Executive sessions must follow procedural requirements and qualify under the seven authorized reasons for holding an executive session. A majority of Governing Council members constitutes a quorum. A quorum of Council members will not discuss school business whether in person, on the phone or electronically unless open meeting law procedures have been followed. The school will be structured so that there is not a quorum of Governing Council on any school councils or committees that discuss school business. A Council member may not participate on school councils or committees when doing so would create a quorum.
A Plan for Openness
In order to promote transparency and accountability, the Governing Council will:
1. Make available in advance the notices and agendas of public meetings:
A. At a publicly accessible area in the charter school’s office and/or the Head Learner’s office so as to be available for review during regular business hours not less than ten (10) calendar days prior to the meeting for a regular meeting and three (3) calendar days for a special meeting and twenty four (24) hours for an emergency meeting; and
B. On the proposed charter school’s website not less than ten (10) calendar days prior to the public meeting, three (3) calendar days for a special meeting, and twenty four (24) hours for an emergency meeting, in accordance with the Governing Council bylaws.
A. At a publicly accessible area in the Charter School, available for review during regular business hours; and
B. On the LTMAS internet website.
Council Powers and Duties
The role of the Governing Council is to provide policy, financial and legal direction, oversight, and to ensure the long-term financial viability of the LTMAS. Financial responsibilities of the Council will include approval and monitoring of the annual budget, the stewardship of the school’s assets, the fostering of fund-raising through solicitation of donations and grants, and long-term planning regarding school facilities. The Council will enter into and revoke all contractual relationships, including the hiring and firing of the head learner.
In addition, the Council will conduct a yearly performance review of the Head Learner based on his/her job description, the results from the school-wide evaluation, and performance in relation to stated goals and objectives. The Council will adopt a policies and procedures manual and will continue to add to and refine this manual with input from the administration and faculty. The Council will give final approval to any proposed changes and additions to the school charter, by- laws, and policies and procedures. The Council is responsible for the school’s compliance with this charter. The Council is composed of elected representatives from the parent community, the faculty and the greater community to ensure that all school stakeholders will be represented. The school administrator (Head Learner) will participate as requested and required by the Governing Council.
Criteria and Selection Process for the School’s Administrator (Head Learner):
The Administrator will have the following characteristics:
- Have or be able to obtain a School Administrator’s license with the state of New Mexico
- A minimum of three years experience as a school administrator, preferably in a charter school
- Experience with supervising high-quality instruction using integrated curriculum
- Knowledge of and a strong commitment to Montessori philosophy
- Experience with financial policy and procedures in an organizational setting
- Experience with developing and managing budgets
- Effective communication skills with a diverse community
- Effective problem-solver
- An effective collaborator among staff, parents and the larger community
The Governing Council will recruit the school’s administrator, the Head Learner, through a public process, including advertising in local and national newspapers and professional printed media, referral, and through appropriate electronic recruitment mechanisms. In accordance with the Charter Schools Act, La Tierra employees are not employees of the Espanola Public School District, but shall be hired directly by LTMAS.
La Tierra Montessori School of the Arts and Sciences employees will be hired in accordance with all state and federal employment rules and
regulations and in compliance with the School Personnel Act.
Budgeting and Operation of School
La Tierra Montessori School of the Arts and Sciences administrator and the Business Manager will work closely together to prepare a proposed annual budget and present it to the Council. The Business Manager will work with the Council Treasurer to review the budget. The Treasurer will then present the budget to the full Council for its approval.
La Tierra Montessori School of the Arts and Sciences will follow a participatory decision- making model. At a meeting of the Governing Council, each member shall have one vote. A majority vote of a quorum of the Governing Council carries any issue. A quorum is defined as a simple majority of the Council.
Description of the Governing Council
The Council will utilize a participatory model of governance. Approved by-laws describe how the Council will govern the school. Officer positions of the Council will include Chair, Co-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. The Governing Council will operate in accordance with applicable federal and state law and the proposed school’s charter with the NMPED. The Council recognizes that its meetings are subject to public notice and it is the responsibility of the Council to provide notices and agendas to the public per applicable laws. The Council will take actions and deliberations in accordance with the Open Meetings Act.
The Governing Council Chair shall be chosen from among the representatives of the Governing Council. Election of Governing Council officers, term limits, and term rotation will conform to the school’s by-laws. The by-laws will also provide a method for the expansion of the Governing Council if that proves desirable.
