The three major things to accomplish during this phase are:
1. Prepare Your Board for the Charter Interview
Ensure that the full board is well-versed in the big picture points of the entire charter application
Ensure that the full board is particularly well-versed in the sections they are mostly likely going to be asked to answer in the charter interview
Use the charter application review process to develop a shared understanding of the governance/management line during the charter school founding phase
2. Run Effective Board Meetings
Now is a great time to get the full team harnessing the power of BoardOnTrack to streamline your meeting logistics and preparation.
In addition, you should run your meetings as if they needed to comply with open meeting law requirements, so when you are chartered you’ll be comfortable with the rules and procedures
3. Agree to a Board Expansion Plan Post-Chartering
It is quite likely that your founding board will be asked in the charter application phase to describe your board expansion plans. Now is a great time to take stock of the strengths of your board and complete a founding board assessment. Then, as a team, you should prioritize the skills and qualities you need and develop a comprehensive board expansion plan
Ideally, before you submitted your charter application you had the time to walk your entire founding board through the entire charter application and they already feel comfortable with its contents. But, for many founders, the charter application timeline is so tight that this step doesn’t happen until after the charter has been submitted. Not to worry, below you will find steps to guide you through getting the founding board comfortable with the charter application.
Steps to Conduct a Comprehensive Review of the Charter Application
1. Think strategically about what needs to be shared
Most charter applications are very large documents. They can be hundreds of pages with many complicated attachments. It’s important as the lead founder to step back and think strategically about what needs to shared with the founding board and in what level of detail. The BoardOnTrack rule of thumb is that the board focuses on results, and the management team focuses on the means to get to the results. So place much more attention on what the results are that the board will need to hold the CEO accountable to deliver, and less time on nitpicky things about how you will get there. Also if there are sections in your charter application that are pro-forma—meaning state or federal law requires certain language, then make that clear to the board so they know it is something that has to be said and has to be said in a certain way.
Use the charter application evaluator rubric to help you think about which sections should have the most amount of airtime in the review.
Also think about the sections that the board may be asked to answer questions about directly in the application interview – these tend to be governance, how the board will evaluate the CEO, and big picture questions about the school’s budget.
2. Map out meetings/timeline
You should be able to review the entire charter with your board in 4-6 hours. Some founding boards like to block out a very long meeting on a Saturday to do this. Others like to chunk it out in several shorter meetings. Either option is fine. Look at the calendar and try to map out your meetings through now and the interview process and think about which sections you will cover and how much time you will allot to each section.
3. Develop Charter Application Section Summary Sheet
The next step is to develop a set of “cliff notes” for the board on each of the sections of the charter application. See attached template and example. The idea is that these cliff notes will be short, targeted, and to the point and can contain the essential things every trustee should know, understand and buy into about the school.
4. Develop other supporting materials
In addition to the cliff notes you may want to provide the board additional, more detailed information such as a helpful article etc.
See the outstanding power point developed by Peter Boyle of Western Tech summarizing the academic section of their charter application.
5. Create carefully planned meeting agendas
Use BoardOnTrack to carefully build out your meeting agendas. Think about how much time you want to spend on each agenda item. To review the charter application sections you should insist that board members come having read the relevant charter sections and the summary sheets and additional supporting material. You should be able to quickly cut to the chase and talk through the big bullets and spend most of the time dialoguing, answering questions and building a team understanding. If you are new to board meetings remember creating an effective agenda is very similar to creating a lesson plan for a class. You need to know what you want to achieve by the time the bell rings and structure things carefully so you will get there.
See example from Western Tech.
6. Assign homework
Founding board members should be expected to do a fair amount of homework prior to the meetings. Your meetings will be more productive if everyone truly reads the assigned homework.
Ask trustees to read the charter application sections, the summary sheets, and additional material you think is relevant.
You may want to provide a template for them keep track of their notes and questions.
7. Conduct the meetings & receive meeting feedback
Some Common Questions:
What is my role at these meetings?
As the lead founder you are in the driver seat during this phase. It is your vision. You wrote the charter. Your role during the phase is to make sure your founding board understands and supports your vision. You need to be patient while getting your board up to speed. Ultimately you want the board to help do heavy lifting on the non-academic pieces: facilities, finances, fundraising etc. But, in order to effectively apply their talents, they need to first understand the “why” and see how all the school design pieces fit together. That is what you are trying to do in this phase. In addition you need to be extremely organized. You want to use the board’s time well.
What if the board disagrees or pushes back about key topics?
Use the charter application review process to build a team understanding of the governance-management line. Discuss what role if any the board should play in each key section. If the board disagrees about the results (ultimately the board’s purview) you should have a healthy discussion, if the board disagrees about the means to get to the results (management) then you should take it under advisement. At this stage, the charter has already been submitted, so you are not in a position to change your answers. You can discuss, debate, and then agree to revisit upon chartering.