Minnesota law (MN Stat. 123B.045) provides schools, districts, and unions a way to formalize the autonomy of a district school by jointly agreeing to give that school legal “site-governed” status. More information on the site-governed law and status is covered in the following FAQ.
We have sample site-governed agreements, and district/union MOUs that we can provide. If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question 1: What is a site-governed school?
Answer: A site-governed school is a district school with extra autonomy. They are formally part of their host school district and receive funds through the district, but their site council and teachers have flexibility in deciding curriculum, scheduling, budgeting, staffing, and more. In exchange for the added autonomy, the school signs a performance contract with the local school district.
Question 2: Do site-governed schools have to be newly created schools, or can existing schools become site-governed?
Answer: Existing schools can convert to site-governed status, as long as 60 percent or more of teachers at the site vote to support the conversion (MN Stat. 123B.045, Subd(1)(a)).
Question 3: What is the process for creating or converting a school to site-governed status?
Answer: In order for a school to become site-governed, the following must occur:
- The local district school board and teacher union must draft and sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which states how the site-governed law will work in the district, including how relevant provisions of district policy and the collective bargaining agreement, if any, will be treated for site-governed schools. If you’d like to see sample MOUs, email us at email@example.com.
- The school board issues a Request for Proposals (RFP) for site-governed schools to its current schools and to the community. The RFP must include a description of school models or learning programs the board seeks.
- Entire existing schools may submit proposals to convert to site-governed status, or professionals from one or more existing sites may propose new schools. Parents or other community members must be included in the development of each proposal.
- The board decides which proposals to approve, and then develops performance agreements with each site.
- The new school is developed, implemented, and held accountable for what they indicated they would do in their performance agreement.
Question 4: Who needs to sign off on a site-governed school?
Answer: A site-governed school needs to be approved by the local district school board. However, before any site-governed schools can be designated within a district, both the school board and the local union must sign a MOU, which describes how the site-governed law will work in the district (see question 3(A)). Additionally, for existing schools converting to site-governed status, at least 60 percent of the teachers must agree (see question 2).
Question 5: What autonomies and flexibilities are granted to site-governed schools?
Answer: The answer to this question has two parts. Site-governed schools gain flexibility from the same state laws, rules, and regulations that are waived for charter schools, except for laws that relate to collective bargaining. Site-governed schools are also guaranteed some autonomies within the school district; they may:
- Create a “site-governing council” that consists of teachers, parents, students, community members and other representatives in the community.
- Determine the leadership model for the site, which could include using a “teacher-governed” model (note: there is now state grant money available for this model).
- Select teachers and other staff who will teach and work in the school. All teachers and other staff remain employees of the district and members of the local teacher union. Further, they have the same salaries and benefits that are determined by the district master contract between the board and the teacher union.
- Set work rules for teachers, including the length of the school day and year, preparation time, and other rules. Further, all teachers will sign an annual “work agreement” that indicates their awareness and support for the school’s goals and academic program, as well as the school’s governance and operations model.
- Select and develop their own curriculum and instructional strategies, as well as formative and summative assessment practices.
- Determine a professional development plan for the teachers and other professionals at the site.
- Determine the budget for the site, including the allocation and expenditure of revenues across budget areas.
- Set school policies regarding student promotion, attendance, discipline, and graduation requirements.
Question 6: How does financing work? How do dollars flow?
Answer: Districts are required to allocate dollars received through various sources to the school site (including general education revenue that is generated by the students at the site, referendum revenue, and federal program revenue). The district may retain an administrative fee, to be written into the performance agreement, and may also agree to provide specific services to the site and retain revenue for those services. All funds unspent by a school site at year end must be carried over for the site to use in the following year.
Question 7: What exactly is included in the district’s administrative fee, and what are optional services?
Answer: The district’s administrative fee can include reasonable charges for the following: school board; fiscal services; human resources; payroll and other financial services; legal services; debt services; facilities maintenance; special education oversight; and oversight of the site-governed school’s performance agreement. The services that the site will optionally determine if they want to “buy-back” from the district include: professional development; curriculum development; transportation; and food services.