For schools opening in the 2019-2020 school year:

  • 06/15/2018
    • School
      • Submit Application for Sponsorship
  • 06/16/2018 - 09/15/2018
    • ESCLEW
      • Review and interview period
  • 09/30/2018
    • ESCLEW
      • School is notified of approval or denial
  • 10/15/2018
    • ESCLEW
      • Preliminary Agreement is approved and issued to the school
  • 10/31/2018
    • School
      • Signed Preliminary Agreement is returned to the ESCLEW Community Schools Center
  • 12/01/2018
    • ESCLEW
      • Contract template and attachments are provided to the school
  • 04/30/2019
    • School
      • Contract negotiations are finalized
      • Contract attachments are submitted to the ESCLEW Community Schools Center
      • Governing authority approves and signs contract
      • Original, signed contract is returned to the ESCLEW Community Schools Center
  • 05/15/2019
    • ESCLEW
      • Contract is signed by the ESCLEW Superintendent and executed
  • Summer 2019
    • ESCLEW
      • Site Visit and Authorizer Assurances are completed at least ten (10) business days before the school year begins
  • 09/30/2019
    • School
      • School year begins or contract is void (Exceptions for Dropout Prevention and Recovery programs)


For schools opening in the 2020-2021 school year:

  • 06/15/2019
    • School
      • Submit Application for Sponsorship
  • 06/16/2019 - 09/15/2019
    • ESCLEW
      • Review and interview period
  • 09/30/2019
    • ESCLEW
      • School is notified of approval or denial
  • 10/15/2019
    • ESCLEW
      • Preliminary Agreement is approved and issued to the school
  • 10/31/2019
    • School
      • Signed Preliminary Agreement is returned to the ESCLEW Community Schools Center
  • 12/01/2019
    • ESCLEW
      • Contract template and attachments are provided to the school
  • 04/30/2020
    • School
      • Contract negotiations are finalized
      • Contract attachments are submitted to the ESCLEW Community Schools Center
      • Governing authority approves and signs contract
      • Original, signed contract is returned to the ESCLEW Community Schools Center
  • 05/15/2020
    • ESCLEW
      • Contract is signed by the ESCLEW Superintendent and executed
  • Summer 2020
    • ESCLEW
      • Site Visit and Authorizer Assurances are completed at least ten (10) business days before the school year begins
  • 09/30/2020
    • School
      • School year begins or contract is void (Exceptions for Dropout Prevention and Recovery programs)


Application Guidelines

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.


-- Maintain High Standards

-- Uphold School Autonomy

-- Protect Student and Public Interest


-- 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 One:  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 Two:  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 Three:  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 Four:  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 Five:  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 Six:  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.


Application Materials

Reference Step One:  Application for Sponsorship for guidance on the proper format, submission procedures, and deadlines.  Also reference the evaluation rubric (located in this packet after the application) for a thorough itemization of criteria used to evaluate the application.  All application materials are available for download from the ESCLEW Community Schools Center website under the Application Materials tab.

What is a governing authority?

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.

What is a sponsor?

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.

What is the cost of sponsorship by ESCLEW?

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. 

Am I ready to find a sponsor?

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.

Where can I start a community school?

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.

How do I fund a community school?

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.

What is a community school?

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. 

How is transportation provided to community school students?

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.

How is a community school created?

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.

How is Special Education treated in community schools?

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. 

How are community schools held accountable?

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.