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Where Learning Has No Boundaries

Polaris Charter Academy

Where Learning Has No Boundaries

Polaris Charter Academy

Where Learning Has No Boundaries

Polaris Charter Academy

Polaris Board Meeting Minutes 09.27.11

Polaris Charter Academy

Board Meeting Minutes

Sept 27, 2011

Board Topic: Renewal, February Event

School Topic: Special Education 

Dial In Number –  (610) 214 0000

Access Code          316557#

Board Members:  Darren Snyder (Chair), Mark Larson (Vice), Sarah Walker, Mick Domagala, Uday Khedkar, Melanie Madigan, Michelle Navarre

School Leaders: Michelle Navarre (Head of School), Carol Clavadetscher, Roel Vivit

Teachers in Attendance: Meghan Princehorn, Sherie Escobar, Liz Davis

Guests: Robert Hearne: Kellogg Fellow, Coley Perry: The High Bar

Darren called the meeting to order at 6:35. The above individuals were present at the meeting; Mark Larson called in via conference call.

Public Forum                       

Darren initiated introductions with Coley Perry from The High Bar. Teachers Meghan Princehorn and Sherie Escobar were present to discuss Special Education at Polaris; Liz Davis represented the teaching staff.

The board minutes for the July 26, 2011 and August 9, 2011 meetings were reviewed by the board members. Uday motioned to approve both board minutes. Darren seconded his motion. All board members present approved.

State of the School                                     

Michelle shared key statistics, including current enrollment of 334 students, August attendance rate of 98% and free and reduced lunch count of 90%. The budgeted enrollment was 336 students. Michelle and Carol expressed confidence that they would, at minimum, be equal to budgeted enrollment.

Michelle briefly spoke about the renewal timeframe, providing specific dates of December 7th and 8th. The board interview is scheduled for 8:30am on December 7th. She stressed the importance of all board members being in attendance.

Michelle requested that the board members read the remaining State of the School to allow ample time for the special education presentation. The State of the School included a brief description of each levels expedition, with K studying health and the human body, 1/2 studying rocks, 3/4 studying birds, and 5/6 studying space. The State of the school also included a new section regarding the reasons for students transferring out. As of September 23rd, 10 students had transferred. Two had moved to other states, while a family of 6 children and 1 other student left due to dissatisfaction with the school Code of Conduct and discipline. The remaining student transferred after Polaris pressed charges on the student for assault. Michelle will continue to provide this statistic at board meetings.

Special Ed Presentation

Meghan Princehorn, social worker, and Sherie Escobar, Special Education teacher, presented an overview of the IEP (individual education plan) process, the current statistics of students with IEPs at Polaris, and the results of the Special Education assessment conducted by Chicago Public Schools in May.  The assessment had minimal findings, with an action plan in place for each. An independent 3rd party assessment will be performed as part of renewal.

Michelle shared that other charter schools have seen a significant growth in students with IEPs, as parents whose children have not been previously evaluated apply to charter schools in an effort to get better support. Carol commented that Namaste has a significantly higher number of special education students, which has caused funding challenges due to the flat funding rate per Special Education employee ($65,000). The funding has not been adjusted in many years. Melanie commented that the board would benefit from specific statistics relating to IEP status, such as the # of students, the # of IEPs per Special Education teacher, and the % at grade level for IEP students. Michelle will evaluate the feasibility of building the statistics into the State of the School.

Board Goals and Priorities

Darren did a brief review of board goals and priorities, with no changes being recommended.

Renewal Preparation

The board discussed the process of the interviews for renewal on December 7th. Darren recommended that he field questions, directing specific topics to board committee leadership and/or knowledge leaders in specific areas. Michelle distributed copies of the application for everyone to review.

The board will have a special renewal preparation meeting on November 29th at 6pm. Michelle has identified resources who will come into to help do a mock interview.          

