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July 2016 - Epicenter

14 Jul

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Epicenter Strengthens OCCS

July 14, 2016 | By |

LennySchafer-with name

The Ohio Council of Community Schools (OCCS) is one of the first and largest sponsors of charter schools in the Buckeye State. The OCCS has 48 schools and approximately 26,000 students, all hailing from “the river to the lake,” an Ohio reference to the Ohio River in the south to Lake Erie in the north.

OCCS uses its 15 years of experience in authorizing to offer its schools robust technical assistance in the areas of finance, special education, academics, and more. They collaborate with schools, management partners, and other education advocates to ensure all students have access to high-quality education options.

As the premier charter school authorizer in Ohio, OCCS offers blended learning schools, electronic schools, traditional brick and mortar schools, bilingual academies, prep and fitness academies, and dropout academies, all in an effort to try to change the face of public education.

Lenny Schafer, the Executive Director at OCCS, said “we are unique because of capacity. If we sponsor a school, we have a regional representative located within a 25-mile radius. And I hire educators with experience in charter schools. Our representatives know their region, visit schools, and attend board meetings. If they walk into a school and see a problem, they can get into the trenches and get to work and help.” Another important fact about OCCS is that they are the designee of the University of Toledo (UT), which makes them unique. They are the only sponsor in Ohio that is a University designee. They are also the only sponsor in Ohio that makes authorizing charter schools their only business.

“We don’t make a dime off of any services,” Schafer said. “We don’t sell services, we just sponsor schools and no one else in Ohio can say that.”

And Schafer is a proponent of Epicenter. “Previously, we would run around the state trying to collect the necessary paperwork from each school,” Schafer said. “We would end up with shoeboxes full of paperwork. We needed to cut down on our time and our principals’ time dealing with paperwork, and that’s where Epicenter came in. Our schools love Epicenter because they don’t need to spend time running around and gathering documents, it’s all there and available online, which saves us time to spend on the kids.”

One of the Epicenter features that OCCS uses is Board Center. “We use Epicenter for tracking and governing our boards,” Schafer said. “This year we are going through our sponsor review, which is the most important thing that a sponsor will go through in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Education uses Epicenter for their sponsor evaluation, which was great because it gave us a leg up by cutting down on a lot of time and effort for us.”

OCCS gives each of their charter schools under the OCCS access to Epicenter. They ask that the school have someone on staff use Epicenter and OCCS trains them.

“Epicenter makes life easier because we can see what we need to collect for the entire year,” Schafer said. “And we can highlight key timelines in advance. Also, if they get a public document request, all of that information is at their fingertips. This allows us to do trainings and sit in classrooms and spend more time on parents and kids and allows each school to spend time on their students instead of on paperwork.”

And OCCS is making a positive impact on education in Ohio. This year, two OCCS schools—Arts and College Preparatory Academy and Columbus Preparatory Academy—were named Ohio Schools of Promise and Schools of Honor. Each year the Ohio Department of Education recognizes outstanding schools that maintain high academic achievement among their students, despite many coming from economically disadvantaged circumstances that can make learning difficult.  This year, just 29 schools received these awards.

“We’re proud of our schools and love the support that Epicenter gives us,” Schafer said. “Epicenter makes it easier to educate kids, and at the end of the day that’s what matters most.”

14 Jul

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Michigan Transparency Reporting Made Easy

July 14, 2016 | By |

Transparency Reports

Epicenter makes meeting the Michigan Transparency Reporting requirements easy! With Epicenter, submissions can be flagged for transparency, scheduled, and an HTML code can be created.  Once the HTML code is embedded into a website, the documents being uploaded and approved to Epicenter will automatically be posted on the school’s website!

Not sure what submissions should be collected to meet the Michigan Transparency Reporting requirements? If so, we have made that part easy too! We created a file that lists the names of the submission types, the instructions, and even included whether or not the narrative feature should be enabled for those submissions that might not be applicable to the school.  To access this list, click here.

14 Jul

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Meet Our Newest Members!

July 14, 2016 | By |

We would like to welcome the following organizations to Epicenter!

We are excited about these new partnerships and look forward to sharing our passion for improving the quality of education for all children.

Charter Authorizers Regional Support Network (CARSNet)

The Charter Authorizers Regional Support Network or CARSNet is a project of the Alameda County Office of Education funded by a U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program National Leadership Activities Grant awarded in March 2015.  It is designed to improve the capacity of charter authorizing agencies and their staff to conduct rigorous application reviews, monitor and oversee charter schools using multiple sources of data, maintain a portfolio of high-quality charter schools, and evaluate and disseminate information on charter school performance.

Chicago Public Schools, Office of Innovation and Incubation

The Office of Innovation and Incubation (I&I) seeks to identify and bring to Chicago the most promising innovative approaches to education, and to broaden the reach of innovative ideas proven to be effective within our District. I&I will provide a robust incubation process, effectively position CPS as the leader in urban education for high standards and operator accountability, and empower families to identify and access the best options for their children.

Kids Count of Dayton, Inc.

Kids Count of Dayton, Inc. is a charter school sponsor that was established in 2005. Their mission is to advocate for school choice through quality authorization for academic achievement. Their core values include accountability, advocacy, equity, integrity, student achievement, and trust. They are currently sponsoring six charter schools in Ohio.

Missouri Charter Public School Commission

The Missouri Charter Public School Commission was established in 2012. The first commissioners were appointed in fall 2014. Lawmakers, charter school advocates, and education reformers wanted an independent sponsoring entity with the authority to sponsor high-quality charter schools throughout Missouri. Currently, the Missouri Charter Public School Commission is sponsoring and opening its first charter school in August 2016, Citizens of the World Kansas City.

West Shore Educational Service District

West Shore Educational Service District is a school district located in Ludington, Michigan. Its mission is to provide leadership and support to local school districts. Currently, West Shore Educational Service District is authorizing and opening its first charter school in the fall of 2016, Gateway To Success Academy.

07 Jul

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Summer 2016 Webinars

July 7, 2016 | By |

webinar bannerBasic Training Webinars

Are you new to using Epicenter or need a refresher on the basic functions? If so, our Epicenter Support Team will be hosting online webinars to provide you with the information to be successful.  The links to register are located below!

We will be covering the same topics at each training so you only need to register for one.  Each training will last about an hour and you will have the chance to ask your technical questions directly to our Epicenter Support Team.  Below is a listing of the basic functions that will be covered during these webinars.  Therefore, we will not be discussing any specific organization’s tasks or processes.

  • General Overview of the Homepage
  • Compliance Center and How to Satisfy Compliance Tasks
  • Document Center and Generating Reports
  • Overviews of Board Center, Management Center, School Center, and Performance Center

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Basic Training Webinar Registration Links

Wednesday, July 27th 10-11AM EDT

Wednesday, July 27th 3-4PM EDT

Thursday, August 18th 11-12PM EDT

Thursday, August 18th 6-7PM EDT