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Massachusetts Charter Schools

Governance

Obligations and Responsibilities of Boards of Trustees

As public agents authorized by the state, the members of the board of trustees (board) of a charter school are responsible for governing the school and hold the charter for the school, as it is granted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). A strong board defines the mission of the school, develops school policies and changes them when appropriate, hires qualified personnel to manage the school's day-to-day operations and holds them accountable for meeting established goals, and formulates a long-range plan and charter school accountability plan that will ensure the school's continued stability.

In addition to its many other responsibilities, the board must ensure that the school is complying with all of the state and federal laws that apply to the school and that the school is operating in accordance with its charter and with any approved amendments to its charter.

Finally, the board itself must operate in accordance with Massachusetts laws and regulations. Upon beginning service on a board and each year thereafter, each trustee must meet a number of legal requirements set forth by the Commonwealth. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) has developed an online management system (Board Member Management System) to distribute, collect, and maintain records of the completion of these requirements by active board members. The requirements are explained in the chart below.

AreaRequirementTimelineMaterials
Open Meeting LawUpon joining a board of trustees, new members must review and complete a certification of receipt of three Open Meeting Law materials: Trustees must certify receipt of Open Meeting Law materials within two weeks of joining the board.Certificate of Receipt of Open Meeting Law Materials
Statute: M.G.L. c.30A, §§18-25
Financial disclosureTrustees must file a financial disclosure form annually with (1) the State Ethics Commission, (2) the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and (3) the city or town clerk wherein the charter school is located.Trustees must file the disclosure within 30 days of becoming a member of the board of trustees, by September 1 of each year thereafter that the person is a member of the board and by September 1 of the year after the person ceases to be a member of the board.Disclosure of Financial Interest Form (available within BMMS; contact Department with any questions)

Statute: M.G.L. Chapter 71, §89(u)
Conflict of Interest -- Summary As special state employees, trustees must annually review and provide written acknowledgment of a summary of the Commonwealth's Conflict of Interest Law:
Summary of Conflict of Interest Law for State Employees
Trustees must review and provide written acknowledgment within 30 days of becoming a member of the board and on an annual basis thereafter.A sample acknowledgment of receipt may be found at the conclusion of the Summary of Conflict of Interest Law for State Employees.

Statute: M.G.L. Chapter 268A §27
Conflict of Interest -- TrainingEvery two years, trustees must complete an online training program on the Commonwealth's Conflict of Interest Law:
Conflict of Interest Law Online Training Program
Trustees must complete the training within 30 days of becoming a member of the board and every 2 years thereafter.Conflict of Interest Law Online Training Program

Statute: M.G.L. Chapter 268A §28

For questions concerning Massachusetts' Open Meeting Law, you may contact the Division of Open Government, within the Office of the Attorney General, at (617) 963-2540 or openmeeting@state.ma.us.

For questions concerning Conflict of Interest Law, you may contact the State Ethics Commission at (617) 371-9500 or you may electronically request an Informal Written Opinion.

Administrative and Governance Guide (Archived)

As entities of the state, charter schools must meet a number of legal requirements set forth by the Commonwealth. Many of these requirements are outlined in The Charter School Administrative and Governance Guide: An Overview of the Laws and Regulations that Boards of Trustees and School Leaders Need to Know. The Charter School Administrative and Governance Guide, developed in November 2007, has been archived. A new guide will be available shortly.

Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
The Charter School Administrative and Governance Guide, November 2007

Use of Board Member Management System

Addition of New Board Members

When a charter school's board of trustees votes to accept new members, and before those individuals may take official action, the following steps must be taken through the Board Member Management System to receive approval of the new members from the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education (Commissioner):

  1. The chairperson of the board, or an individual authorized by the board, must submit a letter to the Department to request approval of the new member(s) from the Commissioner. The letter should include a statement that the charter school's board of trustees voted to accept the new board member(s) at a meeting held in compliance with the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.
    Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
    Request Letter Template for Approval of New Board Members
  2. A copy of each proposed board member's resume must be submitted along with the letter requesting approval.
  3. New board members must also comply with all legal requirements regarding Open Meeting Law, Conflict of Interest Law, and financial disclosure. Completed disclosure of financial interest forms must be submitted with the letter requesting approval.
Each school has one or more authorized system users with access to the Board Member Management System. Please contact our office directly at 781-338-3227 if your school encounters problems accessing the system.

In the event of a resignation or removal of a trustee, a charter school may have to appoint a new board member unexpectedly. If this occurs, the school should supply the Department with all required information about the new board member as soon as possible. The new board member must wait for approval from the Department before serving.

Note: Board members who have previously been approved by the Commissioner for service on a specific charter school board of trustees do not require Commissioner approval for additional terms of service on the same charter school board of trustees. Boards of trustees are required to adhere to the term limits described in their board bylaws.

