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Background Checks on CS Board Members

April 5, 2002

4/1/02

Moderator:

Below are the responses to the question circulated a while (quite a while)ago regarding whether your charter-authorizing agencies conduct background checks on charter school board members. Responses came from the Anchorage
School District; Central Michigan University; Cincinnati Public Schools; Ferris State University (MI); Hillsborough County Public Schools (FL); Milwaukee Public Schools; Minnesota Dept. of Children, Families & Learning;
New York City Board of Education; New York State Education Dept.; Charter Schools Institute of SUNY; Oakland University (MI); St. Clair
Intermediate School District (MI); and Fresno School District (CA). First, below is the question again, followed by all the responses:

*****
QUESTION:
How do other authorizers conduct background checks on a) the board members of charter school applicants and b) the board members of chartered schools? We have conducted local checks and are trying to work out the best process for the state and national checks. We're also tossing around the idea of doing credit checks. There are some issues regarding who can ask for the checks (which I think varies state to state), who can receive the results, and whether or not this information can then be shared between the
authorizer and the board.

*****

Two authorizers, the ANCHORAGE School District and ST. CLAIR Intermediate School District (MI), replied that they don't conduct background checks on charter school board members.


OTHER RESPONSES:


FERRIS STATE UNIVERSITY, MI (Jimmie Rodgers):

We do a Criminal Record Search (CRS), through
the Michigan State Police, on all charter school board members, and all candidates for appointment to a board. We also require that a questionnaire be completed by each candidate. The questionnaire provides us with information regarding potential conflict of interest.
We also interview each candidate and call and talk with references provided. We do not allow family members as references. The information
is viewed and used only by the Authorizers Office. We have an online account with the Michigan State Police. We do not do FBI checks on board members.

We have just started requiring, of all seated board members, an annual conflict of interest disclosure questionnaire.


OAKLAND UNIVERSITY, MI (Shannon Spann-Revels):

We forward copies of public school academy
(charter school) board member applications along with their resumes to the General
Counsel & President's Office at the university. The Assistant to the President forwards the applications to an outside agency, where the
criminal background check (local and state) is completed and results are returned to us. Our general counsel's office reviews the application for conflicts of interest. Based on the satisfactory results of board members
criminal background check, the proposed board members name is forwarded to the university's board of trustees for approval. Currently, we do not review the credit history of board applicants.


CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY (Jim Goenner):

Criminal records checks and financial credit checks fall under the Fair Credit Reporting Act which is federal law. We spent considerable time
reviewing this--there are enough pitfalls that I'd recommend getting some assistance from legal counsel.


CHARTER SCHOOLS INSTITUTE, STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK (James Merriman):

In New York State, authorizers have no authority to ask for fingerprint checks of board members. Our statute only mandates fingerprinting of
applicants (sometimes this equals the proposed board members but it need not). A separate statute of general application requires fingerprinting of teachers, etc.

As such we do not conduct background checks though we ask them to provide information to us.


NEW YORK STATE EDUCATION DEPT. (Darlene Mengel):

In New York, we have agreements with the State Division of Criminal Justice as well as the FBI to conduct such checks. We send them the completed fingerprint cards from the applicants. Our statute says that the applicants, and not the trustees, are the ones who must be fingerprinted and undergo the background checks.


NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION (Iris Zvi):

The NYCBOE allows all charter school employees & board members to use our background check & fingerprinting services. This is the same process our regular teachers seeking employment in the system use.


HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, FL (Charlene Pirko):

According to charter legislation in the state of Florida charter school board members must be fingerprinted. The board members of the charter schools we sponsor go through the school district (sponsor) for fingerprinting and the results come back to our security office. When the reports come back to the district security office we notify the charter school of any problems so they may take the
appropriate action. The reports stay on file at the district office.


MILWAUKEE PUBLIC SCHOOLS (Lynne Sobczak):

For the Milwaukee Public Schools charters, our
district's Human Resources Department conducts background checks on the educational leader, the financial leader and the author(s) of the charter
school proposal or petition. If a charter is granted, we then conduct a background check on all staff and volunteers. We require Board member
information, but unless the members are on staff, volunteers, or were part of the charter school development team, we do not currently conduct background checks.

Having explained what we currently do, I now will proceed to see if we might add background checks for charter school Board members because I think it's probably a good idea. The only drawback I see is that we do not do background checks for the governance council (Board) members of any of the other 160 some district schools.


CINCINNATI PUBLIC SCHOOLS (John Rothwell):

In Ohio the individual requests the background check and has the results sent to the sponsor. That way the subject of the investigation is knowingly sharing the results of the investigation.

FRESNO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT (Rosylin Bessard):

We do not check on the Charter Board members as
most are advisory - monitoring only - with little to no contact with students.
We do however, have fingerprints checked through the Department of Justice on
all employees working at the Charter School from clerical to custodial to
administrator to teacher, etc.


MINNESOTA DEPT. OF CHILDREN, FAMILIES & LEARNING (Andrea Coffey):

This is not policy that is in place in Minnesota; however, we do require teacher licenses with the applications, and we require biographical
information for all the developers, including the licensed teachers. These people form the interim board until the election of a permanent board at the charter school. We have required the individual schools to conduct background checks on all staff working with students, but we have not specifically addressed the charter school board members. (In Minnesota the charter school board is made up of a majority of teachers by the end of the third year.)

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