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Newsletter Archives - Page 3 of 3 - Epicenter

16 Sep


Work Seamlessly With Other Organizations

September 16, 2016 | By |


More is achieved when schools, boards, authorizers, and support organizations are aligned and working together.  That is why Epicenter is designed to allow collaboration within and across organizations.  By sharing a common platform, everyone has access to the documents and information they need to fulfill their roles and responsibilities.  Over the years we have seen more and more Epicenter subscribers grant access to third parties.  Some examples are: auditors, state and national associations, application reviewers, daily compliance reviewers, state superintendents, and commissioners.

Oversight shouldn’t be a tug-of-war.  When schools, boards, authorizers, and support organizations share Epicenter, everyone’s role is defined.  Working from a common calendar, it is easy to see what’s coming and to align for success.  Epicenter’s flexible framework allows you to provide access to certain areas or even certain documents to the users you choose.

If you have any questions or are interested in inviting third parties to your Epicenter account so you can work seamlessly with other organizations, please contact the Epicenter Support Team at or 1-855-889-1624 for more information.

14 Jul


Epicenter Strengthens OCCS

July 14, 2016 | By |

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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


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.

14 Jul


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.

29 Apr


Plan. Prepare. Relax.

April 26, 2016 | By | No Comments

banner kids3

As we get ready to welcome summer and wrap up another school year, it is important to use the data in Epicenter to evaluate how each of your schools performed. You will be able to identify schools that are good candidates for replication or develop well-grounded plans for improvement for those schools that underperformed. Also, with the 2016-2017 school year just around the corner, we wanted to provide Epicenter System Administrators with best practices for preparing your Epicenter. Below is a quick list of the recommended actions. For detailed instructions, click here. Our team looks forward to continuing to support each of you as we win for kids!

  • Copying Requirements
  • Reviewing Active User Accounts
  • Evaluating Compliance Performance
  • Cleaning up Past Due Requirements
  • Completing Review/Approval Tasks
  • Evaluating Financial and Academic Performance (via Performance Center)

Ferris State: A Force for Quality in Authorizing

April 26, 2016 | By | No Comments

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As an authorizer with 21 public school academies that enroll over 9,200 students, the Ferris State University Charter Schools Office heavily relies on Epicenter to fulfill their mission.

Ferris State originally started authorizing charter schools in the late 1990’s, when the Michigan legislature first allowed charters. Ferris State saw it as an extension of their mission which, 

“prepares students for successful careers, responsible citizenship, and lifelong learning. Through its many partnerships and its career-oriented, broad-based education, Ferris serves our rapidly changing global economy and society.”

Ferris State charter schools range from “regular” public school academies, to two strict discipline academies and one online academy, and they have 21 charters located from Muskegon to Detroit and numerous locations in between.

“We take our mission statement very seriously,” said Mindy Britton, the Compliance Auditor/Board Liaison for Ferris’ Charter School Office. “My job is to make sure our academies follow state and federal law and that the contracts between academy boards and Ferris State are followed.”

And that can be a daunting task. Mindy ensures that board members are appointed and reappointed based upon the each academy’s contract. Every board member must go through a background search and vetting process. Ferris State requires board members to achieve professional development activity credits. How does Mindy keep track of every board member from 21 different academies throughout the state?

“Before Epicenter I was tracking many of the board member requirements by hand. Their term in office, whether they had taken an oath of office, whether it was on file, where we were with their background search, and whether we had received all the files were just some of the things I had to keep track of.”

And it wasn’t just Mindy or Ferris State that needed copies of those documents. The individual academies and occasionally the State of Michigan would want access to Mindy’s mountains of paperwork.

“Epicenter saves me hours a week just on board management,” Mindy said. “The other beauty of it is that someone in the academy can look and see that an application hasn’t been received, or someone is up for reappointment—it saves me a tremendous amount of time. It also helps the schools stay on top of their board members.”

While the Board Center in Epicenter is crucial to Mindy, there are other parts of Epicenter that are even more important.

“We extensively use Epicenter’s Compliance Center,” Mindy said. “That piece saves me even more time. For example, a boiler permit—let’s say it expires next Tuesday. Boiler permits are good for three years, so it’s easy to lose track of that. I can put a task in Epicenter and file it and forget it because Epicenter will remind me and the academy that in 30 days that permit expires. That gives everyone piece of mind.”

But the Compliance Center is good for more than permits, it also helps keep academies transparent and accessible to the general public. Mindy uses the Compliance Center for all Open Meetings Act requirements. Academy boards are public entities that must file everything in a transparent manner so it is accessible to the public.

“When everything must be posted, where they are meeting, the agenda, and when the minutes need to be made can be a daunting task, especially for the school. When I get a board calendar for the year, I go into Epicenter, I set up all the tasks associated with board meeting, and Epicenter sends out a reminder for academies.”

Ferris State’s use of Epicenter isn’t limited to Mindy. All 21 academies that Ferris State authorizes not only have access to Epicenter, but they are required to have someone on staff who is knowledgeable about Epicenter and constantly updates it.

“We require every one of our academies to upload required documents. We demand one hundred percent compliance and our schools are ‘graded’ on that. Our requirements are tied to state or federal law and to the academy’s contract. Our requests add value to each academy. We have mid-contracts and reauthorization reviews, and one of the rubrics we use is that they meet all the requirements for Epicenter.”

And Epicenter directly helps the administration of Ferris’ academies. All permits that are required are uploaded into Epicenter, and it’s more than just boiler permits.

“Everyone uses Epicenter to make sure their surroundings are secure and up to date. If they are serving lunch we use Epicenter to make sure they have a health department permit. If they have an elevator that needs to be inspected every 90 days. Epicenter serves as a reminder to schools to get everything up to date and allows administrators to spend more time with teachers and students.”

Ferris State uses Epicenter not only to oversee the safety of each building and the compliance of each board member, they also use it when the State of Michigan shows up for an Assurance and Verification visit.

“A few years ago, the Michigan Department of Education visited us to ensure that we were following various aspects of the law. I heard that, back in the days before Epicenter, it was difficult because they wanted so many documents. This time, when the state visited the office, I could pull up a document in two seconds flat. They asked for an oath of office from an officer at an academy and a conflict of interest document signed by this board member at this other academy. Done. They were really impressed. And I was able to do that because Epicenter serves as an incredibly efficient filing cabinet for us.”

“In fact, the Ferris State auditor came over to do an audit and the same thing happened—I could pull up documents in seconds. And both the state and the auditor had the same recommendation—incorporate more of Epicenter into more of your processes. Before we would prepare for months for an audit. Now it takes seconds. And once a document is in Epicenter it is always there and it just makes life easier.”

“I can’t say enough about Epicenter and the people that work with Epicenter. If I need a change or have a suggestion I get it immediately. Epicenter has made my job a lot easier.”