Sponsoring Priorities

Sponsorship encompasses a great deal of legal responsibility and the ESCLEW Community Schools Center takes its responsibilities seriously.  At the core, it upholds its mission of being a student-centered authorizer of community schools, advancing quality educational opportunities throughout the state of Ohio.

Adhering to the Principles and Standards for Quality Charter School Authorizing as established by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the ESCLEW Community Schools Center uses the principles and standards as the foundation of its sponsoring priorities.

Principles

-- Maintain High Standards

-- Uphold School Autonomy

-- Protect Student and Public Interest

Standards

-- Agency Commitment & Capacity

-- Application Process & Decision-Making

-- Performance Contracting

-- On-Going Oversight and Evaluation

-- Revocation and Renewal Decision-Making

In accordance with the sponsoring priorities, principles, and standards, this application includes prescriptive requirements and evaluation criteria.  In order to preserve the highest standard of quality sponsorship, the school must provide sound evidence of meeting each selection criteria.  Only schools that earn at least 75% of possible points will be considered for a preliminary agreement.

There are significant consequences for poor performance in academics, finance, operations, and governance.  If a school does not perform well, it may be closed automatically by law or by the sponsor, and could be subject to civil liability.  It is imperative the school demonstrates its strong, evidence-based understanding of community school operations before the ESCLEW Community Schools Center would agree to sponsor the community school.

Step 1: Application for Sponsorship

If interested in starting a community school, it is recommended to first research the viability of a community school in the proposed location and the educational and financial plans needed for the school.  It is also recommended to review the resources available on the ESCLEW Community Schools Center website and other helpful information from state and local organizations dedicated to community (charter) school development.  Contact the ESCLEW Community Schools Center at (419) 246-3137 to indicate interest and discuss any initial questions.

The Community Schools – New Sponsorship Packet is for new community schools.  The Community Schools – Replication or Transfer of Sponsorship Packet is for community schools seeking replication and community schools seeking to transfer sponsorship.  Be sure to complete the appropriate application.

All essay portion questions must be answered thoroughly and any requested or additional supporting materials must be provided.  It is recommended to cite the question and its corresponding essay portion (i.e., A.1) in the response.  Addressing the selection criteria in this manner streamlines the review process and helps the school ensure all questions are answered completely.  Should a certain criterion not apply, a response stating why it is not applicable is required.  No question should be left unanswered.

Paper or electronic submissions (e.g., PDF, Word, or Excel files) are accepted.  A standard, easily readable font is required with a font size of 11 points or larger.  Both portrait and landscape attachments are acceptable.  Do not encrypt or password-protect electronic documents.

Submit the completed application no later than June 15.

Email:  ksickles@esclakeeriewest.org

Postal mail:  ESCLEW Community Schools Center 4955 Seaman Rd. Oregon, OH 43616.

Step 2: Review Period and Decision Making

The ESCLEW Application Review Team includes a core group from the Community Schools Center – Executive Director, Assistant Director, Academic Services Team Leader, Special Education Specialist, Financial Oversight Specialist, and a Regional Technical Assistance Educator.  External reviewers are also incorporated in the review process.  The ESCLEW Community Schools Center will ensure any external reviewer will not come from a competing school.

Annually and prior to reviewing applications, the Application Review Team is trained on the reviewer protocols.  All documents related to the application, including the evaluation rubric and appropriate scoring methods, are covered.  The in-depth training examines the selection criteria, evaluation process, and protocols.  All reviewers sign a Conflict of Interest Disclosure form.  Any reviewer found to have a real or perceived conflict of interest will be excused to ensure impartiality in the review.

The evaluation rubric contains the criteria that provide the framework for the approval of the application for sponsorship by the ESCLEW Community Schools Center.  The prescriptive criteria used to evaluate the application for sponsorship includes, but is not limited to, background and community need, education program, assessment and accountability, governance and management structure, business plan, staffing and capacity, financial information, and facilities. The school must present a comprehensive and evidence-based case for approval.  A school seeking to replicate or change sponsorship must also demonstrate it is financially sound and organizationally viable.  The Application Review Team will conduct research into the applicant’s history with community schools, interview the applicant, and discuss the viability and appropriateness of the school with the ESCLEW Governing Board.  For a school seeking to replicate or change sponsorship, the Application Review Team will also interview the school’s current sponsor.