Committee Reports                                                                                          

Academic Excellence

Mark shared that Michelle’s review had been compiled and will be reviewed at the next board meeting. Michelle shared that final ISAT scores had been published, with minimal change from the original scores issued in July.


Uday shared with the board that the FY2011 Audit was conducted by ORBA week of September 6th. No issues have arisen thus far; expect draft of audited financials by mid October. The District 299 meeting was held on August 15th. There was a presentation of the new structure, with ONS reporting into the Office of Portfolio Management. Carol shared that funding for federal and state programs, such as NCLB and SGSA, are now on a reimbursement basis, required Polaris to float the cash for these positions. Based on the current cash position, no issues are foreseen, however, Carol clarified it is something that we need to be aware of as we move forward.

Carol shared the cash balance at August 31st was $682,000 with minimal variance year to date on budget. Other finance updates include:

  • Lunch program has successfully been established. Lunch and breakfast participation are up significantly. Minor incremental spending (lease of dishwasher) incurred. Approximately $10,000 invested in new tables/chairs for lunch program; capital approved at finance committee level.
  • Enrollment as of September 23, 2011 was at 334, 2 students short of budgeted enrollment of 336. Impact is approximately $12,000.
  • Free/reduced lunch % as of September 23rd was 92%, up approximately 3.5% vs. prior year. % increase will provide benefit to SGSA funding.
  • Oliver Sicat, new Chief Portfolio Officer will be visiting Polaris on October 13th at 8:30am.
  • Finance committee will be meeting to complete charter renewal exercise in October. Date TBD.


Carol shared that the date for the February fundraising event has been set for February 29th. Board members will be required to submit invitation list by October 25th (next board meeting). Targets will be established by board member. Marion, Pam and Carol had initial planning meeting on Wednesday, September 14th. Details will be presented at October 25th board meeting (Pam will be in attendance).

Seven of 9 board member commitment discussions have taken place as of September 23rd. Travis and Greg are remaining. Carol and Marion will be working to complete these meetings by October 25th. The new website has been launched! Carol is continuing to work with Betsy and Susan to improve the site’s messaging, but now has the ability to make changes and keep the site FOIA compliant.


The governance discussion started with Sarah’s recommendation of inviting Keecia Broy to join the Polaris Board of Directors. Keecia has a strong knowledge of the charter school network, as well as significant development expertise. Carol shared that Keecia recently left Donor’s Choose to begin a consulting career in development. Darren expressed his support and excitement of adding Keecia to the board; he seconded Sarah’s recommendation. The board voted, with all 7 present board members approving her appointment.

Sarah and Mick provided a brief review of the board recruitment pipeline, as well as provided handbook updates. Mick shared the board self-evaluation results with the board. Darren requested that the Master Calendar be updated, with Carol being the lead on accomplishing the update. Sarah made a formal recommendation to speak with Keith about leaving his board position, requesting recommendations for a community representative. Michelle agreed to speak with Keith personally. Sarah recommended that Keith and Tracy Kwock formally role off the board at the October 25th board meeting.


Mick has taken the lead on the creation of a formal security committee. The school has had 2 break-ins in September, apparently the same intruder. Mick met with Carol and Michelle to discuss a comprehensive list of security considerations; they will continue to work on addressing key security issues.

 Upcoming Schedule Review

 No changes to the upcoming schedule review.



  • 10/10 – No school – Explorer Day
  • 10/25 – Polaris Board Annual Meeting & Dinner
  • 10/18 – Finance Committee Meeting
  • **  – Security Committee Meeting
  • $$ – Governance Committee Meeting
  • && – Development Committee Meeting
  • 11/3 – Trimester 1 Ends (Have you said Hi to your Crew or teacher?)
  • 11/4 – No school – Parent Teacher conferences
  • 11/7-25 Intersession – (no regular school – % of participants??)
  • 12/7  – Renewal Process/Interviews

At 8:40, Uday made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Sarah seconded the motion. The meeting was adjourned at 8:40pm.

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Polaris Board Meeting Minutes 09.27.11