Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office (GVSU CSO) excels in all Standard 6 areas. In 2012, the GVSU CSO changed its new school application deadline to an open application cycle. The change allows applicants to submit an application at any time. The GVSU CSO reviews applications four times per year in coordination with the GVSU Board of Trustee meeting schedules. The change has allowed greater flexibility for potential new schools so that they can develop their Phase I Application without adhering about a strict February 1 deadline.
After the GVSU Board of Trustees approves a new school, the GVSU CSO immediately begins working with the new board to provide training. Dan Warren, a GVSU Field Service Representative, provides all new boards with extensive, year-long training on expectations, roles associated with the board, authorizer, and management company, and effective policy governance. Throughout the year, GVSU CSO Field Service Representatives will customize training for individual boards based on need, mainly in the areas of finance, academic achievement, and board governance. The GVSU CSO website was recently updated to include Mi-Board, a page that houses short videos on relevant board training topics. The videos serve as a short refresher for any board member interested.
At least once per year, the GVSO CSO brings charter school board members together for a Board Reception, where they can network, discuss charter school issues and topics, and listen to a prominent guest speaker. The receptions have been restructured over the years to improve board member attendance and the GVSU CSO continues to find ways to improve the information presented. The most recent change was the addition of expert guest speakers in the area of charter school policy. Additionally, the GVSU CSO brings charter school board members together for a Detroit Tigers game (with a reception before at the GVSU Detroit Center) and a golf outing once per year. These activities provide great opportunities for the board members to network with each other and it gives the GVSU CSO an opportunity to provide multiple tours of the GVSU Detroit Center, which is available for board members to hold meetings if desired.
The GVSU CSO recently upgraded its compliance system to EpiCenter. The system not only houses compliance documents submitted by authorized schools, but it also tracks percentage of documents submitted on time, tracks board member terms, and produces financial reports. The GVSU CSO is exploring ways to incorporate the financial reports produced by EpiCenter into its oversight processes to compliment the financial data that is currently collected.
The GVSU CSO believes strong two-way communication is key to a successful relationship with its authorized schools. With GVSU CSO Field Service Representatives present at all board meetings and school information snapshots available on the GVSU CSO website at all times for each school, GVSU CSO boards constantly know where they stand in terms of reauthorization. The GVSU CSO considers reauthorization a “non-process” and a school will know far in advance if it is in danger of not being reauthorized. Because of the constant communication between the schools and the GVSU CSO, the reauthorization process is really just re-filing of paperwork.
If a GVSU authorized school is experiencing performance issues, the GVSU CSO will send a request for a plan of correction and assist the school in identifying its needs and possible solutions. The GVSU CSO has done an outstanding job of supporting its schools in the Bottom 5% (State Top-to-Bottom Ranking) by having continuous open communication with the entire school, including administration, board members, and school leaders. The GVSU CSO support staff members have been proactive to assist each school in areas of reading, NWEA MAP support, climate and culture, classroom management, and principal leadership. Along with on-site support, the GVSU CSO offers the schools customized trainings, webinars, or phone conferences to support their plan of improvement. The GVSU CSO Field Service Representatives and support staff assigned to low performing schools give performance updates at the bi-monthly GVSO CSO Field Service Representative Meetings and full staff meetings.
The GVSU CSO operates with the belief that its schools are its partners; the GVSU CSO wants the schools to succeed and will do anything to help. The GVSU CSO is proud that it has moved away from heavy compliance-based authorizing to a practice more focused on teaching and learning and helping schools be successful, which is better aligned to the GVSU CSO strategic plan.
The authorizer provides charter school board members with professional development opportunities that covering the following topics: academic results, effective governance and leadership, legal compliance, board and school leadership relationships, finance and budgeting.