Essential Components in Planning a Charter School

Carolyn M. Penny

EDSP 287

cpenny @

Planning a charter school is a tedious endeavor. Time is required to organize, obtain funds, select staff, make curricular decisions, and set up guidelines for the implementation and maintenance of an effective school. Mary Ellen Sweeney has designed a plan to assist organizers.The plan consists of five major components:

  1. Envision the School's Mission Stage the school's mission is developed during this time. Students, parents, community members, and educational practitioners play an integral role in the creating of the school's mission and philosophy.
  1. Decide how to administer your school - Ask these questions: How will you manage your charter school?, Will you experiment and flatten the hierarchy?, and Will you ask for waivers from state and district policies?
  1. Appoint a person to act as liaison in building a relationship between school and the central office. Due to the tremendous amount of services such as curriculum development, transportation, budget, food services, and facilities needed by the school it is pertinent to have this person. This person keeps central office abreast of the school's operational functions.

Decide specifics - the level and number of students to attend the school is determined during this stage. A developing of a time line for growth, choices, distinctive curriculum, and adequate planning time for teachers is pertinent.

  1. Defining of new roles - responsibilities are clearly defined. Students participate in the governance of the school and make decisions regarding what they will learn in the program. Teachers are responsible for students and the completion of Personalized Learning Plans. An evaluation team (two students, two parents, and two staff members) provide feedback and recommendation for continued employment. Parents also serve as sponsors and participate on various committees such as transportation and personnel.


Adequate planning time is essential for the startup and operation of a charter school. The success of the school depends upon careful personnel selection, distinctive curriculum design, community resources, and a clear direction. Mary Ellen Sweeney's plan is a useful tool for organizers. It presents a framework with practical guidelines for the implementation of a charter school.

Charter schools can provide genuine avenues for making educational changes. Effective strategies such as innovative learning practices, flexible schedules involving the length of school day and the year, noncoersive discipline measures, and on site services can assist students in becoming productive individuals. Charter schools can alsopresent possibilities for reaching dropouts, replacing schools that are not meeting students need, dealing with the next boomlet, promoting innovative learning, and addressing problems that prevent student success.


Sweeney, Mary Ellen (1995). How To Plan a Charter School. Educational Leadership. September, p. 46-47.