-3299 | www.csi.state.co.us