If you are interested in starting a community school, you should first research the viability of a community school in your proposed location, as well as the educational and financial plans needed for your school. You may also want to review the resources available on our website, as well as other helpful information by state and local organizations dedicated to community (charter) school development. Contact the Community Schools Center at (419) 246-3137 to indicate your interest and discuss any initial questions. 

We have two applications – one for new start-up schools and one for transfer schools looking to change sponsor. Please complete the appropriate application, which you can download from the Application Materials tab.

Please answer all questions thoroughly and provide any requested or additional supporting materials. We accept paper applications or electronic submissions. Standard, easily-readable fonts are required with a font size of 11 points or larger.  Both portrait and landscape attachments are acceptable.  Please do not encrypt or password-protect electronic documents, as that may prevent us from opening and processing such attachments.

Once completed, please submit your application and all supporting materials either electronically to Kathy Sickles at ksickles@esclakeeriewest.org or by mail to:

Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West
Community Schools Center
4955 Seaman Rd.
Oregon, OH 43616

The ESCLEW New or Transfer Application Review Team includes a core group of individuals from the ESCLEW Community Schools Center – Director, Assistant Director, Academic Services Team Leader, Special Education Specialist, Financial Oversight Specialist, and a Regional Technical Assistance Educator. The team will also include external reviewers from State Support Team (SST) Region 1 and a high-performing charter school. The ESCLEW Community Schools Center will ensure the chosen external reviewer will not come from a charter school which competes with the applying school.

Prior to reviewing applications, all reviewers undergo annual training on how to review the applications. Training includes the review of the ESCLEW Community Schools Center's vision, mission, and strategic goals. All documents related to applications, particularly the evaluation rubric and appropriate scoring methods, are also covered.  The in-depth training encompasses the selection criteria, evaluation process, protocols, and performance accountability framework. All trainers will also sign a Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form. Any reviewer found to have a real or perceived conflict will be excused to ensure impartiality in the review.

The evaluation rubric is available for download under the Application Materials tab. It contains the evaluation criteria which provide the framework for the approval of new school applications for sponsorship by ESCLEW.  The criteria used to evaluate applications 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.

In addition to evaluating the written application, the ESCLEW Community Schools Center Application Review Team will conduct research into the proposed school founders and their history with community schools.  The team will also interview the school founders and discuss the viability and appropriateness of the school with the ESCLEW Governing Board.

The Application Review Team will evaluate and discuss the data and each reviewer will complete an evaluation rubric. The combined scores and comments will be provided to the school in the final evaluation rubric. If the Application Review Team should need additional information to make a determination, the school will be contacted during the review period. The Application Review Team will contact the school with the application decision after the ESCLEW Governing Board has approved or adjusted its recommendation. 

If the school is approved for sponsorship, ESCLEW and the School will execute a Preliminary Agreement, which describes the intent of the sponsor and the founder of the proposed school to work in good faith towards the execution of a contract. This agreement enables the developers to apply for public community school grant funds for planning purposes, and it will also be submitted to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

The contract between a new start-up school and sponsor must be adopted by the sponsor’s approved board, stating the sponsor’s intent to enter into the community school contract or a 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 adopted no later than March 15 of the year the new start-up school will open.

Transfer schools are not required by law to operate under this adoption and execution timeline. However, we request that any transfer schools honor the same deadlines to ensure a smooth transition from the existing sponsor. A new contract, however, would not go into effect until the expiration or transfer of the school’s existing community school contract.

ESCLEW will send the school a contract packet no later than March 15, 2016. This packet will include the contract template, attachment cover pages, and a list of any other documents that you will need to gather. Most of the documents you compile will ultimately be incorporated into your 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 of people with diverse knowledge. The contract will also include specific timelines and terms of operation. 

The school will need to submit clean FBI/BCI criminal background checks for all of the founders and proposed governing authority members at this time. At this stage and throughout the school development process, ESCLEW will meet with school leadership to provide technical assistance on community school operation. In addition, school governing authority members will need to complete five hours of training on board governance and open meetings law. 

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

All contract attachment documents should be submitted to ESCLEW via Epicenter no later than April 30, 2016. 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 contract is a community school contract signed by both the governing authority and the sponsor. A contract must be signed by May 15 of the year the school will open. Therefore, all negotiations must be complete and the contract must be signed by both parties by that date.

The school should prepare a resolution for the Governing Authority president to sign once the contract is approved.  It is best to have a separate resolution signed that day, rather than having approval merely reflected in the minutes.  This is because we need to include the resolution as a part of the contract, and we prefer not to include un-approved draft minutes.

