Navigating the Charter School Authorization and Renewal Process: A Focus on School Culture, Climate, and Safety

By Dominic Frisina

From 1,672 referable incidents in our first year to just 116 in the second – the transformation of our charter school, and its renewal, isn’t merely about impressive statistics but revolves around strategic planning, unwavering focus, and an indispensable positive culture strategy from The Positivity Project. As we unravel the intricacies of the charter school authorization and renewal processes, you’ll discern the pivotal role that school culture, climate, and safety play. With the right support, every school can witness this caliber of remarkable transformation.

The intent of a charter school is to be a place of innovation. Charter schools have gained popularity in the education landscape due to their flexibility and autonomy in educational practices. However, with this independence comes the responsibility to maintain a positive and safe school culture and climate. In this blog, we will explore the charter school authorization and renewal process, shedding light on its significance from the perspective of school culture, climate, and safety.

Charter School Authorization Process:

The charter school authorization process is the initial step taken by a governing body, such as a school district or state education department, to approve the establishment of a new charter school. This process is critical as it sets the foundation for the school’s future and its potential impact on students, staff, and the broader community. It’s also taxing and can be overwhelming. I’ve been there, opening a charter school in 2017 and receiving a full-term, 5-year renewal in 2022. 

So, what do the Authorizers evaluate?

Vision and Mission Alignment:

During the authorization process, the charter school must articulate a clear vision and mission that define its purpose and goals. The school’s commitment to creating a positive school culture that values student well-being and success should be evident in its vision and mission statements.

Curriculum and Instruction:

The charter school’s educational approach, including its curriculum and instructional methods, should align with research-based practices that promote a positive learning environment. A focus on fostering critical thinking, problem-solving, and character/social-emotional skills can contribute to a positive school climate.

Governance and Leadership:

Strong and effective governance and leadership are crucial for maintaining a positive school culture. The charter school’s board and leadership team must prioritize creating a safe and supportive environment for all stakeholders, including students, teachers, and families.

Charter School Renewal Process:

Operating on a contractual basis, charter schools undergo a rigorous renewal examination upon concluding their charter duration. This process puts the school under the microscope, scrutinizing its performance metrics, especially its influence on school culture, climate, and safety.

The Fundamental Metrics

Academic Performance:

A positive school culture is often correlated with improved academic outcomes. Charter schools seeking renewal should demonstrate academic achievement and progress, as well as an emphasis on student well-being and character/social-emotional development.

School Climate and Safety Analysis:

The charter school’s renewal application should include comprehensive data on school climate and safety measures. This may include student surveys, staff feedback, disciplinary records, and safety incident reports. Schools should be able to show evidence of a safe and supportive learning environment. There is a noted strong correlation between teacher retention and safety data, which demonstrates the need to provide a conducive learning environment. 

Family and Community Engagement:

Positive school cultures thrive when there is strong collaboration between the school, families, and the community. Charter schools should demonstrate their efforts to involve parents and community members in decision-making processes and school activities.

Key Considerations for Culture, Climate, and Safety:

Relationships and Inclusivity:

Charter schools should guarantee an inclusive environment for every student that transcends differences – and they should consistently foster positive relationships among students, staff, and the broader school community.

Positive Character Education and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL):

Integrating positive character education and SEL into the curriculum can significantly contribute to a positive school climate. This helps students develop self-awareness, empathy, and positive relationships, fostering a respectful and caring school community.

Proactive Discipline Strategies:

Charter schools should adopt proactive approaches to discipline, focusing on ways to get upstream on negative behaviors. A shift from punitive measures to support and understanding – and leveraging a common vocabulary – can lead to a more harmonious school environment.

The authorization and renewal processes for charter schools aren’t mere formalities; they are critical evaluations to ensure that these institutions maintain an unwavering focus on school culture, climate, and safety. It’s not a coincidence that schools that embrace these principles experience impacts akin to my school’s success story. As the charter school paradigm evolves, the commitment to cultivating a nurturing school culture will remain pivotal in sculpting education’s future. And remember, aligning with the right strategies and partners, like The Positivity Project, can make all the difference in this journey.

Dominic Frisina
Growth Operations Manager, The Positivity Project

Dominic Frisina is the Growth Operations Manager of The Positivity Project. Dominic taught in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Syracuse at the elementary and middle levels while coaching basketball, soccer -- and receiving teacher of the year honors. As a Principal of the Citizenship and Science Academy of Syracuse, Dominic led the opening and expansion of two school buildings in Syracuse, NY which were successfully replicated in Rochester, NY. As a P2 Partner, Dominic built the foundation of his school through relationships and engagement with families, receiving honors for community service. His research interests include the impact of organizational culture, and the power of mentorship.