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How YPICS Stays On Track with BoardOnTrack

A chat with Yvette King-Berg, Executive Director, Youth Policy Institute Charter Schools {YPICS}.

BoardOnTrack membership has been a vital part of the YPICS story nearly since their founding.

On a mission to “prepare citizen-scholars to be leaders and innovators who will serve their communities,” YPICS is a Southern California-based charter management organization comprised of three schools — two middle schools and, most recently opened, one high school. 

We recently sat down with YPICS Executive Director Yvette King-Berg for a wide-ranging discussion shared with you here. 

We’ll cover what it takes to lead a charter school organization at a key growth stage, how her partnership with her board has been instrumental to her success, and what BoardOnTrack membership has meant to Yvette and YPICS overall.

BoardOnTrack: What inspired you to become the CEO of a charter organization?

Yvette King-Berg      Wow, that’s a big question. I’ve been in education for over 30 years. I became a part of the charter school movement in California back in 1994, when the charter school legislation was first passed. 

That legislation was like a license to dream of a new school; to actually provide educational opportunities for kids whose needs weren’t being met by the system. 

At the time, I was an elementary school teacher in northeast San Fernando Valley. We converted our school from a traditional school to a charter school. I was a founding teacher at Fenton Avenue Charter School at the time, and I was the UTLA Chapter Chair. 

Plus, I’m a mother of a child who’s been educated in the charter school movement. I want to do for other kids what I’ve been able to do for my own son.  

“I want to do for other kids what I’ve been able to do for my own son.”
-Yvette King-Berg, Executive Director, YPICS

Most of my students that we serve are Spanish speakers and come from poor communities. These are kids who are often perceived as underperforming, and are underserved by the traditional public school system. 

But when our high schoolers finish their senior year, they’ll have access to the same kinds of future educational opportunities that so many other students have had along the way. And we will be able to position the communities to benefit from their education.  

I am proud to share that our first senior class (2019) of 42 students were accepted into 32 different colleges and universities. We even had students accepted to UC Davis, UC Merced, and UC Berkeley.  That class included 15% of students who were English Learners and 16% of the 42 were students with disabilities.

What role does your board play in helping you deliver on your vision?

YBK        I’m really fortunate that I have a board that is aligned and very supportive of me as a CEO. They hold me true to making sure that we’re meeting the promises that are outlined in our contract with our district. 

We’re now in our third opening. We have two middle schools and a high school. And we want to make sure that we’re growing strong schools, getting great academic outcomes. 

My board understands that it’s critically important that I can’t do this work without them. I need their support and alignment to make this vision of growing schools happen.  I’m not in this work alone. And, the days that I get tired, it’s nice to be able to know that there’s a team.  

Can you name the things that you believe make a great charter school board?

YBK       First, it’s a board that knows and understands their role. They’re not the coach with me on the field, playing and calling the shots. They’re more like the owner of the organization. 

Understanding that difference means not micromanaging me [as the Executive Director], but holding me accountable to our collective goals throughout the year. 

Second, a great charter school board partners with me. They hold me accountable through a strong CEO evaluation and process. The keep an eye on the fiscal management of our school; they make sure that we’re getting the academic outcomes and results, without stepping over the line between board and management.

Just knowing that they’re a strong partner is so important. 

How have you navigated the governance-management line as you’ve grown? 

YBK       My board never micromanages our organization’s operations. 

In the very beginning years of the organization, the board president was very directive. It almost felt like it was his organization; and it really wasn’t the executive director who was in charge and responsible for the results. The board president was very highly engaged in the selection of all the lead principals and the key positions within the organization. 

That line has definitely moved. It’s my responsibility as the CEO to manage our talent management.

And in terms of our work [as a governance team], it’s not about the day-to-day and it’s not just about the compliance. We’re at a place now where we’re able to step back and look at things strategically.

Can you talk a little bit about the nature of your board-CEO partnership?

YBK     My board chair and I usually meet a few weeks before board meetings to take a look at the board agenda. 

We’ll ask ourselves: What are our current goals? What are we working on? What do we need to bring back to our upcoming board meeting? 

Because we have those regular one-to-one meetings before our board meetings, I feel like she’s really supportive of where we are as an organization. It’s amazing — even in between meetings, she’ll pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, I just thought this.’ It’s just very comfortable.

How has BoardOnTrack helped your board?

YBK      BoardOnTrack has helped us, hands down, because of several things: the networking between our board and other boards, help staying organized with our board meetings and planning and getting our calendars structured; and the access to training resources and ongoing professional development. 

The training resources help my board to grow their learning and understanding of what it means to be a board member. And it empowers me as a CEO. 

