Maine Charter School Commission

Information Session for Potential Applicants - May 8, 2012

Notes -

Updated Q & A's 5/22/12

The State Charter School Commission held an information session for potential charter school applicants on May 8, 2012, at the Cross State Office Building, 111 Sewall Street, Augusta, Maine. The following members were present: James Banks, Sr.; Richard (Dick) Barnes; Lynda Doyle; Jana Lapoint; Donald Mordecai; Shelley Reed; and William Shuttleworth.

 

Also present: Jennifer Pooler, Department of Education

Welcome and Introductions to State Charter School Commission members

Introduction to the RFP and application

  • Submit complete applications
  • Use section headers/sub-headers
  • Don’t delete sections if they are not applicable to you – keep the format as is
  • The Commission will only respond/answer technical questions, not questions about specific responses
  • Checklist of required exhibits

Financial template

  • Submit complete forms and worksheets
  • If a line item is not applicable, enter 0 or leave it blank
  • There is an “other” line for additional line items not included
  • Include all of the staff you plan to hire on the staffing template

Timeline

  • Letter of Intent due May 16
  • Submitted Application - William Shuttleworth will verify completeness - will contact applicant for MINOR omissions - you will be contacted within 5 days and have 5 days to respond
  • Review teams (4)
    • Don Mordecai – chair, Richard Barnes, Jim Banks
    • Jana Lapoint – chair, William Shuttleworth, Lynda Doyle
    • Richard Barnes – chair, Shelley Reed, Don Mordecai
    • Shelley Reed – chair, William Shuttleworth, Jana Lapoint
  • All Commission members will receive complete applications for review.
  • Expert consultants may be contacted for feedback.
  • Review teams will make recommendations to full Commission on applications to move forward or not.  Simple majority vote of the full Commission is required to move forward to public hearing and in-person interview.
  • After the public hearing and in-person interview, the Commission will vote on whether to grant a charter or not; 5 affirmative votes are required to issue a charter.
  • If charter school approved, the Review Team chair will negotiate a contract with the founders of the charter school, with the assistance of the AG’s office and DOE staff.
  • Pursuant to statute, charter schools may open, at minimum, 60 days after the contract is executed.

Questions/Answers

Q:  If we get our application in by the end of May, how quickly will the Commission act on it so we can have our charter contract in time for a September 2012 opening? 

A:  Will be as expedient as we can; as long as we have the application by the end of May, we expect to have any contract negotiated by the beginning of July.

Q: So, if we get our application in during the month of May, we have a better chance of opening this fall?

A: Although the RFP is open until June 29 – Yes; the earlier you submit your application, the better. Pursuant to statute, charter schools may open, at minimum, 60 days after the charter contract is executed.

Q:  What type of relationship can a charter school have with a charter school management organization or school reform organization?

A:  Limited – you can contract with a management organization for fairly minor stuff, but not to manage the school.

Q:  Can an Education Service Provider be a provider to more than one charter school?

AG's opinion: Nothing in statute prevents this.

Q:  Will the Commission be publishing the scoring sheets they will be using and is it possible for the applicants to receive copies of those prior to submitting their applications?

A:  The Commission wanted to be overwhelmed by the quality and beauty of the academic program of the school.  Want to be convinced by the narrative in the application that the school is sustainable and will be effective.  Do not have any “rubric” type of scoring sheet.  Applications will be scored subjectively – the review team will comment on strengths and weaknesses of the proposal by section and sub-section.

Q:  Will you be using a model contract for use with all charter schools or will you enter into individual contracts depending on the nuances of each school? 

A:  We will use a model contract but will individualize certain sections, as appropriate.

Q:  The objective is a sponsorship relationship between Good Will Hinckley (a long standing non-profit with tremendous resources to provide to the school and has a clear educational objective in Maine) and Maine Academy of Natural Sciences.  Will the Commission view this relationship as one with an educational service provider, or as a closely knit sponsoring relationship.  Want to structure both organizations to have sound governance and sound financial stability.  Are you open to a structure like that? Or, follow the rules and view Good Will Hinckley as an educational service provider

A:  Referred to Sarah in the AG’s office. Also, asked to see an organization structure of the governing board of the school.

Q:  Is it appropriate to continue to inquire about technical issues as we complete our application?

A:  Yes; ask today if you have any.

Q:  Pertaining to the requirement of IRS letter of filed application with IRS although IRS will not accept 1023 application until we receive a charter.  Can we file them simultaneously? 

A: Yes; sounds reasonable.

AG's opinion: 20-A M.R.S.A. 2407(3) states that “an application . . . may be submitted by a  nonprofit, [ ] organization.”  I would interpret that to mean at the time the applications is submitted, the entity must meet whatever criteria the Commission has determined constitutes evidence of “nonprofit.”

Q:  How and where should transportation for a statewide program with a boarding school component be addressed?  Should this be addressed in the transportation plan?

A:  Outline it in your transportation plan.

Q:  Filed IRS forms as an educational foundation with a specific purpose of founding charter schools and received an IRS determination for the foundation.  The foundation will be the non-profit for Baxter Academy of Technology and Science, is that okay? 

A:  Yes.

Q  Would the Commission accept a draft of the IRS 1023 application with the charter school application? 

A:  Yes, that would be sufficient.

AG's opinion: 20-A M.R.S.A. 2407(3) states that “an application . . . may be submitted by a  nonprofit, [ ] organization.”  I would interpret that to mean at the time the applications is submitted, the entity must meet whatever criteria the Commission has determined constitutes evidence of “nonprofit.”

