What right does a charter school authorizer have to dictate who serves on a charter school board, what terms they serve, or what their qualifications are? This is a contentious issue with school districts employing a variety of sanctions in order to address perceived concerns about specific charter schools.
Recently one metro Denver school district barred a named individual from serving on a charter school board. In the past at least two districts have required a clean sweep of a charter school governing board. Individual charter school governing boards and their actions have been the subject of several State Board of Education charter appeal hearings and at least two lawsuits.
Charter school folks contend that the charter contract, based on the charter school application, should allow the charter school to select their own board members, without interference from the authorizer. Authorizers have become frustrated with some actions of individuals serving on charter school boards and have turned to a heavy-handed approach in order to rectify problems.
Although every situation warrants a unique decision, authorizers would be wise to carefully examine the proposed charter school's bylaws and board policies. The time to ensure wise governance is before the charter school board is established. The authorizer can require, for example, conflict of interest policies. They can also require that individual board members have a minimum level of board training, prior to service. In order to innoculate themselves against accusations of a "witch hunt" the authorizer should have a list of required governing board policies in their district charter school policy. Additionally, the charter contract should require the charter school board to provide meeting agendas and minutes to the authorizer. If all expectations are clear and in writing up front, the chance for problems to arise are significantly mitigated.