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Stage 2: Governing Board

Stage 2: Building Your Charter School Governing Board


Your charter school idea, no matter how brilliant or seemingly necessary, will collapse without a strong committee of leaders to help govern it. Think of your governing board as the executive brain trust of your school.

You’ll want an expert in the following fields:

  • Education Administration
    • Expertise in: principals, assistant principals, deans, school budgets, general school operations, school calendar, school district policies, education law, teacher evaluation, daily schedule
  • Education Implementation
    • Expertise in: curriculum, course planning, classroom management, child psychology, teaching methods, teacher evaluation
  • Operations/IT/Human Resources
    • Expertise in: food service, bus programs, custodial oversight, groundskeeping, technology and relevant infrastructure, school calendar, daily schedule, teacher salaries
  • Finance/Accounting
    • Expertise in: public school finance, operating budgets, personnel budgets, non-profit budgets, fundraising, grant writing, FTE funding projections, bond financing
  • Real Estate/Construction/Property Management
    • Expertise in: commercial real estate, building codes, building repair, building conversion, zoning restrictions, landscaping, subcontracting
  • Business/Marketing/Public Relations
    • Expertise in: management, student markets, demography, advertising, web design, social media, community involvement, non-profit board governance


The number of board members varies, and depending on the type of school you’re chartering, you might want to make sure to recruit the appropriate specialist. For instance, the board member you recruit for Operations might be very experienced in food service and busing services, but might only have a minimal understanding of technological infrastructure. If you’re planning a tech-heavy charter high school, you’ll want to make sure that you get a board member who can advise on tech related matters since your Operations person can’t be expected to carry the load.

Likewise, if you find that you’ve recruited too many board members, feel free to keep only as many as you need. For example, if your education administration expert also has 30 years of teaching under his/her belt, there’s no need to use up a governing board spot on a second education expert. It all boils down to what your specific school model needs, so assign posts accordingly and fill them with the most qualified individuals.

A note of caution: be wary of people who approach with the intention of being on the charter school board. Some will have the best of intentions, and their obvious interest can create a good relationship over the long run, but many people who approach you about board membership will have ulterior motives. Make it clear from the very beginning that board members will not realize any profit from the governance of the charter school. They are not paid with school funds, and under most state laws any company they own or are affiliated with cannot provide services to the charter school. Keep an eye open for any potential conflicts of interest, since your charter application will come under heavy scrutiny if the governing board members are related to one another, if any board members own any part of a business being hired by the school, or if any board member is the landlord of the building that the school happens to be leasing.

As you’re putting your board together, you’ll also want to file for 501c3 not-for-profit foundation status, referred to by the IRS as an Application for Recognition of Exemption. This will create a corporation under which your charter school can operate, and your board members will effectively be the executives of this corporation. Your charter school will not have to be named after the non-profit you create, and if you plan on opening future schools, you might want to keep the name as generic as possible. For example, you can file for 501c3 tax-exempt status under the name “Best Charter School Ever, LLC” and open a school called “Community Charter School.” Later on, depending on the laws in your state, you can open another charter school under the same tax-exempt organization, without having to file an entirely new non-profit entity.