Northern California Charter School Board Members Focus on Governance

December 16, 2010

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Good governance means having structures in place to keep your organization running strong, despite challenges. When charter schools stumble, organizations with a strong governance structure regain their footing quickly; weaker organizations may suffer serious injuries when confronted with controversial issues.

At the very top of non-profit charter school's governance structure is the governing board - a group of dedicated volunteers that are elected or appointed to keep the school on track. In order to help strengthen charter school governance, charter school board members and directors recently participated in a governance training sponsored by the Association and held at Blue Oak Charter School in Chico, California. In all, more than 40 board members from 7 charter schools attended the four-hour training to learn more about board duties.

"It's important to understand the rules of the game," said Laura Kerr, CCSA's regional director for Northeastern California. "We wanted to offer a high-quality, low-cost training for non-profit charter school board members and their staff about this very important topic."

Judging from attendees' comments, the training was successful in that endeavor. "Not only did all our Board Members learn a ton, it is also very nice to meet Board Members from other schools and compare challenges," said Lisa Speegle, chief financial officer for Forest Ranch Charter School.

Like other non-profit board members, charter board members have duty to make informed decisions, provide financial oversight, and be loyal to the organization. Unlike other non-profit boards, charter school boards must conduct business in open meetings, comply with Public Records Act Requests, and disclose their material interests.

Since some rules apply, others don't, it's important to have regular trainings and updates from experts in the field. The Association's Knowledge Management team and an attorney from the Procopio law firm provided detailed information and a resource binder for participants.

"Alice (Miller, director of knowledge management for the Association) was fantastic as always and the addition of the attorney was perfect," said Speegle. CCSA's Miller and her team focused on academic and fiscal oversight, while attorney John Lemmo focused on corporate roles and responsibilities.

Charter school board members bring diverse skills and experience to the table, but they share the same responsibility to achieving the mission of the charter school. With a little bit of training each board member will play an important role in sustaining a strong charter organization over time. CCSA offers a variety of resources to support members in implementing sound governance practices, including web-based information, as well as a special Board Governance Summit and a number of breakout sessions at the Annual Charter Schools Conference.

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