Don’t Take Sheehan’s Misunderstandings as Facts
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
As I read Senator Sheehan’s April 17 opinion piece about increasing oversight of charter schools, I saw many opportunities to myth-bust charter school misconceptions. Given that misinformation about charters was shared publicly and originated from one of our esteemed members of the legislature, I worry that the community might take his misunderstandings as facts. Like Rhode Island’s other public bodies, charter schools are also held to high standards of accountability and transparency.
It appears that the Senator is unaware that charter schools comply with open meetings laws, participate in a rigorous re-authorization process every 5 years, share our budget information with the public, and more. The crux of his argument is that the public should have the opportunity to sit on charter school governing boards; he must not realize that that is already an option at The Compass School, a K-8 charter that educates students from his own district.
I make the (perhaps naive) assumption that anyone interested in participating in charter school governance is invested in the success of said charter school. I assume that prospective board members are deeply invested in The Compass School mission and our overall success. To assume anything less would suggest an inherent conflict of interest; the candidate would be in violation of his/her fiduciary responsibility as a board member. I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, so I’m going to assume everyone has our school’s best interest at heart.
The Compass Community values diverse experience and multiple voices. Our board was intentionally designed to offer a balanced representation of Compass School stakeholders. Our governance is decided by:
3 Parent Representatives
3 Teacher Representatives
3 Community Representatives
This shared leadership model has served us well since 2002; The Compass School is a high performing school. The balanced makeup of our board is vital to our accomplished history and our continued successful governance.
Until recently, I was not aware that our district schools had interest in participating in charter school governance. Now that community members are publicly declaring their intention to participate in and support our school, I invite them to self-nominate for Compass Council to fill one of our three community seats. The elections happen annually in June and statements of interest can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration by the Council, according to its bylaws.
Even if district-associated community members are not voted onto the Compass Council, I invite interested parties to attend our Council meetings (we meet at 6 pm on the 2nd Tuesday of the month) and the meetings of its subcommittees. The Compass School school is among the most active posters to the RI Secretary of State website; our minutes and agendas are not only posted, but also are extremely detailed because the transparency of governance is important to us.
The Compass School has an open door policy along with built-in mechanisms for our sending districts to participate in our Council. Legislative measures to mandate such practices are unnecessary. I welcome Senator Sheehan to attend the next Compass School Council meeting and to meet with me to discuss charter governance in more depth. I look forward to thanking him for his service and supporting his ongoing professional development regarding charter school governance.
Brandee Lapisky, M.Ed. is the Director of The Compass School in Kingston, Rhode Island.