Schools are required to notify the Department via the Board Member Management System when individuals occupying officer positions change, and when members leave the school's Board of Trustees, whether it is a resignation, the expiration of a term, or a removal. For additional information on how to request board member approval, please refer to the Amendment Guidelines.

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Charter Amendment Guidelines

Amendments of Board and School Policies, such as Bylaws and Enrollment Policy, and Mission-related Elements

Subject to Approval of the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education

All amendments to board approved policies that require alignment to published Department guidance require preliminary approval by the Department prior to Commissioner approval. Preliminary approval ensures that all changes align to current Department requirements and guidance. Please refer to the listing below to determine the staff member who will review and provide preliminary approval to the type of document to be amended by the school. Please direct all questions regarding Department guidance, and submit the draft document directly to the individual indicated below.

Preliminary approval is required for changes to:

DocumentLiaisonResource
Accountability PlanAlison Bagg
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Guidelines for Writing Accountability Plans
BylawsAlyssa Hopkins
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Criteria for Bylaws Checklist
Enrollment policy & application for admissionBrenton Stewart
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Enrollment Implementation Guidance
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Criteria for Enrollment Policy and Application for Admission Checklist
Expulsion policyEllie Rounds
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Criteria for Expulsion Policy Checklist
Memorandum of understanding for Horace Mann charter schoolsAlyssa Hopkins
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Required and Recommended Elements of a Memorandum of Understanding

All other amendments to terms of the school's charter may be voted upon by the board and submitted directly to the Department via csamendments@doe.mass.edu for Commissioner approval without consultation with the Department. While consultation is not required, schools are encouraged to speak directly with their accountability liaison to address any questions or concerns prior to submission.

Consultation is not required for changes to:

  • School name;
  • Mission;
  • Governance or leadership structure;
  • Educational programs, curriculum models, or whole-school designs that are inconsistent with those specified in the school's charter;
  • Membership of the board of trustees;
  • Schedule (e.g. length of school year, school week, or school day); and
  • Location of facilities, if such change involves relocating or expanding to another municipality within the charter region.

If a school is proposing to change its schedule, length of school year, school week, or school day), the school must also submit a completed School Schedule Template with the request.

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School Schedule Template

For information on how to complete an amendment request, please refer to the Amendment Guidelines below:

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Charter Amendment Guidelines

All amendment requests shall include a Charter Amendment Cover Sheet and a Charter Amendment Request Letter. Charter Amendment Request Letters should briefly describe how the board came to decide to submit the charter amendment, why the amendment should be granted, and indicate specific concerns if the request is not granted, as applicable.

Templates for both documents can be found below.

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Charter Amendment Cover Sheet
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Template of Request Letter for Charter Amendment Template

Amendment Requests to Change Charter Region, Maximum Enrollment, Grades Served, and new or existing Management Contracts

Subject to Approval of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

When a school receives its original charter and any subsequent renewals of that charter from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), the state approves the charter school's broad academic and organizational plans for the next five years. Any substantive changes to those plans require the approval of the BESE for an amendment to the school's charter before the changes are implemented. Charter amendments requiring approval by the BESE before they can be implemented include:

  • District(s) specified in a school's charter;
  • Maximum enrollment;
  • Grades served; or
  • Contractual relationship with an education management organization that is providing or planning to provide substantially all the school's educational services.

The Department will accept amendment requests for increases in maximum enrollment in the majority of districts, with the exception of Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, and Malden. There are approximately 225 seats projected to be available for award in Boston during the upcoming year. Please note that amendment requests for additional seats in Boston will experience an extremely competitive process amongst existing charter school operators and prospective operators for new charter schools.

If a school is intending to pursue a charter amendment involving a change to maximum enrollment, the school can consult with the Department prior to submission to confirm seat availability, and if the proven provider requirement applies to their request for additional seats. Please review the Department’s analysis of projected seats available for charter award provided below.

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District Information on Enrollment Projections for New Applications and Expansion Amendments

If a school is intending to pursue a charter amendment involving a management contract that is a new contract or the revision of an existing contract, the school must consult with the Department prior to submission of a signed agreement between the board and management organization. Please review the required elements of contracts for education services provided below.

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Required Elements of Contract for Educational Services

For information on how to complete an amendment request, please refer to the Amendment Guidelines below:

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Charter Amendment Guidelines

All amendment requests shall include a Charter Amendment Cover Sheet and a Charter Amendment Request Letter. Charter Amendment Request Letters should briefly describe how the board came to decide to submit the charter amendment, why the amendment should be granted, and indicate specific concerns if the request is not granted, as applicable. Templates for both documents can be found below:

Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Charter Amendment Cover Sheet
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Template of Request Letter for Charter Amendment Template


Last Updated: May 10, 2016
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