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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Opening a Charter School

Opening a Charter School

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How can the group help you anticipate and plan for your first years in a newly opened charter school? How can ther group help you respond to the unanticipated issues that come along with the messy, necessary work of dveloping new systems and a new school culture? This discussion is for group members to ask and answer questions about opening a Charter School.

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Chad Sansing's picture
Chad Sansing
Charter school humanities teacher for non-traditional middle grade learners

Hi, LPS -

Here's our advice:

1. In this climate, don't have your first meetings be about money. Have your meetings be about the need for your school. Concentrate on the vision, mission, and clientele.

2. In our experience the people that you attract first are not people inclined to think of business plans. It's great that you have one and bring business expertise to the table. To get partners at the beginning of the process, stick to the vision and try to recruit people in the following ways:

-Advertise your focus by putting up fliers in local coffee shops and libraries, Advertise on the radio. Find a community space that's centrally located for your first meeting to find public support. A good place to generate interest is in front of a supermarket on a Saturday afternoon, introducing yourself and giving out fliers. Starting a charter school is a public job. Think of yourself as if you're running for mayor.

-Go to places of worship and share your vision with their congregations.

-Spread your vision wherever you can, which might not be what you have word for word in the business plan. Give a flier to anyone who might be interested, including your colleagues and allies in your school division.

As you recruit people interested in the school's promise, you'll discover your next steps according to the strengths and needs of your support network.

gdiaz's picture
gdiaz
World Humanities teacher from Humble, TX

I am new to Edutopia...and cannot believe how the universe has conspired to help me! I am in the process of saving an old high school in my area to open a charter school. This beautiful building has been condemned and the district is taking bids to tear it down. I want to save the building and start a program...but it's hard to know what "step one" is. I feel like the clock is ticking to save the building, but I also want to develop a strong mission/vision.

Any guidance would be SO appreciated!

Chad Sansing's picture
Chad Sansing
Charter school humanities teacher for non-traditional middle grade learners

If the building is in good enough shape to be refitted and re-purposed , I think you have a good shot, gdiaz. Thanks, also, Brett, for those Texas charter links!

From what I've seen and heard, it's much easier to get federal grant money for the one-time infrastructure costs associated with opening a new charter school than it is to secure recurring funds for staffing.

Here are a few links that point towards grant opportunities:

National Resource Center on Charter School Finance and Government Federal Catalog Search Page:
http://www.charterresource.org/index.cfm?page=5

Info on Public Charter Schools Program:
http://www.charterresource.org/fedfund_view.cfm?id=308&keyword=charter&a...

Info on State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grant Program:
http://www.charterresource.org/fedfund_view.cfm?id=140&keyword=charter&a...

National Institute of Building Sciences Federal School Facilities Funding Info:
http://www.edfacilities.org/rl/federal_funding.cfm

I hope these help you find the money to secure space for your charter school, gdiaz!

All the best,
C

Brett Blanchard's picture
Brett Blanchard
Principal of Fair Haven Union High School

Chad:

Terrific links and trying to scan through some now. The recent decision not to send Race to the Top money to either New York or Vermont will have an effect on all public schools, especially perhaps recent charters so these grant opportunities may be more crucial than ever.

Brett

gdiaz's picture
gdiaz
World Humanities teacher from Humble, TX

Thank you both so much! The process seems so intimidating. I have a lot to research this weekend!

LPS's picture
LPS
Cross Categorical/self-contained - Teacher

I will check out these links. I am going to pursue this during the Summer (when school is out). I want work on my vision and figure out how to go about getting Tribal support, as well as do a survey/needs assesment in the area where I am interested in opening a charter. Thank you for the information. I will prep my survey, flyers etc.. to draw in the community.

Lori Fisher's picture

As someone who is just finishing the first year in a brand new charter school, I have three pieces of advice. One is to have a VERY clear vision of what pedagogical model you plan to use. The more clear this is, the easier it will be to explain to prospective students and parents. The second is to hire teachers who are experienced in that model. Finally, have a clear exit plan for the board. We've found that boards can hang on to school control far longer than is healthy for the school, and have trouble transitioning to a support/fundraising role.

Chad Sansing's picture
Chad Sansing
Charter school humanities teacher for non-traditional middle grade learners

Lori, you're advice is spot on - thanks so much for sharing it here. Clarity of purpose and unity of vision between staff members, between the school and its board, and between the school and its community are vital to the success and sustainability of new charters.

All the best,
C

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