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A BoardSavvy Charter CEO, Defined

An effective charter school organization hinges on a strong partnership between the board and its CEO.

The CEO guides the board in developing the strategic direction and in prioritizing resources (financial, human capital and time).

Yet, most charter school leaders have very little governance experience. Being new to boards does not have to hold you back from leading a wildly successful organization. Working with your board is a skill that you can learn. And it’s what we call being a BoardSavvy CEO.

But first: why your school leader is a CEO

Charter schools come in all shapes and sizes, and their leaders hold a wide range of titles: Executive Director, Head of School, School Director, Principal, and CEO, to name a few.

In the BoardOnTrack lexicon, we’ve chosen to call the person at the very top of the organization chart the CEO.

A charter school is a multimillion-dollar public enterprise. And over time, as the organization grows in scale, that school leader grows, too. So we use language to give this role the gravitas that it deserves. We call all school leaders, CEO.

You’ll reach the high bar; at your own pace.

You might be a CEO at a pre-doors open school. You might be running 20 campuses or 50. Our community includes a wide range of amazing charter school CEOs across the country. We set a pretty high bar for all of you.



It’s time to pull back the curtain on charter school leader compensation.

Over time, you can become the best, most fantastic BoardSavvy charter school CEO on the planet. Don’t get alarmed at the high bar. Just take it at your pace, and take in the full vision we hope you’ll aim for.


Download Our Sample Charter CEO Job Description

Set clear expectations from the outset. You’re welcome to use our sample as the basis for your own CEO job description.

It’s built on the knowledge of the hundreds of charter schools we’ve worked with, nationwide.


A BoardSavvy CEO Has Governance Knowledge

A BoardSavvy CEO:

  • Has a strong understanding of effective governance best practices
  • Annually completes professional development on governance
  • Reads extensively about board governance issues
  • Serves on another board outside of his or her organization

At a minimum, a BoardSavvy CEO has a strong understanding of effective governance best practices, annually completes some professional development on governance, reads extensively about board governance issues.

And as your organization gets more advanced — this is definitely not an expectation for the pre-doors open early stage — we highly recommend serving on another board outside of your organization.

The idea of serving on another board can seem overwhelming to some. You’re busy. Especially when you’re leading an early stage charter school, it can be unrealistic to have the time for that, but over time it’s something to strive for.

But it’s so worth it. Serving on another charter’s board will give you a new perspective. It’ll help you appreciate your board so much more. And maybe be less — or more — frustrated with them.

Bottom line: governance is a skill that you can learn. And it doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time.

It’s much easier than figuring out how to close the achievement gap, or do any of the other really big things your vision entails.

There’s a body of knowledge and proven best practices about public charter governance. There’s a path to excellence here, and we can guide you along it.

A BoardSavvy CEO Prioritizes Governance.

A BoardSavvy CEO:

  • Sees developing and maintaining the board as one of his or her primary responsibilities
  • Devotes significant time in helping the board run effectively
  • Ensures that each board committee is appropriately staffed, either by the CEO or another senior staff member
  • Includes governance training as a key component of professional development for senior staff

If you’re BoardSavvy, you make governance a priority. You see developing and maintaining the board as one of your primary responsibilities.

When you dreamed of forming a charter school, you likely thought about the kids and the parents and the amazing curriculum and all kinds of interesting pedagogy delivery models.

Very few future CEOs woke up one day and said, “Yay, I’m going to get to work with the board.”

But it is a part of the CEO’s job. And it needs to be a priority. Significant amounts of your time will be devoted to helping the board run effectively.

You might already work 60- or 70-hour weeks; you might already have what feels like a ridiculous workload. So the idea of adding working with your board to that might rub you the wrong way.

But your board just won’t become a great board or the significant asset you need as CEO, without your leadership.

And part of this attention you give the board is about ensuring that every board committee is appropriately staffed — either by you or, as you grow, by another senior staffer.

So, include governance training as a key component of professional development for your senior staff. They’re a key part of your overall governance team.

Often, we see charter school CEOs get the board functioning really well…but suddenly start to experience old challenges again. Because you’ve stopped prioritizing governance, or you haven’t trained your staff to do so as well.

When you’re growing and you’re expanding, you’re finally able to build out your senior staff; you don’t have to go to all the committee meetings. {As CEO, you still have to go to all the board meetings.}

But, when you start delegating, you might forget that your CFO or your Development Director and Chief Academic Officer {CAO} may have zero governance experience, just as you did at the start. And they might’ve had no governance training yet, either.

So, you all start tripping over that governance-management line, inadvertently, because without governance training, your senior staff don’t fully understand their roles, the board’s role, or how to partner effectively.

