Happy new year to all our community’s hardworking educators, principals, and education staff! Last month Transcendent Law Group was pleased to have sponsored the Louisiana Charter School Conference. In addition to being the reception sponsor, our Managing Attorney, Michelle Craig, spoke at three of the sessions during the conference. The following is a recap of some of the important takeaways from these sessions.   

1. Certified Ethics: presented by Michelle Craig with Sarah Vandergriff

This session focused on the yearly ethics training that is required of Charter School Board Members. It was an engaging, interactive session. If you missed it, here are a few takeaways that you should know:

  • Ethics training is required for all board members of charter schools in the state.
  • This training, at the conference, fulfilled the 1.0 hour Board of Ethics training requirement for all board members who attended. 
  • The training covered common ethical pitfalls: i.e. hiring family members, dealing with conflicts of interests, handling gifts from vendors, and other financial pitfalls.
  • The training provided ways to hold one another accountable as board members and reiterated board members’ duties to address other board members who may be committing ethical violations.
  • Additionally, we discussed the financial disclosure form required of board members and the fines associated with failing to submit the document timely. 

***The deadline to submit the disclosure form is May 15th and can be found at the Louisiana state website.*** 

2. Board Meeting Best Practices: presented by Joe Keeney, Judge Thibodeaux, Kevin Guitterrez and Michelle Craig

Board Meetings can be effective, efficient and govern in a productive fashion or they can be chaotic, disorganized and unproductive. The mission of any charter school board should be to guide the school to be as effective as possible for the children it serves. In this session, we discussed best practices for becoming and remaining an effective Board. The highlights of this discussion are:

  • For smoother meetings, Board agendas and documentation should be provided well in advance of the meeting and all board members should be encouraged to become familiar with the contents prior to the meeting. 
  • To deal with toxic members/situations, boards should identify and/or deal with the toxic member/issue early on by discussing the behavior with the toxic member one-on-one and/or de-escalating discussions that turn negative and unproductive. 
  • To ensure a healthy relationship with authorizers, boards should start early building and maintaining an open line of communication with the organization. 
  • To make the right decisions, boards should be reminded of the duties they have to the students, the parents, and their communities. Board members should understand the scope of these responsibilities and the important role they play in the lives of their students.
  • Additionally, we discussed the fact that board members should always ask the CEO the right questions (i.e. What are the academic goals and are they being achieved? What is the posture of the finances and what do they need to be successful?), and hold their other board members accountable in order to be impactful. 

3. Charter School Board Academy session on Best Practices in School Communications:  presented by Michelle Craig with Sarah Vandergriff

Maintaining open and regular communication with parents, students, and the community is critical for Charter Schools, but it can easily be overlooked causing problems down the line. In this session, we discussed how to be effective at all communications including good news, bad news, or crisis communication. Here are the takeaways:

  • The first time that the community hears about a school should not be when a bad situation occurs. Let everyone know about the good news happening at your school throughout the school year. 
  • If your organization doesn’t have a solid social media presence, it is behind the times. Social media is often the first step for people looking to connect with your institution. 
  • Common pitfalls that schools face on social media include failing to obtain student waivers for photos, responding to angry or unflattering comments on the post instead of handling it internally, and ensuring that someone monitors and updates social media pages regularly. 
  • Additionally, there should be one person or one team through which communications, particularly crisis communications, flow. 
  • Lastly, we discussed when legal should become involved during crisis situations. 

Transcendent Law Group works with Charter schools across the gulf south to serve as general counsel, and to help schools maintain compliance with applicable laws, policies, and procedures. Contact us today by phone 504.459.4557 or email us at info@tlg.law for more information.