Posted on: by , Principal, New Dawn Charter High School .

Charter applicants work hard to submit an idea that can gain approval from their authorizer. It takes hours upon hours of meetings, and attending community meetings, getting the word out to different community groups, and then the submission dates for the application itself. After all of that work, so many get left at the gate. Hopes dashed, after so much work. It makes me very proud that we just passed the finish line and got approved to open our charter school!

Just to give you an idea of how stringent the process is in choosing successful charter applications, here it is in numbers for the round of charter authorizations that we just went through:

  • 80 Founding Groups submitted a prospectus and letter of intent
  • 36 Founding Groups were asked to submit a full application (55% of the original groups cut!)
  • 22 Founding Groups were invited to be interviewed by authorizers (39% cut from the applicant group)
  • Based on prior years, an estimated total of 9 schools will be approved to open during the charter cycle.

This data translates to only 1/8th of the applicant group for the 2011-2012 pool being accepted. That’s only around 12% of the original group of applicants making the cut.

Keeping this in mind, it was very important for our group to be very aware of the “rules” of submission. There were specific deadlines and structures that needed to be included in each step of the process in order to be moved to the next phase. The first phase, probably the simplest, was filling out the letter of intent, a template letter supplied by the New York State Charter Office. If you visit the New York State Education Department website, the Charter School office supplies very explicit instructions on how to proceed with your application. While this process is specific to New York State, I hope that describing our process can help others around the country learn from our successes and mis-steps. (Click to see the version of our Letter of Intent that was ultimately submitted.)

By January 19th, we had to submit a letter to the Charter Office stating our intentions to apply for a charter. In this template letter, our lead applicant, Sara Asmussen, had to list some basic information about our intended school. During this phase, we had intended to make it clear in our name that we were to be a transfer high school. Therefore, we were named at that time, the New Dawn Transfer Charter High School. The next pieces were consistent with our recruitment plan. Ron Tabano, our proposed Board Chair, would serve as our PR person, particularly because of his expertise and success with John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy Charter School. We added Marco Castro as our Spanish speaking PR person, particularly to make our ELL population more accessible to the options that would hopefully become available to their families in the Sunset Park area, which has a very high ELL population and would be home to the school. (See previous blog posts for more on how we selected our Founding Group.)

The next questions ask about possible partnerships. As a result of Sara and Ron’s work with  Wildcat Academy Charter School, we had partnerships already established with the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), New Era Transitions (NET) and of course, Wildcat Academy. We would also establish relations with Lutheran Hospital, so that we have medical services provided to our students in need. These entities would help support our mission to provide all students with opportunity. Real college experience, internships in the community, and medical services to combat any physical or emotional barriers to learning are all vital pieces to our application and mission as a school.

Based on this simple template, founding groups were then asked to submit a Prospectus, which takes the “big ideas” presented so far and puts them into very specific systems and programs. This will be the topic of my next blog. The Prospectus was an abbreviated document of the school system, just twenty pages, but within those twenty pages, you had to convince the state education department that your school was worthy of turning in the full application. Getting the prospectus out is where the real work begins-all team members must be on the same page and knowledgeable of each piece.

This blog post is part of the Charter Notebook, sponsored by the Network of Independent Charter Schools, a project of the Center for Educational Innovation – Public Education Association.

The views expressed in Charter Notebook blogs represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Center for Educational Innovation-Public Education Association or the U.S. Department of Education.

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