BoardOnTrack has helped in being able to add on board members for our board. We can step back and reflect — who’s on the bench. It’s been really helpful to have a reflective practice and a systematic way of thinking through how to look at what’s on the board and where do we need to go in the future.

And  it’s helped with onboarding those new board members. You get used to working with the board members who have been with you. And then, we’ve got to start over again with this new board member — how do we bring them up to where the current board is? 

We have continuity through leadership transitions. I’m now on my third board president. And there hasn’t been a loss of documents. There is a history, we can look things up.

“Having BoardOnTrack really helps me to stay organized with my board, and make sure our meetings are effective. ” 

-Yvette King-Berg, Executive Director, YPICS

Part of being a great charter school board is making sure that you’re just bottom-line compliant with the law and following the Brown Act. Often times, the simple things, like process and lack of fiscal accountability, can cause charter schools to close. 

Going through audits has been wonderful with BoardOnTrack versus going through audits prior to not having access to BoardOnTrack. If I’m in the middle of an audit, to not have to go back and re-find all of the minutes that addressed a particular issue. 

And I’m not on my board members all the time about when the next meeting is, or if they’re ready. I’m not having to run around and find the secretary, figuring out who wrote the minutes and put them somewhere else. It’s just all where it needs to be. 

And when they’re having committee meetings, they know how to go into the system and make sure that they’re running their meetings right.

And if we’re starting a new committee and we need to think about the roles of that committee, it’s nice to be able to go to the resource library and have access to that. 

“BoardOnTrack helps us leverage information, documentation, accountability, and manage the bottom line. It’s the history of the organization.”  

-Yvette King-Berg, Executive Director, YPICS

Charters often struggle to staff and activate board committees.
How do you ensure your committees are active and getting the right work done?

YBK   We now have a couple of committees that are really active. They’re meeting in between board meetings. And at the full board meetings, it’s not just me reporting out; it’s also the chairs of those committees reporting out on their work. 

And I don’t feel like I’m responsible for everything. They’re keeping track of their minutes within the BoardOnTrack system, like we do for our regular board meeting. It’s a place for them to kind of handle everything.  

And when they set up their meetings, BoardOnTrack sends out meeting reminders to their committee members. It helps them to stay organized and to actually perform their committee member responsibilities with a lot of ease, instead of it being overly complicated.

“Our board members are volunteers. If they’re having to keep track of everything, it’s too much. It’s so nice to have one place where everything’s there. ”  

-Yvette King-Berg, Executive Director, YPICS

How does BoardOnTrack membership help you build up your skills as a charter leader?

YBK    In the early days, I had the opportunity to receive executive coaching, with Marci and with other executive directors across the country. That was really helpful.  

Now, that ongoing professional development and education is available through the webinars held through BoardOnTrack.

The timing of those webinars and trainings tends to follow the natural timeline of the leader within a school system. The things that they need to be focused on. 

And you can always go back and view it, if you didn’t have an opportunity to plug in live. I appreciate that it’s available — even if I’m up at 11 pm and that’s the only time I have to access it. 

Especially as a startup administrator of a school, there aren’t executive director of schools training, you know, there’s superintendents and I just think that a superintendent is very different than being an executive director of a startup charter school. 

“Very few places offer the kind of professional development that’s specific to charter schools and board development that’s available through BoardOnTrack. ”
-Yvette King-Berg, Executive Director, YPICS

What advice would you give other charter CEOs about investing in their board’s professional development?

YBK   Volunteers are short on time. And volunteers who have never served on a board don’t know what they don’t know. 

So it is really important for you to be able to onboard your board members and to provide them with the professional development that they need quickly, succinctly, specifically, so that they can become better and more effective board members. Because the more effective they are as board members, the more smoothly your organization will run as a business.

And investing in your board’s professional development is worth it. Because when you’ve been able to provide for them the resources that they need to grow and develop as a board, they lead better as board members. And that helps your whole organization run more effectively and smoothly. 

If your board is an excellent board and knocking out of the park and on all four cylinders, it really makes it possible for you as a CEO to be able to better lead the organization. You’re leading from excellence in all levels of the organization — the team you manage, you as a leader, and your board.

Charter school governance is ever-evolving

Through every stage of growth, YPICs has prioritized the governance-management partnership, ensured the board had access to professional development activities and training resources, and that the board’s capabilities were evolving alongside the organization’s needs.

But they didn’t do this all alone. We’re proud to have been part of the YPICS story, along with the hundreds of other organizations that have chosen BoardOnTrack membership. 

We’d be honored to be part of your story, too. 

Tell us what your board needs to achieve this year.
And ask us anything about how
BoardOnTrack can help.

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