Don Juan, a Yaqui Sorcerer, said “Any path is only a path. And anything is one of a million paths. The question is: Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. A path with a heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it. As long as you follow it, you are one with it. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when you finally realize that you have taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to consume you.”
Something worth standing for is a matter of the heart, and the charter school story most surely exemplifies the path with a heart. Free to develop innovative programs and approaches, public charter schools operate independently to make a difference in the lives of children. They enjoy a greater degree of autonomy than traditional public schools, and in exchange they must accept greater accountability. For board members and others charged with financial oversight the question is about the path to informed fiscal governance. Do your schools demonstrate “best practices” of financial accountability and transparency, and does your fiscal governance model transform data into Action for Impact?
About 7 years ago bearsolutions was blessed with the opportunity to further the public charter school movement. Working with the Washington, DC authorizer, what started with visits to schools with “unusual” financials developed into a financial governance framework supported by the schools, their accounting service providers, and their independent auditors. Reporting of school and sector financial performance progressed from Excel flat files to CHARM™, a Salesforce relational database application.
Given our DC experience, we are interested to add a new business model for our services. Our intention is to share actual experiences with the wider, national charter school community; to further a common body of knowledge. We expect to roll-out our fiscal governance coaching program this fall; to include a series of “best practices” workshops for board trustees, authorizers, and other community players. Planned impact areas will include facilities financing and leasing, contracting for services from CMOs, related party transactions, and engagement of the school financial auditors. We will also share our work in developing proven methods and tools that enable effective financial oversight.
We ask that you please let us have your thoughts as to planned impact areas, and suggestions for other topics that you might want to add to the list. Effective financial governance requires an ongoing commitment to growth based on community knowledge. Nothing to it but to do it!
Thanking you in advance for your feedback and guidance.
Smiling Bear (aka Dennis)