Once the 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 ESCLEW either electronically or by mail, as described in the "Application for Sponsorship" section.

The original signed contracts must be received by ESCLEW no later than April 30, 2016.  The ESCLEW Superintendent will sign the completed contracts prior to May 15, 2016.  The contract will go into effect on July 1, 2016. No later than July 10, 2016, ESCLEW will send a copy of the fully executed contract to the school and to ODE. The contract will also be available on Epicenter for the school’s reference.

Before the school can open, ESCLEW must inspect the school and ensure that you have fulfilled all of your legal obligations with respect to the school and its facility. We will provide you with the guidance and technical support to assist you in meeting that goal. ESCLEW must provide assurances that you have met all requirements at least ten business days before the school opens. The school must open by September 30 of the year in which the contract is signed, unless it is a drop-out recovery school. If the school does not open by that time, the contract will become void. 

Timeline of Application Process for Schools Opening in the 2017-2018 School Year

  • 10/31/2016
    • School
      • Submit Application for Sponsorship
  • 11/01/2016 – 12/31/2016
    • ESCLEW
      • Review application and materials
      • Conduct market research
      • Interview school founders
  • 01/15/2017
    • ESCLEW
      • Notify Founding Team of recommendation to ESCLEW board
  • 02/15/2017
    • ESCLEW
      • Approve Preliminary Agreement and issue to school
  • 02/28/2017
    • School
      • Return signed Preliminary Agreement
  • 03/15/2017
    • ESCLEW
      • Board to adopt contract
      • Send contract template and attachments to school
  • 04/30/2017
    • School
      • School Governing Authority to approve and sign contract
      • Submit original signed contract and completed contract attachments
  • 05/15/2017
    • ESCLEW
      • Execute new contract
      • Submit to ODE
  • Summer 2017
    • ESCLEW
      • Complete Site Visit and Authorizer Assurances at least ten (10) business days before school opens
  • 09/30/2017
    • School
      • Begin school year, unless drop-out recovery school, or contract is void

Renewal School Application Instructions and Timeline 2017-18

The Renewal School Application Instructions and Timeline provides valuable information on the renewal process, submission deadlines, the Renewal Performance Report, Renewal Packet, and Renewal Application.

Transfer School Application 2017-18

Sponsorship encompasses a great deal of legal responsibility, and we at the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West take our responsibilities seriously. At the core, we are dedicated to facilitating high quality education to today’s students. In Ohio, 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. Therefore, it is extremely important the school demonstrates its strong, evidence-based history of successful educational, operational, and financial performance before ESCLEW agrees to sponsor the continuation of the community school.

Please answer all questions thoroughly and provide any requested or additional supporting materials. We accept paper applications or electronic submissions. Standard, easily-readable fonts are required with a font size of 11 points or larger.  Both portrait and landscape attachments are acceptable.  Please do not encrypt or password-protect electronic documents, as that may prevent us from opening and processing such attachments.

Renewal School Evaluation Rubric 2017

The Evaluation Rubric for a Renewal School contains the evaluation criteria which provide the framework for the approval of renewal applications for sponsorship by ESCLEW.  The school's renewal packet included a cumulative performance report assessing the school's academic, financial, and operational performance over the last three years.  The report also assessed the school's progress toward the contract goals in the Performance Accountability Framework and any action steps required by the school's Corrective Action Plan, if applicable.  The cumulative performance report, along with the answers and documentation provided are to be evaluated.

Renewal School Application 2017

Sponsorship encompasses a great deal of legal responsibility, and we at the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West take our responsibilities seriously. At the core, we are dedicated to facilitating high quality education to today’s students. In Ohio, 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. Therefore, it is extremely important the school demonstrates a strong, evidence-based history of successful educational, operational, and financial performance before moving forward with the renewal process.

Please answer all questions thoroughly and provide any requested or additional supporting materials which may be relevant to the renewal decision-making process. We accept paper applications or electronic submissions. Standard, easily-readable fonts are required with a font size of 11 points or larger.  Both portrait and landscape attachments are acceptable.  Please do not encrypt or password-protect electronic documents, as that may prevent us from opening and processing such attachments.

New or Replicating School Application Rubric for 2017-18

The Evaluation Rubric for New or Replicating School contains the evaluation criteria which provide the framework for the approval of new school applications for sponsorship by ESCLEW.  The criteria used to evaluate applications 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.

Application Guidelines and Timeline 2017-2018

The Application Guidelines and Timeline provides valuable information on the new or replicating community school application for sponsorship process and submission deadlines.