Q:  Can we receive some guidelines on what is and what isn’t considered an educational service provider.

A:  Would rather deal with specifics and individual cases.

Q:  In the Letter of Intent, do you need the proposed contract with the educational service provider itself or just a description of it? 

A:  A description of it is fine.

Q:  Will the Letters of Intent be available and where? 

A:  Yes, the Letters of Intent will be available on the website on May 17. 

Q:  What about the timeline, scoring rubric and comments of the review team members?

A:  Timeline - yes.  Scoring template - yes.  Comments of the review team members - will have to check on that.

Q:  What will the public receive prior to the public hearing?

A:  Application will be available online prior to the hearing. 

Q:  What is the maximum number of charters you anticipate awarding during this initial round of the RFP?

A:  We have not put a limit on it, but we can only authorize 10 schools in 10 years.

Q:   Where do you see us fitting the founder’s children in the enrollment count in the application? 

A:  In the narrative.

Q:  How and when will the applications be made available to the public? 

A:  They will be posted on the website shortly after they have been received.

Q:  Is it safe to assume that the Commission will charge the full 3% for oversight and the sending school charge 1%.

A:   Yes

Q:  Should we assume the EPS rates for the next three years?  Or use the current year and assume an escalator.

A:  Build your budget based on the current EPS rates-not assuming an escalator. 

DOE response:  Applicants can use the state average EPS rate (elementary $ 6,342, secondary $ 6,784) in their calculations.  Or applicants can use the EPS rates for the districts in their catchment area posted online at http://www.maine.gov/education/data/subsidy/FY13PreliminarySubsidy.htm .  Using this method, they will be making assumptions as to how many students are coming from each district.  Applicants will have to make assumptions regarding special education student enrollment when using either method and adjust for that.

Q:  Students attending part time? 

A:  Contact Jim Rier for assistance.

Q:  Issuance of extra-curricular fees?  Should we include language regarding a cap or scholarships for under privileged students? 

A:  Must provide equal opportunities regardless of socio-economic status. 

Q:  Describe the relationship between virtual public charter schools and local school districts for students to participate in co-and extra-curricular activities?

A:  Question forwarded to DOE for answer.

DOE response: 20-A M.R.S.A. 2415(2) states, in part:

. . . A public charter school student is eligible to participate in extracurricular activities not offered by the student's public charter school at the non-charter public school within the attendance boundaries of which the student's custodial parent or legal guardian resides or the non-charter public school from which the student withdrew for the purpose of attending a public charter school. A public charter school student is eligible for extracurricular activities at a non-charter public school subject to eligibility standards applied to full-time students of the non-charter public school. A school administrative unit or non-charter public school may not impose additional requirements on a public charter school student to participate in extracurricular activities that are not imposed on full-time students of the non-charter public school. Public charter school students shall pay the same fees as other students to participate in extracurricular or co-curricular activities. For each public charter school student who participates in an extracurricular or co-curricular activity at a non-charter public school, the public charter school must pay a reasonable share of the non-charter public school's costs for the activity, as determined through negotiations between the schools involved.

Q:  Would the commission not be engaging consultants who operate schools or are affiliated with schools that are in competition with an applicant.

A:  Absolutely not.

Q:  Are there any formal or informal measures at the application stage to ensure a variety of students (ELL, Spec Ed)?

A:   No. 

Q:  Our catchment area is greater Portland (Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth, So. Port), but the catchment area does not demographically mirror Portland.   How do we calculate an EPS rate based on that?

A:  Not answered.

Q:  We plan to not use the age-based grading system, but a standards-based system; can we apply the min-max to a grade span?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Is Infinite Campus or PowerSchool going to be required and provided to charter schools?  Will it be free of charge?

A  Question forwarded to DOE for answer.

DOE response: Charter schools have a choice of which student information system they will use, either Power School or Infinite Campus.  It is at their cost – they can buy it directly from the vendor or from the state contracts and make payments to DOE for it. 

Q:  With respect to the measurable objectives, are we to be making those objectives in relationship to those in Appendix A, and should we include them as goals in the application or is that something that will be negotiated after? 

A:  Yes; any information you can include in the application to support your curriculum is advised.

Q:  How many measures of student performance will the Commission require?  What state tests will be required? 

A:  Charter Schools must complete all assessments that non-charter public schools do.  You can use other measures (performance-based) as well. 

Q:  Transportation for HS students.  The law is different for high school students; therefore, the transportation plan will be different for a high school.  Is that correct?

A:  Yes. 

Q:  Will it be acceptable?

A:  Yes

Q:  Review teams cannot speak with applicants, is it safe to assume they also cannot speak to others? 

A:  Yes.

Q:  We plan to open starting with only a few grade levels – but plan to expand in the future – do we just need to explain that in the application? 

A:  Yes

This is new for all of us; please keep that in mind as you review applications.  Those applying next cycle will certainly learn from those of us who are applying this cycle.

Q:  Can we assume a yearly monitoring and oversight on-site review? 

A:  Maybe even quarterly.

Q:  Is there another application cycle set up for next year? 

A:  There will be one application cycle for 2012-13.  The RFP will be issued in Sept 2012, with applications, approval and charters issued by Feb 2013 for schools opening in the fall of 2013.  The timeline will be approximately the same (months) for the 2013-14 application cycle.

Q:  If a charter school chooses not to transport secondary students, are they still eligible for transportation moneys computed under the EPS formula?

A:  A charter school is allowed a per pupil rate for transportation.  If they do not transport the students, they would not be eligible for the funds.