Charter schools tend to fall within three main growth stages: start-up, growth, and sustainable maturity. These stages are defined by years in operation and the number of students served, and each phase presents unique challenges and best practices. Schools that have reached sustainable maturity are at 90 – 100% of target enrollment. They are focused on improving academic programs and getting more efficient across the board, from accounting systems to recruitment processes. While this phase comes with certain advantages, such as predictable budgeting and financing, there are still challenges to overcome. You need to adapt your curriculum, upgrade your buildings, and hire and support your staff.
As a leader in this phase, it’s crucial to remain adaptable, budget-conscious, and think strategically about the future of your school. In this blog post, we’ll share six sustainability tips from experienced charter school leaders that can help you navigate the sustainable maturity stage and keep your school on track and thriving.
1. Be Mindful of Pivotal Moments
Every school will face circumstances that can disrupt its operational rhythm and culture. The key is to acknowledge these disruptions when they occur and to have a plan in place to maintain continuity for your students no matter what.
2. Strategic Enrollment = Stability
Mature-stage schools that have already reached their maximum capacity can strategically increase enrollment to ensure financial and operational stability. Recruiting a small number of students to every grade in addition to the incoming class of kindergartners, sixth-graders, or ninth-graders can be an effective way to achieve this.
3. Continue to Cultivate a Data-Driven Culture
Keeping everyone focused on the goals and metrics that matter most can be challenging, but it’s important for ensuring that your school is meeting key benchmarks along the way. Make sure that everyone, including students and families, knows the goals for the academic year and can access school-wide metrics whenever they like.
4. Celebrate Your Successes and View Your Failures as Strategic Opportunities
Celebrate every goal that’s achieved, award that’s won, and staff member that receives recognition. But don’t forget to look at the failures, too. Analyzing failures can be a great way to identify opportunities for improvement and begin next year’s strategic plan.
5. Develop Pillars That Define the Culture That You Want to Have
On some level, culture is always aspirational. Look back at your charter and think about the values at the core of who you are now and who you want to be in the future. Choose four or five pillars that represent these values and give public recognition to anyone who embodies them.
6. Assess All Management Systems Regularly
Faulty and time-wasting systems can undermine your school’s efficiency and effectiveness. Schedule time to review and replace these systems whenever possible, so that your school can continue to operate smoothly.
Want to learn more?
Whether you’re just beginning the process of starting up a charter school, looking to expand, or you’re trying to prioritize your next steps, you can find many more tips like these in the free guide How to Grow Your School.
In this guide, you’ll find tips for you and your team on developing a strong charter, building culture and community support, and boosting your financing and practices to support your growth.