Transfer School Evaluation for 2017-18 School Year

The School Changing Sponsor (Transfer) Evaluation Rubric contains the evaluation criteria which provide the framework for the approval of new school applications for sponsorship by ESCLEW.  The criteria used to evaluate applications includes, but is not limited to, the current sponsor relationship, student population, education program, assessment and accountability, academic record, financial information, governance and management structure, and facilities.

New or Replicating School Application for 2017-18 School Year

Sponsorship encompasses a great deal of legal responsibility, and we at the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West take our responsibilities seriously. At the core, we are dedicated to facilitating high quality education to today’s students. In Ohio, 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. Therefore, it is extremely important the school founders demonstrate a strong, evidence-based understanding of community school operation before moving forward with the start-up community school process.

Please answer all questions thoroughly and provide any requested or additional supporting materials. We accept paper applications or electronic submissions. Standard, easily-readable fonts are required with a font size of 11 points or larger.  Both portrait and landscape attachments are acceptable.  Please do not encrypt or password-protect electronic documents, as that may prevent us from opening and processing such attachments.

A governing authority, or board, is a group created upon execution of a contract. The governing authority is made up of at least five individuals who are responsible to make decisions regarding the governance and operation of the school. Community school boards are not elected, and they are usually initially comprised of the people who developed the school. Board meetings are open to the public and subject to Ohio’s Sunshine Laws.

A sponsor is an entity authorized by the state to oversee a community school. A school cannot open without the authorization of a sponsor. Sponsors can be school districts, public universities, educational service centers, and federal non-profit organizations approved to sponsor community schools.

Sponsors serve as the central quality control agent for community schools. Sponsors have three primary functions: technical assistance, monitoring, and intervention when necessary. Sponsors help schools stay compliant with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. In addition, sponsors have the authority to put schools on corrective action plans if they are not performing or to close the school. Sponsors ensure that community schools provide quality education and appropriate services to Ohio’s students.

The State of Ohio allows sponsors to charge up to 3% of the total amount of payments for operating expenses received by the school from the State of Ohio. The ESCLEW is dedicated to ensuring that school funding goes primarily to the students and their education, and we only charge an amount that will allow us to continue operation at a high quality. Currently, the ESCLEW charges 2% of the total amount of payments for operating expenses. 

Starting up a new community school is a difficult task that requires you to find experts in many areas to develop a successful and sustainable school. It requires your commitment to excellence and your unwavering passion for education and for student achievement. Before you start, you should be sure that you have a clear idea of your reasons for starting your school, of the school’s mission, and of your long-term goals for the school.

Beyond the backbone idea of your school, you must also have a physical backbone. Do you have a community for your school? Is there a demonstrated need for your school? Do you have a physical location within that community?

Finally, it is important that you have a clear plan towards educational improvement and fiscal soundness. Do you have a clear educational program and curriculum guidelines for all grades? Do you have a plan to achieve academic improvement? Do you have funds or a clear plan to obtain the funds necessary to start a school? Do you have adequate people to support you in this endeavor?

The standards placed on community schools are strict. If you do not have the capacity to execute your plans, your school may be shut down. The ESC of Lake Erie West, therefore, is dedicated to ensuring that you have both a strong educational and financial plan before you are authorized to open a school. Starting a school before your plans are firmly in place and supported can be detrimental not only to your school, but also to the success of the charter school movement in Ohio as a whole.

New start-up schools can only be located in “challenged” school districts. These districts include the eight largest urban school districts, districts in the original pilot project area – Lucas County, districts ranked in the lowest 5% of school districts according to performance index score, or districts that received a grade of “D” or “F” for performance index score and a grade of “F” for value-added progress for two of the past three years.

Community schools in Ohio are generally funded monthly on a per-pupil basis from the state. Community schools may also receive any funds that students are eligible for because of special needs conditions, low-income status, or participation in career-technical programs.

Community school funding from the state is estimated at about 2/3 of the funding that traditional public schools receive. Community schools do not receive as much because they do not have access to funds from property taxes or local levies or from state facilities funding. Therefore, it is important that community schools secure substantial funds through grants or private or government sources.

Further, when thinking about starting a school, remember that any state funds based on pupil count will not likely be available for the school until a month or two after the school opens. School founders must ensure that they have adequate funding to address all start-up costs and to bankroll the first few months of operation without state assistance.

Community schools are often called “charter schools” in other states. Community schools are public, non-profit, and non-sectarian schools. These schools are a part of the state’s public education system, and they provide a valuable school choice option for students. They operate independently from school districts, but instead are authorized to operate by an approved sponsoring entity.

