Our upcoming session at the National Charter Schools Conference is going to answer one really important question, “How do we avoid the top financial mistakes that charter schools make?” We are so honored to have an outstanding panel of charter school experts join us to share insights from their years of charter school experience.
Tricia Blum Head of Business Consulting, Charter School Capital
Margie Montgomery Founder, Desert Star Academy
Sharon Thompson, Chairman of the Board, Wayne Academy
Michael LaRoche Founder/Executive Director, SALTech
So, what are the five mistakes?
1. Not Recognizing Your Schools is a Businesses
2. Being Unprepared for the Unexpected
3. Underestimating the Importance of Finances
4. Losing Sight of Your Mission
5. Not Maintaining Strong Relationships
We chatted briefly with two of our panelists, Michael LaRoche, the Founder and Executive Director at SALTech and Margie Montgomery, Founder of Desert Star Academy, asked them a few questions in advance of their participation on our panel.
Q: Can you briefly describe your history with Charter School Capital (CSC) and why you are excited to participate with Charter School Capital at the National Conference?
Michael LaRoche: CSC was always there to support SALTech’s mission for facility financing from day one. We developed relationships with the CSC staff in early 2013, during our separation from the Education Management Company. SALTech experienced significant cash flow problems soon after construction which would have closed most schools. CSC stood by SALTech during the good times and challenging encounters along the way. I am very excited to share our journey and the support CSC provided to enable success.
Margie Montgomery: As the founder of Desert Star Academy, I have been a client of CSC for four years. First, with working capital. CSC provided funding for Desert Star Academy to open the charter to purchase furniture and the initial curriculum. After two years, CSC’s Facility team purchased land from Desert Star to build an 11,000 square foot building that housed our new middle school
I am extremely excited to participate with CSC at the conference because this company provides resources and opportunities for charter schools to grow and expand. They also provide support to each of the schools to improve and maintain financial stability. It is truly an honor and privilege to be a speaker with them at the conference.
Q: What do you hope people take away from our session “Top Five Financial Mistakes Charter Schools Make . . . And How to Avoid Them”?
1. Not Recognizing Charter Schools are Businesses
Ensure the school leadership and the Board have a shared vision for the school and are on the same page. They need to collaborate and agree on legal, financial, marketing, staffing, budgeting, construction and growth opportunities that matter to the school. They must also have a contingency plan in place for when things do not go as expected. Moreover, they must seek innovative ways to outperform the competition continuously.
2. Poor Enrollment Forecasting
Work with a financial expert to carefully understand how expected enrollments affects the entire school operations. Nothing is 100% guaranteed and the perfect time is always now. You must take the financial walk!
3. Sales & Marketing
Most charter schools do not have the resources to hire a sales or marketing team to support their enrollments efforts. You are the chief salesperson for your school. Therefore, you must scaffold your sales and marketing thinking to your staff quickly. Help your staff to understand that everyone is a salesperson for the school. Help your staff to look for trends and opportunities in the education marketplace.
4. Build Strong Relationships
You can not do it alone. Innovation is not the leader or Board responsibility. Make the connection with businesses and organizations that share your vision and mission that will add relevance to your school. Keep your parents and students informed of your goals, they are your first line of support and sometimes your only line of support.
5. Ferocious Around the Boundry
The school leadership and the Board must plan for and respond quickly to any threats made against the school, which includes the following: The school district, state, parents, students, staff, other organizations and social media to mention a few.
1. It is not enough to open a charter school as a building principal you MUST have superintendent experience.
Running a charter school is a business. If you are the lone person at the top running the school and directing your board you must have business experience. As the school leader, you are managing cash flow every week and making financial decisions daily. Be prepared.
2. Plan for the unexpected.
Talk to many charter leaders about the first year of business in respect to the hills and valleys. Understand the mishaps that can occur and be prepared to handle them from a financial standpoint to staff and curriculum issues. Over plan in every aspect from sound policies to financial planning, as once the doors open you are putting out fires.
3. Have financial reserves from day one.
Plan to have cash reserves from day one and budget for a set amount to go to the reserves every month. This will get you through the unexpected and have a build up for growth. Your incomes come in monthly and growth expenses occur in the few months before school starts. Reach out to charter school capital during your planning phases to partner with them for financial stability. Once funded, immediately set up a cash reserve account.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at the conference?
Michael LaRoche: SALTech Charter High School has a great story of resilience, belief and an impressive academic and financial track record in helping and supporting at-risk youths for over 15 years. I was privileged to have a front-row seat to bear witness to SALTech journey so that others can benefit.
Margie Montgomery: I am looking forward to seeing the team and sharing my experiences with charter holders outside of my local and state area. Running a charter school is such an exciting, yet challenging opportunity for everyone involved and if I can assist and encourage others to be successful I will have achieved another professional goal.
And, this is just a sneak peek at the wealth of knowledge our panelists will be sharing! We want to sincerely thank Micheal, Margie, and our other esteemed panelists for their partnership, leadership, and willingness to share their experiences to help support other charter leaders.
W e’ll be streaming this session on Facebook Live from the National Charter School Conference on Monday, June 18th at 2 pm CT or (12 pm PT). Don’t miss it!
And check back on our blog late on June 18th to download a handy one-page PDF of the five mistakes.
Charter School Capital is committed to the success of charter schools and has solely focused on funding charter schools since the company’s inception in 2006. Our depth of experience working with charter school leaders and our knowledge of how to address charter school financial and operational needs have allowed us to provide over $1.6 billion in support of 600 charter schools that educate 800,000 students across the country. For more information on how we can support your charter school, contact us!