All meetings of the Governing Council and its committees will be public meetings, except where required by law to be closed. The Governing Council will conduct regular business at least once a month or at the call of the Chair or majority of Governing Council members. The Governing Council also will meet periodically to implement an outcomes-based evaluation and training program.
The program will be designed to develop board capacity in order to allow the Governing Council to more effectively advance the proposed school’s mission and vision. The Governing Council will, at the beginning of each year, identify a set of development goals that are linked to improvement in student achievement, and create an annual calendar of board study and training sessions designed to attain those goals.
Governing Council Recruitment
New Governing Council representatives will be sought by standing Council members, or past members in good standing, as vacancies on the Council occur through expansion, through term limits or through resignations. New members will be recruited from the immediate community primarily, in an effort to maintain a Council that reflects the community it serves. Specific skills of candidates, which are valuable to the Governing Council, and which will be sought in potential Council members include:
- law, especially charter school law and non-profit law
- finance, especially school finance and non-profit finance
- education, including charter schools, administration, special education, Montessori,
- Reggio Emilia approach, Sudbury School approach, integrated arts, Spanish and STEM.
- fine arts education, including dance, music, visual art, New Mexican traditional art, and other art forms.
- gardening, especially organic gardening, permaculture, traditional New Mexican farming, experience with acequia farming, and other local agricultural practices.
- public relations, grant writing, and capital campaign coordination architecture, planning, and design
Specific characteristics of candidates, which are valuable to the Governing Council, and which will be sought in potential Council members include:
- Representation of racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of the Espanola Valley, including
- Hispanic, Native American, Sikh, Mexican, and Caucasian membership on the Council.
- Representation of diversity in gender, age, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic status.
Process for Selection of New Governing Council Members:
- Individuals who are interested in serving on the Governing Council will be contacted by a standing member of the Governing Council, as appropriate.
- An informal meeting between the candidate and at least one standing Council member will be held to review roles, responsibilities, and other aspects of Council membership.
- Candidates will be asked to attend at least one regular meeting of the Governing Council as a member of the public.
- Candidates will then be asked to provide a resume and letter of interest, describing their skills and strengths, why they would like to join the Council, and what contributions they would like to make.
- Letters of interest and resumes will be distributed to all members of the Governing Council for review. Discussion and action (a majority vote) will be placed on the agenda of a Council meeting to accept or deny Council member applications.
In addition to the possession of desired skills, Council Members will be elected by other members based on commitment to the school, its mission and vision, and a willingness to work collaboratively with a group.
The Council Members shall hold office for a term of up to two years in staggered arrangements, to provide for continuity on the Council. A Council Member who chooses an additional three-year term must go through the same process as a new applicant.
Orientation Process for New Members and Ongoing Professional Development
The Secretary is responsible for orienting new members to the Council. Members will be given copies of and expected to become familiar with Council by-laws, policy manual, the La Tierra Charter, the Open Meetings Act, charter school law, roles and responsibilities, ethics, conflicts of interest and financial policies. Participation in state-required training and La Tierra Council development will guide members to gain understanding of these areas of charter school governance.
Meeting schedule and Opportunities for Staff, Family and Community Involvement
Meetings of the Governing Council will be held monthly with special meetings called as needed. Meetings will be advertised in the school office and through the school newsletter and website, and will be conducted in accordance with the Open Meetings Act. Each meeting will have a portion dedicated to public comment. One of the most important goals of La Tierra Montessori School of the Arts and Sciences is to include parents and other community members as partners in the learning process.
The school will encourage family involvement for all students. Involvement is defined very broadly, yet significantly, so that all families will be able to participate in some meaningful capacity. A Parent Handbook will be developed, prior to the opening of the school, to specify what is expected of parents of LTMAS students. One very meaningful way for parents to be involved is to come to school and help during the day. One typical obstacle to this is teachers and administrators who are not welcoming enough to parents and not prepared to incorporate parent involvement. Therefore, an integral part of our teacher training will be to teach teachers how to involve parents at school. Each class will recruit a volunteer lead parent who will be given responsibility for coordinating that class’ parent involvement.
The LTMAS founders have been in communication with various community and professional organizations and have found the community responsive to LTMAS. We will work hard to cultivate these relationships and foster new ones.