Community schools serve a wide variety of students. Most serve the same type of student body as traditional public schools. However, community schools are sometimes able to offer more flexibility in the manner in which the curriculum is delivered to students. Because of this, a community school may be better able to serve the particular needs of some students.

Some community schools serve a more particular type of student. For instance, some community schools are drop-out recovery schools. These schools focus on remedial work necessary to get students back on track towards graduation. Other schools focus on students with special needs, such as students who have been diagnosed with ADHD or an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Other community schools focus on gifted students and provide more accelerated or advanced learning than may be offered in their traditional schools.

 An increasingly popular innovation in community schools is the “e-school,” which offers an internet-based virtual learning. This type of school is particularly attractive for athletes, students with jobs, or other students who need flexible scheduling. It can also be a good option for students in rural areas with limited school choice. Some schools also offer a blended learning model, in which schools use a combination of virtual and classroom-based learning. 

Typically, community school students are transported by their resident districts following the same policies that are in place for students attending the traditional school, as long as the student’s ride is not longer than 30 minutes. It is always best to discuss your students’ needs with the resident district’s administration as soon as possible. A community school can also choose to arrange for its own transportation services, but this option should be discussed with and approved by the school’s governing authority and sponsor first.

A community school is created when an authorized sponsor enters into a community school contract with a governing authority for a community school. A community school must have a minimum of 25 students to open. However, there are many development steps that need to occur before a sponsor will enter a contract to open a new school. Developers must put together detailed school plans and make sure that they have established a team of people with the capacity to execute the plan effectively.  We have provided more detailed information about the necessary components of a community school plan here, as well as information about the application process.

Community schools are held to the same standards for special education as traditional public schools, and they must ensure that all students receive a free, appropriate public education. Community schools must provide the required special education services and observe the procedures required under both federal and state law. If you as a founder of a community school do not have a strong background in education, it is imperative that you enlist the assistance of someone who fully understands the special education responsibilities to comply with all state and federal statutes, rules, and regulations. The Office of Exceptional Children and Office of Community Schools provide training, technical assistance, and monitoring to community schools. In addition, ESC of Lake Erie West has designated a special education consultant to address special education concerns and provide technical assistance to our sponsored community schools. 

Each community school receives a Local Report Card issued by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) at the end of the school’s second year of operation and each year thereafter. The community school receives a rating based upon its performance and the growth of its students. Schools receiving the lowest rating may be subject to automatic closure by the state if they do not improve. Community schools are also audited by ODE and by the Auditor of the State to ensure that they are meeting policy requirements and to monitor appropriate spending of public funds. Community school treasurers are required to be licensed school treasurers. The school’s sponsor also provides continuous oversight to help ensure that the school complies with all laws, rules, and regulations and achieves adequate progress.

Internally, the role of the sponsor is to hold the school accountable. ESCLEW provides extensive oversight on the school academics, finances, and operations. In addition, the charter school contract includes a Performance Accountability Framework, detailing the areas for which the school will be held accountable. The framework also includes academic and non-academic goals. Failure to meet these goals may result in non-renewal of a contract or in corrective action.

Please see the "Resources Links" section of our website for more information on community schools.

The ESCLEW has been providing high quality sponsorship since the beginning of the community school movement in Ohio. We currently sponsor 59 schools throughout Ohio. In addition to schools with typical populations, we have experience overseeing schools focused on gifted students, students with special needs, and those focused on drop-out recovery. We also have experience with internet-based schools and currently sponsor the largest internet-based school in the nation. The ESCLEW has the expertise to provide you with strong technical assistance.

The ESCLEW prides itself on the service it provides to the schools it sponsors. Each school we sponsor is assigned to a regional consultant to ensure that the school receives personalized attention. We respond quickly to concerns and assist schools with any problems they might encounter. That said, we try to strike a balance in our level of involvement. If the school is doing well, we provide flexibility in operation of the school.

The ESCLEW Community Schools Center is a student-centered authorizer of charter schools, advancing quality educational opportunities throughout the state of Ohio. The Community Schools Center centers its work on this mission on the following core values:

  • Collective Integrity – We value people with high ethical standards, reliability, and trust, and we empower through accountability and transparency.
  • Relationship Building – We achieve partner satisfaction through customized creative solutions, being service-centered, and by understanding that every interaction is a moment of truth that creates an impression.
  • Continuous Improvement – We are committed to advancing our current condition and producing quality educational outcomes.
  • Proactive Spirit – We are ahead of information, anticipate change, and tailor tools and processes practically and professionally.
  • Work Life Balance – We plan for the future and live for the day.  We live balanced lives, work hard toward our goals, and take time to celebrate personal and professional accomplishments.   

 

Loading