For this episode of our CHARTER EDtalks, Ryan Eldridge, one of Charter School Capital’s Charter School Advisors, had the honor of sitting down with Nick Driver, Vice President of Strategic Development at Charter School Management Corporation (CSMC), to discuss how to get the most out of the relationship with your charter school business service provider.
To learn the tips on how to get the most out of your relationship with a business service provider—or even what you should expect from that relationship—please watch the video or read the transcript below to get the full story.
Ryan Eldridge: Hello there, and thank you for joining us for this episode of CHARTER EDtalks. I’m Ryan Eldridge, Charter School Advisor with Charter School Capital, and I’m honored to be joined here today by Nick Driver, Vice President of Strategic Development for Charter School Management Corporation (CSMC)to discuss ways to get the most out of your business provider relationship.
Nick, thank you for joining us today.
Nick Driver: Thanks, Ryan.
Eldridge: Why don’t we go ahead and kick it off? My first question for you would be is, how often should you expect to communicate with your business service provider?
Driver: Yeah. “Business service providers” means a lot of things. But to us, it means that we are involved in the schools, kind of like if we were the staff of the school. Of course we are outsourced, so we’re not there present at the school every day, but we certainly are there very often. And so in terms of communication, we are in communication regularly. Not just weekly, not just daily, but multiple times a day because we have at least seven people from our staff that are supporting each one of our school partners.
And that’s because there are a lot of requirements for separation of duties, so we have to make sure that we have different people from our team—in addition to the school partner’s team—working together. But there are also many different tasks that have to be performed and those are specialized tasks and so we have accountants, we have student data specialists, we have authorizing specialists, we have payroll specialists.
And as I said, there’s a minimum of seven people from our team that are working with each school partner. So sometimes a school is working with us multiple times, depending on which personnel is at the school each day. So that’s a short answer.
I could get into more detail about the kinds of communication. Some of them are just basic email communications, some of them are phone calls. And of course we come out regularly to the schools to report out to the school and its board, to the finance committee as well as the full board, and those are in-person visits as well. Those are less frequent, those are not daily. Those are typically every other week or monthly. But that gives you an indication of the regularity.
Eldridge: So what could a school do to build and maintain a successful relationship with a business service provider?
Driver: Well, the number one thing is to be proactive as well as reactive. We do a comprehensive training when we start with a new school partner to tell the school partner what we will need in order to help the school comply with all the many regulations and owners compliance duties that you have to perform.
So we take a proactive stance, and we ask for our partners to also be proactive when they discover a problem that we may not be able to find because we’re not always on site.
We also—since we are very proactive—we ask that there’s a response, so just like as if we were staff at the school, on the school site, then we have regular communication. So it’s basic stuff, it’s not rocket science, but it is a two-way street.
The best way for us to be able to help a school perform and outperform all the expectations from its authorizer and from the stakeholders is to be able to do that communication back and forth on a regular basis.
Eldridge: Given the increasing political challenges schools are facing right now, how can a business service provider assist schools on that matter?
Driver: That’s a great question, Ryan. We struggle with that a lot because we are in the business of making sure that schools are complying with all of the many regulations and requirements that they have as a charter school, and in addition to that, in many states, and the federal government, there are additional challenges. There are always additional challenges each year it seems like, but this year seems especially fraught, and so we have to step it up just like schools have to step it up.
When you get into the business of starting a school, you don’t think of it as a business. You think about educating kids. And yet you’re also starting a small nonprofit. So you’re creating jobs, you’re creating employment, you’re creating a community center for the parents and the other stakeholders. And so schools are being asked to step up and do advocacy work, and we know we have to play our part, too.
We’ve done that in various ways. For instance, starting a new authorizing division to make it easier for our schools to get renewed is one example of how we are helping schools address the challenges that they’re facing because of the politics in many states.
Eldridge: All right, thank you.
Driver: All right.
Eldridge: Yeah, well that wraps up this episode of Charter Ed Talks. Nick, thank you very much for joining us today, and we hope it was very beneficial to all of you viewing out there.
Driver: Thanks, Ryan. Thanks.
RELATED: In case you missed the first in this series of CHARTER EDtalks: What to Look for When Selecting a Charter School Business Provider
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