During the rush of the school year, it’s sometimes tough to focus on long-term operational goals and strategies dealing with ongoing operation challenges a school may face.

If not managed or dealt with in a timely manner, schools can experience operational hurdles or roadblocks making the process of providing academic excellence for students difficult.

These difficulties can result in financial issues, job losses and school closings affecting the goal of providing the best academic learning environment for children to prosper.

The Philadelphia School Partnership with the PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools and the Excellent Schools PA came together for a one-day conference for education innovators and experts from the Philadelphia area.

The Philadelphia Charter Operations Conference was held Jan. 11 at the International House on 3701 Chestnut St.

Local and national leaders took the day to network and help give best practices and resources for tackling issues their schools are often faced with rectifying.

The conference included Michele Mason with the Newark Charter Schools Fund as well as Karen Daniels and Lori Clement, both with Charter School Business Management.

The conference was broken up into four breakout sessions focusing on the issues around fiscal sustainability, financial management practices, operations, board governance and being aware of the talent hired by the schools.

“Just very excited to be here and very humbled and honored to have been invited by the Philadelphia School Partnership to talk about the great work that’s happening in Newark,” said Michele Mason.

In 2010 Newark Charter School was named a Blue Ribbon School for Academic Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education.

In 2011, The Global Report Card ranked Newark Charter School No. 2 on the national list for top performing schools or districts in reading.

The Delaware Department of Education has given NCS its highest rating of “Superior School” every year.

“I believes in parental choice,” said Mason.  “I know the difficulties other parents and children are faced with.”

“Where zip codes determine their future goals and blocks determine your blessings,” she added. “Parents want their children to attend the best academic environments and that is why we must leverage the charter school movement.”

Presenters Karen Daniels and Lori Clement lead their collective breakout session around finance and operations, implementing the best practices to avoid repeating common financial mistakes.

“Essentially our mission is to insure that there’s no financial mismanagement in your charter sector” said Clement. “We train some charter leaders and board members on how to manage public funds responsibly or we come in and do that work for them.”

“That’s why we’re here to train on the financial mistakes some charter schools make and how to fix them and the best practices that go along with that,” said Daniels.

The top five mistakes charters schools make are:

  • Not understanding key financial terms;

  • Underestimating startups;

  • Understanding front and back office responsibilities;

  • Hiring the wrong people; and

  • Ambiguous responsibilities exist among the finance team, leadership team, finance committee and board of trust.

Daniels and Clement provided a blueprint of solutions to fixing some of the big problems struggling charters schools may face.

The top five best practices charters schools can implement are:

  • Educating board and leadership on financial terms;

  • Educating board and leadership on key components of startups;

  • Document duties and adequately staff and structure the finance and operation teams at the school;

  • Develop an effective hiring process; and  

  • Understand how to divide the various responsibilities.

To view all the tips and resources provided during the Philadelphia Charter Operations Conference sessions around financial strategies and operations visit CSBM.com/101

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