Charter School Petition Guidelines
The Charter Schools Act of 1998 permits existing public schools, private individuals, private organizations, and state or local public entities to seek a performance based contract called a charter, which ties improved performance to the waiver of specifically identified state and local rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and identified provision of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. Petitions for charter schools within the Cherokee County School District must be approved by the Cherokee County Board of Education and the State Board of Education.
A charter school petition shall be submitted to the Superintendent of the Cherokee County School District for presentation to the Cherokee County Board of Education. The Superintendent’s Cabinet shall review and evaluate the petition, and the Superintendent shall make a recommendation to the Board. The Board by a majority vote shall approve or deny the petition no later than sixty (60) calendar days from the date the petition was submitted to the Superintendent unless the petitioner requests an extension. Charter school petitions shall be submitted for approval for the succeeding fiscal year prior to October 15. Any petition submitted after October 15 will be considered for the fiscal year subsequent to the succeeding year.
If the Board denies the petition, it must within sixty (60) calendar days specifically state the reason for the denial; list all deficiencies with respect to the requirements of the Charter Schools Act, State Board of Education Rule, and this policy; and provide a written statement of the denial to the charter petitioner and the State Board. A denial of the petition by the Cherokee County Board of Education shall not preclude the submission to the Board of a revised petition that addresses deficiencies cited in the denial.
The petition must include the following elements required by the Charter Schools Act and State Board of Education Rule:
- Designate the performance to be improved and how it will be improved through the waiver, in whole or in part, of specifically identified state and local rules, regulations, policies, procedures, or provisions of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia, other than the provisions of the Charter Schools Act of 1998;
- Describe how the charter school will measure the improvement in such performance and over what period of time, provided that such requirement shall not waive the accountability provisions of O.C.G.A. § 20-14-30 through § 20-14-41;
- Demonstrate how any such waiver does not undermine and is consistent with the intent of the waived state and local rules, regulations, policies, and procedures, or the provisions of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia;
- Describe the school’s mission, the students to be served, including students with special needs and disabilities, and the ages and grades to be included. For students with disabilities, describe how the charter school will provide state and federally mandated services;
- Address the focus of the curriculum, the instructional methods to be used, and any distinctive or unique instructional techniques or educational programs to be employed;
- State whether the charter school will utilize a local school council, as provided for in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-85, or another similar board, which shall be subject to the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1, et seq. (Open and Public Meetings) and O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70, et seq. (Inspection of Public Records). If the charter school elects to utilize a board other than a local school council as provided for in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-85, the petition shall state its role, function, composition, and how and when members should be selected;
- Describe the proposed staff qualifications, employee recruitment procedures, hiring practices, compensation, and employee evaluation procedures. If the petition proposes that students will be taught by individuals other than those certified by the Professional Standards Commission, the petition shall so state and shall generally describe the qualifications of such personnel;
- Describe proposed financial policies and procedures to be followed by the charter school to assure sound fiscal management and by the local board or state board to assure a predictable flow of funds to the charter school. Petitioner’s plan shall include a financial plan for the first fiscal year and a budget for the full term of the proposed charter. The financial plan shall include an estimate of all public and private dollars available per student; an itemized list of working capital and assets, including cash, bonds and real estate; a monthly cash flow projection detailing revenues and expenditures; and all potential sources of funding that petitioner is actively pursuing;
- Specify the proposed duration of the charter;
- Specify the proposed attendance zone for the school and address rules and procedures concerning admission of students;
- Address rules and procedures concerning student discipline and dismissal, including the school’s code of conduct;
- Identify the manner in which the school will be insured, the terms and conditions thereof, and the amounts of coverage;
- Describe the facilities to be used and their location. The petition must include documentation of ownership or lease of the facility and certification that the building is in compliance with all building code standards and regulations as well as fire, safety, environmental and accessibility requirements. If the facilities have not been obtained or the documentation is not available at the time the petition is submitted, petitioner shall provide a timeline for obtaining such facilities or providing such documentation;
- Describe the manner in which annual financial audits will be conducted, as required by State law;
- Provide that all personnel employed by the charter school shall be fingerprinted and have a criminal record check prior to employment in compliance with O.C.G.A. § 20-2-211;
- Address whether transportation will be provided and, if so, provide a brief description of the transportation program for the charter school;
- Address whether food service will be provided and, if so, provide a brief description of the charter school’s proposed food service program as it relates to funding and meeting USDA requirements;
- Specify that the charter school shall provide an annual report to parents or guardians of students attending the charter school, the local board, and the state board. The charter school shall make available to the community copies of the annual report. The annual report must indicate the progress made in the previous year in meeting the performance-based goals identified in the charter and include all state-mandated assessment scores and state-mandated accountability indicators.
- For start-up charter schools:
- Describe how parents, members of the community and other interested parties were directly and substantially involved in developing the petition;
- Describe how parents, members of the community and other interested parties will be involved in the school;
iii. Specify that the charter school will be organized and operated as a nonprofit corporation under the laws of Georgia and attach a copy of the Articles of Incorporation of the nonprofit corporation, a list of the current board members of the nonprofit corporation, and provide the name of a primary contact for the petitioner and registered agent;
- If the nonprofit corporation intends to contract or has contracted for the services of a for-profit entity, the petition shall so be stated, and petitioner shall attach a copy of the contract to the petition. If a contract has not been entered into at the time the petition is submitted, petitioner shall include a timeline for providing such documentation.
- For conversion charter schools:
- Describe how parents or guardians of students enrolled in the school, as well as the faculty, instructional staff, and the broader community, were and will be directly and substantially involved in developing the petition;
- Describe how parents or guardians of students enrolled in the school, as well as the faculty, instructional staff, and the broader community will be involved in the school.
