Charter Schools Need Administrator Certification Flexibility

Charter Schools Need Administrator Certification Flexibility

Research has shown that, “highly effective principals raise the achievement of a typical student in their schools by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year.” Our state has some outstanding non-traditional leadership talent eager and prepared to run charter schools in Idaho, and SB1058 aims to add another tool to the toolbox to help welcome and embrace the very best talent for our schools and children.

Our state is one of only a handful of states with charter school laws that do not offer this level of basic administrator flexibility. According to data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 28 of 35 states with charter laws require that charter administrators only need to have a B.A., pass a criminal background check and be hired by an approved charter school board of trustees. Flexibility in hiring school personnel is a basic charter school freedom recognized across the country.

In a recent survey of Idahoans by Idaho Education News, “Approximately 2 in 3 say it is generally a good idea to ‘allow public schools to hire experienced leaders from other fields such as the military, law, or business to become school administrators through an alternative track that would be faster and simpler than traditional certification.’”

However, this legislation does not make the mistake of opening charter school leadership positions to under-qualified candidates. SB1058 offers a rigorous alternative certification process that allows a public charter school board of directors to account for a candidate’s professional experience, values, and education when choosing an administrator to best serve their school and children.

The proposed legislation requires potential charter school administrators to:

1. Hold at least a bachelor’s degree
2. Pass a background check
3. Complete three credit hours in statewide framework for teacher evaluations, and
4. Present a letter from the board of directors stating that the board has carefully considered the administrator, has chosen to hire them, and is committed to overseeing their performance in compliance with an approved charter authorizer performance certificate.
5. Possess five or more years of experience administering a public school
6. Have a post-baccalaureate degree and a minimum of five years of experience in school administration, public administration, business administration or military administration, or;
7. Successfully complete a nationally recognized charter school leaders fellowship, or
8. Five or more years of teaching experience.

Our public school children deserve nothing less than the best leadership in their schools . By design and in state statute, public charter schools are supposed to be different. The proposed legislation for an alternative pathway for charter school administrators will attract excellent leadership talent with a diverse perspective, to serve Idaho’s schools, students, and families. It is just another tool, tried and tested in other states, to try and better serve Idaho families and students.

Here are some comments from some of Idaho’s top public charter school leaders:

Keith Donahue, Sage International School of Boise, says: “I’d like to share my ‘non-traditional’ path to becoming a school leader. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. I also learned my Juris Doctor and worked as an Idaho Deputy Attorney General for several years. My client, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, then hired me in a non-attorney capacity to manage multiple programs. Through these two positions, I gained 10+ years of experience interpreting Idaho law and policy, overseeing state and federal budgets, drafting legislation, rules and policy, and managing personnel – all transferable to school leadership…Given my non-traditional path, I am not a certified administrator and cannot be our official charter administrator.

Michelle Ball, veteran teacher and educator from Idaho Falls shares: “I am the most qualified in our school to be the administrator to fulfill the commitments of our charter. I hold a bachelor’s degree, have a wealth of experience and founded Alturas International Academy, yet my position is not funded by the state. This is unfair to the school and students that we serve as my qualifications are way beyond those who have the needed state requirements. Fortunately, our new principal and I have a great relationship, but it took a lot of effort to find someone who believed in our mission.”

Read letters of support from:

Idaho Charter School Network
Alturas International Academy – Idaho Falls
American Heritage Charter School – Idaho Falls
Elevate Academy – Caldwell
Future Public School – Garden City
Gem Innovation Schools – Pocatello, Nampa & Meridian
Sage International School – Boise
Treasure Valley Classical Academy – Fruitland
Upper Carmen Public Charter School – Salmon