New Hampshire Alliance for Public Charter Schools


Opening a public charter school is not easy but it is very rewarding when you witness that difference that a charter school can make in the lives of your students. Successful groups break the development process up into a number of different stages. Our office offers free assistance to individuals and groups that would like to learn more about the charter school startup process. Contact Matt at matt@nhcharterschools.org to learn more.

PHASES OF DEVELOPMENT
Phase I: Exploring Charter Schools
Phase II: Application: Drafting, Presenting, and Getting the Charter Approved

Phase III: Pre-Operations: Getting Ready
Phase IV: Operations: Opening the Doors, Troubleshooting, and Making Improvements

Phase I: Exploring Charter Schools

The first step in the process usually occurs when someone becomes interested in charter schools and wants to learn more about them. This phase includes exploring your reasons for choosing to start a charter school, gathering basic background information on charter schools, and assembling a school design team and framework. After considering the development process, people interested in moving forward need to find one or more interested individuals to help them form a team. Developing a charter school involves a tremendous amount of work and having a good group of people committed to its success will help tremendously. It is also prudent to survey your community's readiness for starting a charter school by holding a public meeting or information session at a public library.

Investigate State Laws and Policies

Charter developers should carefully review New Hampshire's current charter school legislation early in the exploration process, as state laws authorizing charter schools vary significantly and change over time. See RSA 194:B for current law. New Hampshire currently has 2 charter school authorizers.

1. the legislative body of the local school district (the voters), except in cities,(city council )

2. the State Board of Education.

In order to submit a charter application in New Hampshire, you must conform to RSA 194-B:3, V which states; Persons or entities eligible to submit an application to establish a charter school shall include:

  • a nonprofit organization including, but not limited to, a college, university, museum, service club, or similar entity,
  • a group of 2 or more New Hampshire certified teachers,
  • a group of 10 or more parents.

A separate provision allows any existing public school to convert to a charter school.

How do you form a non profit?

Forming a non profit is not difficult.

http://www.sos.nh.gov/corporate/Nonprofitforms.html (Articles of Incorporation & other Forms)

http://www.nhnonprofits.org/knowledgecenter/nonprofbasics/startinganonprofit.cfm (NH center for Non Profits)

New Hampshire's charter school law does not allow a school district to submit a charter; however, a school district can collaborate, help sponsor, or even create a non-profit organization that then sponsors a charter school application. Charter school applications developed with university, business, or school district support will have more strength and credibility when asking a public body for authorization.

Assemble a Core Group or Team

The core founding group (design team, organizing committee) moves the charter school from dream to reality. They plan, write the charter, and some of them may even operate it. This work requires a great amount of time and a wide variety of skills; thus your core team's expertise should be broadly based, but team members' vision should be narrowly focused on a shared educational mission. Expertise in the following areas may be key:

  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Community relations or marketing
  • Finance and fundraising
  • Governance and management
  • Legal issues, educational law
  • Student assessment
  • Real estate

When recruiting people to join the core founding group, you may want to look for entrepreneurs; educators; lawyers; accountants; key community members; business people with personnel, management, and marketing experience; and visionaries. You will need people with strong organizational skills, potential charter school parents, and others. The expertise you don't find within your core group may be found through the local business community, colleges/universities, parents, and other community members.

Design a Comprehensive School Plan

Many charter school developers come together with an idea already in mind for what they want to accomplish. This idea needs to be fleshed out as a comprehensive school design framework, including the following:

  • a clear and agreed-upon mission and vision
  • an overview of the instructional program
  • a description of school governance and administrative structure
  • a staffing plan
  • a statement of facilities needs, and
  • a draft budget

Phase II. Application: Drafting, Presenting, and Getting the Charter Approved

This phase includes writing and negotiating the terms of an actual charter document and applying to the State Board of Education for approval. All charter must be approved by the State Board of Education. Click on the link that follows to view NH Department of Education application guidelines.

Drafting the Charter

The charter is a legal document granting permission to a group or individual to operate a public school. The purpose, content, and format of charter documents vary widely among states. Generally, the key components of a strong charter application include the following:

  • Clear mission statement
  • Statement of why the school is needed
  • Description of the education program to be used
  • Learning objectives for students
  • Methods for student assessment
  • Financial plan and 3-5 year budget projection
  • Governance and/or organizational model
  • Personnel policies
  • Student enrollment and discipline policies
  • Facilities information
  • Insurance (as applicable)
  • Compliance with state and federal regulations, as well as with any other requirements
  • Reference to a predetermined monitoring, evaluation, and renewal process

Presenting and Getting the Charter Approved

To get a charter approved you need to maximize buy-in from stakeholders in the community you will serve. It is important to enlist community support for your charter school idea. You can gather feedback from representatives of all segments of the community by circulating the application for review. You may also want to submit the draft charter to the staff of your sponsoring agency, the NHDOE and/or school board for review. Carefully consider the feedback you receive and revise the application as applicable. This review stage can strengthen community support, which may prove instrumental once your charter is ready for formal submission. The last step of presenting your charter may involve attending committee hearings to discuss and review the application. Be prepared to show how your school will meet specific needs in the district: bring letters of support with you, and have supporters present at the meeting.

Phase III. Pre-Operations: Getting Ready

This phase follows the approval of the charter application and includes the actual process of developing the school. Below are pointers for navigating this phase.

  • Develop a detailed plan and timeline with the core founding group listing all of the tasks that need to be accomplished before doors open. The plan should identify who will address each issue, when, and how, and how the work will be coordinated.
  • Establish the formal organization. As applicable, draft and file articles of incorporation, file for nonprofit status, recruit and install the governing board, obtain board insurance and draft bylaws, policies, and an administrative structure.
  • Recruit and admit students; recruit and hire staff.
  • Formalize the instructional program. Select and purchase instructional materials, choose methods of assessing student achievement, establish the school calendar, and plan professional development.
  • Secure facility and support services, such as fiscal support (accounting, budget, payroll, banking, auditing, purchasing), transportation, food service, insurance, staff benefits, telecommunications, legal advice, custodial service, etc. 

Phase IV. Operations: Opening the Doors, Troubleshooting, and Making Improvements

This stage includes the actual opening of the charter school, with its inevitable unforeseen issues. It also includes establishing the culture of the school, clarifying the school's expectations and beliefs, and beginning to use data on student performance as the primary guide for school planning and policy making. At this point the work involved will be divided among the charter school teachers, administrator, and board. Several common areas of focus follow:

  • Formally open the doors and celebrate the commencement of the school.
  • Identify and address unforeseen glitches and constraints.
  • Transition the school's governance structure from the initial "start-up" stages to one of ongoing policy-making and oversight.
  • Establish or formalize relationships with community groups, supporters, the sponsor district, the media, and other potential partners.
  • Refine curriculum and instruction.
  • Collect and interpret student performance and achievement data, using it as the foundation for ongoing planning and school policy development.

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