- Provide for the charter school to be subject to the control and management of the Cherokee County Board of Education, as provided in the charter and in a manner consistent with the Charter Schools Act of 1998 and the Constitution.
- For any charter high school, specify the credits or units to be earned and what completion credential will be awarded.
In addition, the following Cherokee County School District criteria shall be met:
- The petition shall include evidence that the proposed charter school curriculum, assessments, and design for learning meet or exceed District and state standards.
- The charter school petitioner must include the proposed performance-based criteria that will be used during the term of the charter to measure the progress of the charter school. The petition must identify the tests to be used, which grades will be tested and how often, how the test results will be reported to the District, the baseline data which will be used to demonstrate that student performance has improved, and benchmarks and timelines that indicate performance goals to be achieved in specific increments of time. The charter school assessment program must, at a minimum, include the standardized tests used by the Cherokee County School District, and results must be submitted to the District at the end of the school year. In the charter school’s plan of improvement, evidence must be presented that the proposed charter school academic criteria meet or exceed the standards, expectations, and performance set by the Cherokee County School District.
- Evidence must be presented that the proposed charter school program cited in the petition could not be achieved through application of the Cherokee County Board of Education’s educational program.
- Faculty and instructional staff employed in the charter school, at a minimum, will be certified and hold an appropriate current professional certificate issued by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. The charter petition must include a description of the following practices: plans for resolving employment-related issues, employee grievance and termination procedures. Non-certified personnel shall be considered "at will" employees and shall not be contracted for specific periods of time.
- The petition shall include a budget for the term of the charter, including projections from the Georgia Department of Education of FTE earnings. The Department of Education for budget and cash-flow purposes may provide potential charter school petitioners estimates of state funds to be available per FTE and the basis for the estimates as well as approximate dates of availability of funds. The petition shall also include evidence that the budget is economically sound for the charter school and the District and that the petitioner is creditworthy. The Cherokee County School District shall not be responsible for costs in the areas of facility construction, maintenance, food service, technology and transportation.
- The charter school petitioner shall present a financial statement to the Cherokee County Board of Education that discloses the cost of administration, instruction, and other spending categories for the charter school. The statement shall be understandable to the general public and will allow comparison of such cost to other schools or other comparable organizations in a format required by the Cherokee County Board of Education.
- The charter petition shall provide a description of how the charter school facility will be funded, and maintained. Charter school housing for students and staff shall comply with all building code standards and regulations adopted by the city and/or county agencies responsible for building safety standards of the city and/or county in which the charter school is located. Before the school may begin operation, the Cherokee County School District must be provided with documentation of ownership or lease of the facility and certification that the building satisfies all requirements for fire, safety, and accessibility for the disabled.
- The petition shall include a description of the type of liability, workers’ compensation, motor vehicle and property insurance to be purchased by the charter school. The petition shall also provide for appropriate bonding of the governing board and administrators. The petition shall acknowledge that the insurance and bonding will be obtained and in full force and effect at all times during the term of the charter.
- The petition shall include a description of the student transportation system and the insurance to be purchased in compliance with O.C.G.A. § 20-2-1090. Legal requirements for vehicles and drivers shall be met by the charter school petition.
- The petition shall describe the ways in which the charter school will meet state and federal requirements for student immunization, food inspections, hazardous chemicals, and other health and safety issues, including compliance with O.C.G.A. § 20-2-1185 regarding school safety plans.
- The petition shall include a description of how the charter school shall comply with the constitutional rights of students including, but not limited to, due process, prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, and First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion.
- The petition shall specify that the charter school is solely responsible for all debts it incurs and will acknowledge that it shall not contractually bind the Cherokee County School District with any third party.
- The petition shall set forth the charter school’s plan for providing services to limited English-proficient students, if any.
- The petition shall contain an indemnification and hold-harmless statement in which the petitioner states that it will indemnify and hold harmless the Cherokee County Board of Education, the Cherokee County School District, and any officer or employee for liability for any action or inaction on the part of the charter school.
- The petition shall state who will be responsible for winding up the business and affairs of the charter school should the charter school cease operation for any reason, including non-renewal or termination. The petition should also acknowledge that the charter school personnel will cooperate fully in the winding up of the affairs of the school.
A charter school that is approved by the Cherokee County Board of Education and the State Board of Education shall be included in the allotment of funds to the Cherokee County School District. The District and the State Board shall treat the charter school no less favorably than other District schools with respect to the provisions of funds for instructional and administrative programs. An equivalent portion of State funding from QBE earnings shall be distributed to the charter school. An approved charter school shall also receive local funds according to the formula set out in the Charter Schools Act. The charter school shall also be eligible for federal funds on the same basis as other schools in the District. The charter school shall not charge tuition. Cherokee County School District’s State funding that is reduced or cut by the State Department of Education and/or Legislative Budget Adjustments will likewise reduce State funds transferred to an approved charter school based upon the State’s QBE program funding on a FTE pro-rata basis.
The Cherokee County Board of Education will provide no "up-front money" of any kind to charter school petitioners. Charter school petitioners requesting fiscal autonomy will receive their fair share of state and local funds as earned on a pro-rata basis (elementary, middle, or high). Funds will be prorated to the charter school just as the state prorates revenues to the District.
There will be an annual audit of the charter school performed by the Cherokee County School District Office of Financial Management. A charter may be revoked or not renewed by the Board of Education if the Board determines that the charter school failed to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management as described by the Cherokee County School District Financial Services Division.
Legal Reference: O.C.G.A. 20-2-2060, et seq.