Prioritizing governance includes making governance training part of the professional development for senior staff. And remember, as a BoardOnTrack member, you can provide that training by assigning your senior staff to review the BoardSavvy webinars, as well as the Resources in the platform.


A BoardSavvy CEO Educates the Board

A BoardSavvy CEO:

  • Systematically and continually educates the board about key elements of running an exceptional charter school or network of schools
  • Educates the board about the key issues the charter authorizer uses to judge the organization’s performance
  • Educates the board about the charter renewal process
  • Educates the board about state and national measures of academic success

A BoardSavvy CEO systematically and continuously educates the board about the key elements of running an exceptional charter school or network of schools.

You are the expert. Your board can’t make the right decisions if you’re not educating them about the body of knowledge you’ve absorbed.

You’ll need to educate the board about the charter school renewal process. And about the key issues, the charter authorizer’s going to use to judge the organization’s performance.

And, the hardest part might be educating the board about the state and national measures of academic success.

Your board needs to become experts on these things, alongside you, so they can look at the data and make good decisions with you.


A BoardSavvy CEO Sets a Strategic Direction for the Organization

A BoardSavvy CEO:

  • Has a clear strategic vision for the organization
  • Assists the board in clarifying the most important things they can do to help achieve the strategic vision

A BoardSavvy CEO has a very clear strategic vision for the organization. And they assist the board in identifying the most important things the board can do to help achieve that strategic vision.

Often, as well-meaning as the board is, they just don’t know where they can help. They can be fully invested in your vision, but they’ll still need you to tell them how they can add value each year. And a lot of CEOs seem to lack the imagination or the skills to see how their board can help.

Put some time and energy into thinking this through. Ask your peers for ideas. BoardOnTrack members can strike up a conversation with other CEOs or trustees in our members-only Community. Just log in to the platform and click the Community button.


A BoardSavvy CEO Communicates Clearly and Effectively With the Board

A BoardSavvy CEO:

  • Communicates clearly and effectively with the board
  • Always sends out clear, well-organized materials in advance of the board meeting
  • Provides the board with annual metrics on which to measure their individual and organization-wide performance

BoardSavvy CEOs consistently communicate clearly and effectively with their boards.

They always send out clear, well-organized materials in advance of board meetings.

And they provide the board with annual metrics on which to measure their individual and organization-wide performance.

If your board members don’t know what will be discussed and expected of them at the next meeting, don’t have the information they need in advance of the meeting, or don’t know where to find all of the right documents and resources, they will not be able to contribute to the fullest.

And if you want your board members to stay engaged and excited about the work they’re doing with you, they need to know how they’re doing…as well as how the organization is doing as a whole.

In addition to the standard school performance metrics, you should have clear metrics that demonstrate how the board is adding value each year — and where they need to evolve.

Our OnTrack Score makes this simple. Many members just fire up the BoardOnTrack platform live in their board meetings to help guide a data-driven discussion about overall board performance.


 A BoardSavvy CEO Maintains Succession Planning

A BoardSavvy CEO:

  • Partners with the board to develop an agreed-upon short-term/emergency succession plan for the CEO position, that is well documented and reviewed annually.
  • Annually discusses a long-term succession management plan for the organization with the board.

You’re in this to build great schools, but you also must make sure that what you build is sustained in the long term. As the charter school movement grows and matures, sustainability becomes more of a challenge.

Even the most dynamic, amazing founders, won’t be able to lead your organizations forever.

Succession planning is vital to your organization’s future.

As Caprice Young shared on our governing for growth webinar,You really don’t know that a charter school is successful until after the founders have left…And the leaders who have neglected their board and then eventually get to a point where it’s time to leave, leave their charters in a real crisis.”  

It’s the board that takes an organization through a leadership change.

And, as the charter school movement gets to the 25- and 30-year mark, people who founded their charters at the beginning of the movement are now ready to retire. “But they’re finding that the whole organization is dependent on them.”

A BoardSavvy CEO partners with the board to develop an agreed-upon short-term emergency succession plan for the CEO position, as well as a long-term succession plan.

The plan is well documented. And, annually, you review the plan should discuss your succession plan with the board.

Are you growing talent from within? If not, why? What are you learning from the national charter movement about how to grow your own leaders? There’s so much you can gain if you talk with your board about this topic.


How do you know how BoardSavvy you are?

Take the CEO Evaluation built into BoardOnTrack. In fact, you and your trustees can go in and complete it.

Your scores as the CEO are not anonymous. So you can see how you’re ranking yourself, and how BoardSavvy your board thinks you are. You’ll see where you’re aligned in your assessments here, and where you’re not.




It’s time to pull back the curtain on charter school leader compensation.