by Dana McNally
The ABC’s of a Healthy Start-up Charter School
As a developer of over 60 charter schools nationally, almost all start-ups, we are often asked what we have learned as keys to new schools succeeding. Though starting and operating a successful school is complicated and challenging, there are some basic rules that commonly apply. Let’s call them the ABC’s of a healthy start-up charter school.
Academics & Curriculum
Charter schools are in the business of providing an innovative educational choice for students and families outside of what is commonly offered through traditional public schools. This goes to the core of what creates success. If the academics or the curriculum fails to offer that basic product, the school has a much lower chance of retaining its charter, much less being successful. We look to see that a school can not only identify this innovative method, but show it can be delivered through a competent and energetic staff of teaching professionals over the long term.
Operations & Continuity
It is important for the stakeholders in any school to understand the areas of expertise needed for success. For example, board members must govern and oversee, administrators must ensure the management of the staff, and teachers must deliver in the classrooms. With so much public money passing through the school, it is also imperative that proper management of accounting, human resources, and other “back of house” services are properly allocated and managed in a transparent and professional way. The school must also demonstrate the ability to ensure continuity of the school’s mission can be carried out, outside of any one individual. The school must be able to stand on its own through time and changes in staff and board membership.
Every school needs to effectively broadcast its purpose and desire to provide school choice in a community. What does the school offer? How does the curriculum provide an alternative? What is a public charter school? These marketing and public relations requirements are exponentially more important for a start-up school. A school must have a defined marketing plan and the funds and resources available to see it is carried out effectively to mitigate enrollment risk. Even with the best academic program possible, no school can operate without students.
Of course our firm strongly believes that the attractiveness of a safe and nurturing campus is a key to ensuring long term school success. Trying to start a school in a temporary space does not reflect the image to the community that the school is an effective option and is “here to stay”. Though it used to be that a charter school anywhere would prevail, that is not the case anymore. Charter growth in many areas means that not only is a school needing to demonstrate its benefits compared to traditional public schools, it must also show a benefit compared to other charter schools. A proper facility should tie in the curriculum and academic needs of the school within the school’s budget with the goal of school ownership within a reasonable period. This will allow the school to effectively demonstrate it deserves a family’s consideration long term.
If you’d like more information on a facility for your new or existing school, please visit our website at www.schooldev.us