The Application Review Team will evaluate and discuss all the data.  Each reviewer will individually complete an evaluation rubric, rating each selection criteria.  The combined scores and comments will be provided to the school in the Final Evaluation Rubric.  If the Application Review Team needs additional information to make a determination, it will contact the school during the review period.

Step 3: Preliminary Agreement

In order to preserve the highest standard of quality sponsorship, only schools that earn at least 75% of possible points will be considered for a preliminary agreement.  If the application for sponsorship is approved, an in-person interview will be scheduled.  After the interview, the Application Review Team and the ESCLEW Governing Board will make a decision whether to authorize a preliminary agreement for the school.  The Application Review Team will contact the school once the ESCLEW Governing Board has approved or adjusted its recommendation.

If the ESCLEW Community Schools Center chooses not to approve the application for sponsorship, it will notify the applicant of the decision no later than September 30.  The notice will include detailed reasons for the proposed action and the effective date of denial.

If the school is approved for sponsorship, the ESCLEW Community Schools Center and the school will execute a preliminary agreement, which describes the intent of the sponsor and the school to work in good faith towards the execution of a contract.  This preliminary agreement enables the developers to apply for grant funds for planning purposes, and it will be submitted to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

Step 4: Contract Negotiation and Attachments

The contract between a school and sponsor must be adopted by the sponsor’s governing authority stating the sponsor’s intent to enter into the community school contract, or through the sponsor’s signed board minutes summarizing that action.  A formally adopted resolution between the sponsor and school, with at least a draft version of the community school contract must exist at the time of the contract adoption.  Under statute, the contract must be fully executed by May 15 of the year the new school will open.

The ESCLEW Community Schools Center will send the school a contract packet no later than December 1.  This packet includes the contract template, attachment cover pages, and a list of any other documents that will be needed.  Most of the documents to be compiled will ultimately be incorporated into the contract.  Under law, the contract must provide strong evidence and great detail of the school’s mission, vision, education program, instructional delivery system, business plan, financial plan, governance and management structure, accountability structure, and staffing plan.  The contract also includes specific timelines and terms of operation.  The ESCLEW Community Schools Center will provide a draft contract that includes all of these necessary components.

The school will need to submit clean FBI/BCI criminal background checks for all of the applicants and governing authority members.  At this stage and throughout the school development process, the ESCLEW Community Schools Center will meet with the school’s leadership to provide technical assistance on community school operations.  In addition, the school’s governing authority members will need to complete five (5) hours of training on board governance and open meetings law.

The school’s governing authority, leadership, management company (operator, if applicable), and attorney should review the contract to ensure consistency of all terms.  If the school finds any errors or if the school wishes to negotiate any contract terms, the designated contact should discuss these proposed changes with the ESCLEW Community Schools Center as soon as possible.

Step 5: Contract Approval and Execution

After all contract terms are finalized, the contract must be approved by the school’s governing authority no later than April 30.  The school should prepare a resolution for the Governing Authority President to sign once the new contract is approved.  This signed resolution needs to be included in the new contract, so it is best to have a separate resolution signed that day rather than having approval reflected in the un-approved draft minutes.

Once the school’s governing authority has approved the contract resolution, the Governing Authority President should sign and date the contract.  Then, the original, signed contract should be sent to the ESCLEW Community Schools Center as described in Step One:  Application for Sponsorship.  The original, signed contract and attachments must be received by the ESCLEW Community Schools Center no later than April 30.  The attachments will be reviewed for accuracy, completeness, and appropriateness.  If any adjustments are required, the school will be notified with specific instructions in a timely manner.

An executed, new contract is a community school contract signed by the school’s governing authority and the sponsor.  The new contract must be signed by April 30.  Therefore, all negotiations must be complete and both parties must sign the new contract by that date.  The ESCLEW Superintendent will sign the completed, new contract by May 15.  The new contract will go into effect on July 1.  The new contract will be available for reference in Epicenter.

Step 6: Sponsor Assurances and School Opening

The ESCLEW Community Schools Center must inspect the school and provide assurances it has met all requirements and fulfilled all legal obligations at least ten (10) business days before the school year begins.  The school must open by September 30, with exceptions for Dropout Prevention and Recovery Programs.  If the school does not open by that deadline, the new contract will become void.
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