I. Exploration: Surveying the Scene and Laying the Groundwork
Begin by exploring your reasons for choosing to start a charter school, gathering basic background information on charter schools in the state, and assembling a school design team and framework. It’s also wise to survey where a charter will fit in your community’s public education services.
- Investigate state laws and policies
- Review chartering agency policies
- Assemble a core founding group and access experts
- Design a comprehensive school plan
- Engage with your community
II. Application: Drafting, Presenting, and Getting the Charter Approved
Submit a formal charter proposal to your district. All districts are required to hold a public meeting no more than 45 days after receiving a charter proposal to gather information and then, within 30 days of this first public meeting, hold another public meeting to grant or deny the charter.
- Draft the charter proposal
- Locate and tentatively secure a facility for the school
- Draft and file articles of incorporation, file for nonprofit status, recruit and install the governing board, draft bylaws and policies, and create an administrative structure
- Identify and choose a lead administrator (or administrative team)
- Consider whether you will contract with a nonprofit charter management organization (CMO or EMO).
- Present and get the charter approved (the Chicago process includes interviews of design teams and multiple stages of proposal review and public input)
III. Pre-Operations/Incubation: Getting Ready
After a school’s charter has been approved, you will need to prepare and assemble the resources to ensure that the school will be ready to open in the fall.
- Develop formal operating agreements with the sponsor district staff to identify any services they will provide and the terms under which they will provide them
- Recruit and admit students; recruit and hire staff
- Formalize the instructional program; choose and purchase instructional materials, choose methods of assessing student achievement, create the school calendar, and plan professional development
- Prepare facility and support services, such as fiscal support (accounting, budget, payroll, banking, auditing, purchasing), transportation, food service, insurance, staff benefits, telecommunications, etc.
- Establish or formalize relationships with community groups, supporters, the sponsor district, the media, INCS, and other potential partners
IV. Operations: Opening the Doors
Finally, you’ll open the school and begin establishing its culture, clarifying the school’s expectations and beliefs, and providing school programming.
- Formally open the doors and celebrate the commencement of the school
- Transition the school’s governance structure from the initial “start-up” stages to one of ongoing policy-making and oversight
- Deepen relationships with community groups, supporters, the sponsor district, the media, INCS and other potential partners