Massachusetts Charter Schools
Introduction to New Online System for Management of Board Member Obligations
|To:||Charter School Leaders and Board Chairs|
|From:||Cliff Chuang, Associate Commissioner|
|Date:||April 8, 2015|
This memorandum introduces the new online board member management system which was developed to support the implementation and monitoring of requirements under the Commonwealth's Open Meeting Law, Conflict of Interest Law, and Charter School Law which are applicable to individual board members of charter school boards of trustees.
Functionality of Online System
The online system will eliminate the submission of the hard copies of documents associated with the special state employee requirements for members of your board of trustees.1 The system will also eliminate the need for members of your staff to collect materials from board members for submission to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department).
The system is designed to distribute and collect directly from individuals via email all of the typical documents required from board members of charter school boards of trustees under Commonwealth law. Board members only need an email address in order to complete requirements and will not be required to log into any system.
The focus of the online system will be to communicate directly with current board members regarding their individual obligations, and to manage requests for the approval of new board members. All school leaders and current Directory Administrators2 will be provided access to the system in order to submit requests or update contact information for individual board members.
The functions of the system will include:
an automated annual email to individual board members to complete and sign financial disclosures each year;
the annual distribution of conflict of interest summaries to all active board members, and the collection of receipts via email;
an automated biennial email reminder to complete conflict of interest training, and collection of certifications of completion via email;
the distribution of the Open Meeting law, regulations, and guidance to all new active board members, and the collection of receipts via email;
email reminders for all active board members to complete any outstanding requirements; and
individual accounts for each school to submit requests for approval of new board members by the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, to monitor the status of approval requests, and to monitor the completion of requirements by active board members.
In addition to the functions described above, the Department intends to continue to develop the system to provide additional functions based on user input and satisfaction. Additional functions may include the archiving of important policy documents for each school, e.g. bylaws, and enrollment policies, and the record-keeping of the completion of other requirements, such as the orientation training for new board members.
Obligations of Individual Board Members Managed in Online System
The specific requirements that will be managed through the new system beginning this year are summarized below. System users will be able to monitor and view the submissions of board members submitted over time. Individual schools are reminded to maintain their own copies of the various documents completed by board members under these requirements for possible inspection.
Open Meeting Law: M.G.L. c.30A, §§18-253
Upon initial activation of the system and upon the approval of any individual new board member subsequently, board members will receive an email containing Open Meeting Law, G.L. c. 30A, §§18-25, Open Meeting regulations, 940 CMR 29.00, and The Guide to the Open Meeting Law. The trustee will receive an email permitting the individual to indicate receipt of the materials electronically, and provide automated submission of the acknowledgement to the Department. Board members are expected to maintain a copy of their electronically signed certification for their own records.
Financial disclosure: M.G.L. Chapter 71, §89(u)
Board members will receive an email every year which will contain an electronic version of the financial disclosure form that individuals can complete and sign digitally. Completed forms will be sent automatically to the Department for review. Board members are expected to save the completed electronic form for their records, and submit a copy to the State Ethics Commission, and the city or town clerk where the charter school is located.
Conflict of Interest - Summary: M.G.L. Chapter 268A §274
Board members will receive an email every year which will contain an electronic version of the Summary of Conflict of Interest Law for State Employees for their review. The email will also permit the board members to submit an acknowledgment of receipt of the summary of the Commonwealth's Conflict of Interest Law to the Department electronically. Board members are expected to maintain a copy of their acknowledgment form for their records.
Conflict of Interest - Training: M.G.L. Chapter 268A §28
Every two years, board members will receive an email reminder to complete Conflict of Interest Law Online Training Program, an online training program on the Commonwealth's Conflict of Interest Law. The email will contain the information necessary to access the training online, and to permit the trustee to submit certification to the Department that the training was completed as required. Upon completion of the online training program, board members are required to save the certificate of completion as an electronic PDF file for their records, and to provide a copy to the school.
Requests for Commissioner Approval of New Board Members in Online System
Currently, the submission of requests for the approval of new board members requires a board of trustees to submit:
- a letter pertaining to the request providing details of the board's vote,
- the proposed trustee's resume or biography, and
- a completed financial disclosure via email.
The online system will permit system users (school leader or Directory Administrator/designee) to enter the request and the proposed board member into the system. The submission will still require a request letter and resume to be submitted via the system to initiate the board member request. Once the request is submitted, the individual board member will receive the electronic financial disclosure for completion. The request will not proceed without completion of the financial disclosure. The system will notify the proposed trustee and system user via email if the disclosure is not submitted. The system will provide notifications to both the system user and individual board member as the status of the request is updated.
If the request is approved, the new trustee will receive email notifications regarding the completion of Open Meeting Law, and Conflict of Interest requirements as a new special state employee. When requests are not approved, the reasons will be communicated via the system and follow-up from the Department will take place.
Preview of Next Steps
The Department is looking forward to launching this system in mid-April and working with schools to ensure board member information, especially email addresses, is accurate. The Department will provide webinar trainings to all system users to support their success in using the new system. All school leaders and current Directory Administrators will receive notifications regarding the dates and times of upcoming trainings to take place in late April and early May. Board members will also receive preliminary notifications regarding the system's launch and the changes to expect. We believe this new system will benefit you and your board members while minimizing the support school employees often provide to board members regarding completion of these requirements. We greatly appreciate your patience with any minor challenge that may occur during the new system launch.
If you have any questions regarding the obligations of board members or the new online system, please contact Alyssa Hopkins, at 781-338-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or James DiMaio, at 781-338-3228 or email@example.com. Once the system is in operation, the Department will also seek your input in any areas of improvement you may identify as users of the system.
1 Board members are still obligated to submit copies of their financial disclosures to the State Ethics Commission, and the city or town clerk where the charter school is located. Board members are also reminded to maintain records of all documentation related to their completion of requirements.
2 At this time, we will designate individuals who are identified as the school leader and Directory Administrator(s) for your school as system users for the board member management system. Once the system is launched and we begin the training of system users, schools can request changes in users to support successful implementation. Only the Department can create or modify system users.
3 For questions concerning Massachusetts' Open Meeting Law, you may contact the Division of Open Government, within the Office of Attorney General Maura Healey, at (617) 963-2540 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
4 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 Advisory Opinion.