MACS Board – Defining Technical Assistance vs. Services for Fee

While one of the ongoing challenges in being a “Membership Association” is explaining the value of the “intangible benefit” of being a member of a community bigger than one’s own institution, defining and explaining “tangible benefits” can also be a challenge, especially in terms of what constitutes “technical assistance” as part of membership verses “services for a fee”.

This summer the MACS Board pondered the question of what constitutes “technical assistance” to member schools versus what should be “services for a fee“. The Board approved a framework for thinking about what technical assistance is and is not.

SoWhat is Technical Assistance to Member Schools?

In its simplest terms it is the act providing information, advice, and counsel to our member institutions whether it be via the phone, email, or on-site at the MACS office or at the members site.

Technical assistance is basically a free unlimited benefit of membership. [The only limitation on technical assistance is in terms of on-site consultations – when it becomes clear that it is no longer a consultation, but providing consulting services.]

The purpose of having a framework defining “technical assistance” is two-fold.

First, to provide a guide for the Association’s work, and the fair and equitable interaction with member schools; and Second, to ensure that all members know and understand one of the important “tangible benefits” of membership in the Association.

QUESTIONS? – Charter School Board of Directors Should ASK – A New Board Resource

In our Board Governance Course 100 – Welcome to the World of  Charter School Governance  we walk through the three basic kinds of Questions that Charter School Boards of Directors should always be asking – What? Why? and How Much?  Over the last year, a number of folks who have participated in those classes have asked for assistance in defining the What?, Why? and How Much? – questions that they should ask as board members, on a range of topics.

Based on those requests we have developed a NEW RESOURCE  for Charter School Boards of Directors entitled: QUESTIONS?  Charter School Boards of Directors Should ASK.   There are five sets of Questions in the Series, on the following topics: ASSESSMENTS, CHARTER CONTRACT, FINANCES, HUMAN RESOURCES, and PROGRAMS.

The first document in the Series is: QUESTIONS? Charter School Board Should ASK About – ASSESSMENTS will be sent to Member schools next week – the first week of September.

Members Schools will be sent the CHARTER CONTRACT in October, FINANCES in November, HUMAN RESOURCES in December, and PROGRAMS in January.



Principles of Sound Personnel Practices for Minnesota Charter Schools

Over the last couple of years the volume of calls we receive from schools on personnel issues and practices has grown significantly and it continues to grow on a monthly basis. As a result, one of the focus areas of the Association’s Strategic Outcomes is to “Develop and strengthen the leadership and human resource management capacity of charter school leaders”.

To accomplish that outcome the Association has developed a number of tools and resources for schools, for example last spring we published A Primer on Employment in Charter Schools.

Today, we are publishing, Principles of Sound Personnel Practices for Minnesota Charter Schools.  Member schools can access it as a Document on the Human Resources page of the MACS website.

The Principles provide a framework for establishing or reviewing the personnel practices of a school.



Fraser (the non-profit social service agency) and Rochester Community and Technical College have notified the MN Department of Education and the school they respectively authorize that they are withdrawing as approved authorizers as of June 30, 2015. Fraser is the authorizer of Fraser Academy, Minneapolis and Rochester Community College is the authorizer of Rochester Off-Campus High School (ROC), Rochester.

Minnesota’s charter school law requires an organization that is an approved authorizer to notify MDE and the schools it authorizes by July 15 of its intent to withdraw as an authorizer on June 30th in the next calendar year.  This provision was amended into the law in 2009.


The MN Department of Education(MDE) has announced that the first round of authorizer performance evaluations will begin during the 1st Quarter of 2015. An evaluation is expected to take about 3-4 months from the beginning of the process to the issuance of a report on the authorizer’s performance.

According to the criteria announced by the Department, performance will be based on 25% on Authorizer Capacity and Infrastructure and 75% on Authorizer Process and Decision-Making.

Minnesota’s charter school law requires that the Commissioner conduct a performance review of an authorizer’s performance at least every five years. This provision was amended into the law in 2009.


Charter School Leadership Skills Assessment Seminar Scheduled

The next Charter School Leadership Skills Assessment Seminar co-sponsored by the University of St. Thomas and the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools is scheduled for November 12 -13, 2014 and January 14, 2015.

The 3-Day Seminar is a tailored to the challenges of leading a charter school. The Seminar is designed to allow current and aspiring charter school leaders an opportunity to assess their skills and competencies, using real life work situations to demonstrate these skills and then create a professional development plan to improve and strengthen their skills and competencies. The seminar is facilitated by Dr. Dave Peterson, Dept. of Educational Leadership, Policy and Administration, at the University.

Individuals from members schools of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools receive a 20% discount on the seminar’s tuition. The seminar, which is offered annually is the work product of a multi-year collaboration between the University and the Association.


Enhancing the leadership and management capacity of school leaders is one of the strategic goals of the MN Association of Charter Schools.


MACS Board Explores the Threats to Minnesota’s Charter School Movement

One of the functions of a Board is to undertake a regular and careful assessment of the threats, the challenges, and the opportunities ahead.

In June, the MACS Board spent a day looking at the internal and external threats to Minnesota’s Charter School Movement. As part of the day long exercise the Board identified and discussed over 24 potential internal and external threats. The board then prioritized the most critical threats,and as it did the board,  “… looked beyond simple answers and  focused on the fact that it is normally the internal threats that do the most  to undermine a movement, given that it is unaddressed internal threats that often provide energy and life to the external threats.” 

Through the course of the day it was clear that there are four potential threats that should be the focus of the Association’s attention and action if Minnesota’s Charter School Movement is to continue to grow and be sustained: The four potential threats are: the Capacity and Effectiveness of Board Governance; the Management Capacity and/or Leadership of School Administration; the Capacity, Quality and Quantity of Authorizing and the Level of Political Engagement by the Charter School Community.


Charter School Funding Under Scrunity Across America

WASHINGTON [State] – 8/15/2014 – The Washington State Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments on whether the charter school law adopted by voters in 2012 is constitutional. The main issue in the case is whether charter schools qualify under the state constitution as “common schools” which would make them eligible for certain categories of public funding – including funding for facilities. The lawsuit against the constitutional of charters in Washington State being qualified as “common schools” has been brought by a consortium of groups including the League of Women Voters and the state teacher’s union.  Source: Seattle Times

LOUISIANA – 8/17/2014 – The Iberville Parish (COUNTY) School Board announced that it will file a lawsuit against the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Education over that agency’s approval of Type 2 charters (charter schools approved directly by the State without approval from the local school board). The lawsuit is aimed at the State for directing the local board to give charter schools funding based on projected enrollments rather than actual enrollments which in turn that affect the district’s share of the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), a constitutionally set amount of money to public schools.  The lawsuit will claim that the State is violating the constitution that specifically defines how the funds from the MFP are to be disbursed to school districts.  Source: The Advocate – Baton Rouge

NEW MEXICO – 8/16/2014 – The New Mexico State Auditor released a report on the financial affairs of two charter schools in Albuquerque. The report cites ‘Procurement Violations, Conflicts of Interest and Increased Fraud Risks Related to Leases, and that the Official Actions of the Head Administrator Enhanced His Personal Financial Interests’.    The report also raised ‘Concerns over the High Salaries and Generous Benefits Packages for the Top Charter School Staff.’ The State Auditor referred some of issues to the FBI for further action, and called on the State Education Agency and the State Legislature to take action to strengthen charter school financial oversight to reduce the risk of fraud, waste and abuse.  Source: New Mexico Office of State Auditor Press Release