1. What is the Governing Board’s role at Furlow?
The board holds and is responsible for upholding Furlow’s charter—essentially our contract with the State Charter School Commission that says we may remain a school, so long as we meet certain standards. This means ensuring that academic performance measures set forth in the charter are met, financial standards and procedures are upheld, and that the school generally remains in compliance with all commission, state, and federal requirements. While the separation is not always easy to make, the board is primarily concerned with strategic decisions around finances, governance, and maintaining the charter, while day-to-day decision-making, operations, communication, and planning are the purview of Furlow administration. In overly simple terms, administration is responsible for running the school, while the board is responsible for ensuring the school is run properly.
2. Do board members get paid?
No, board members serve in a volunteer capacity and do not get paid.
3. How does someone become a Governing Board member?
More detailed and thorough information can be found in the “Other Board Documents” section of the board documentation, but briefly: Prospective board members must serve on and attend a standing committee for at least 6 months. After that time, the respective committee chair has the discretion to nominate that person to the board for membership. Once nominated, they would be contacted by the board chair to fill out a membership application, which would be brought to Executive Committee for initial review before going to the full board for consideration.
4. How are board members selected? Why isn’t the Furlow Governing Board elected?
Board members are selected based on ability and expertise in areas that would enable them to make informed decisions on all aspects of operating a school, such as education, law, finance, human resources, marketing, management, or any other background critical to the charter of the school.
Legally, Furlow is a corporation, and the board members make up the board of directors, which is not generally expected to be publicly elected. In order to continue existing as a school, the corporation that is Furlow must consistently uphold the terms of our charter contract—a contract that can be revoked if not dutifully followed. Having recruited rather than elected members allows charters to actively identify the skillsets necessary to build and maintain the charter in a long-term, stable manner. This ability is one of the things that makes Georgia’s charter school model different than the traditional model.
5. How long can someone serve on the board?
Board members serve a three-year term. They may serve two consecutive terms, and then must take a one-term absence before being eligible again.
6. Why are there so many people on the board that aren’t parents of children enrolled in the school?
The Furlow bylaws state that while there must be two parents of Furlow children on the board, at least half of the board members must not be parents. This is for reasons of maintaining ethical voting majorities.
Board members cannot vote in situations where they have conflicts of interest, and in fact must sign annual statements promising that they will not do so. In terms of voting scenarios, a board member could be conflicted if the interests of the school as a whole (the proper concern of a board member) do not align with a subset group, for example a particular grade level, program, etcetera that happens to contain that member’s child. In that situation, the conflicted member should recuse themselves from the vote if they are not able to cast an un-conflicted vote. For that reason, at least half of the board—a voting majority—must be able to ethically cast votes in such situations, otherwise the board would be functionally unable to make a decision.
Currently, two members of the board have children at Furlow.
7. Why can’t I speak during a board meeting?
There is a common and very reasonable misconception about the ultimate purpose of board meetings; since board meetings are public, it seems to make sense that they should be primarily for involving the public, while the board could hash out their main discussions in private. However, under open meetings law, the board’s ability to have discussions as a group outside of public meetings is effectively non-existent. This makes board meetings the only time they can hold these discussions; while public, Furlow board meetings are really the business meetings of a corporate board of directors, with the first concern being the conductance of essential school business. While Georgia Open Meetings law mandates that these meetings be public, it does not grant the public the automatic right to address the meeting.
Nevertheless, there are ways of addressing the board or influencing decisions if you wish, including during a meeting:
a. You have the opportunity to sign up for public comment. A signup sheet for this is set out at all regularly-scheduled meetings.
b. There is an established process to communicate with the board in writing, posted on the FCS website.
c. There are committee meeting dates posted on the Board Committees page. Many of the motions brought to the board for decision are recommendations from those committees, and you can attend and potentially join any of those committees and actively participate. Very few parents currently attend committees.
8. What happens during a closed session and why is the public excluded from those proceedings?
As allowed for in Open Meeting law, closed or executive sessions of board meetings may only include specific business that should not be conducted publicly. Before any closed session, the board chair will sign and read an affidavit, which will state which general topic(s) will be discussed once the meeting closes. Broadly, this may include personnel, the buying or selling of property, a disciplinary tribunal, items including personally-identifiable or other open-records-exempt information, and meeting with legal counsel about potential legal actions.
9. Are the executive director and CFO part of the board?
Not as members. As the individuals with day-to-day oversight of Furlow’s operations, the executive director and CFO attend board meetings in an advisory capacity. Furlow’s administrators are ex-officio advisors, not members, and as non-members they do not vote.
10. Is the FCS board connected to the Sumter County Board of Education?
During the 2015-2020 charter, the Furlow board was connected to the Sumter County BoE, most pointedly through our charter contract with them. However, Furlow’s 2020-2025 charter is not approved through the Sumter BoE, but rather through the State Charter School Commission, or SCSC. The SCSC is a statewide authorizer that enables organizations to operate as Local Education Agencies, or LEA’s. As a result, Furlow is now an independent LEA, carrying the same responsibilities to its students as any school district, and does not report to Sumter County’s BoE. While Furlow serves the same population as and hopes to collaborate with Sumter BoE to support the students of our county, there is no longer a legal or contractual connection.
11. To whom is the Governing Board accountable?
First and foremost, the governing board is accountable to the State Charter School Commission, or SCSC. The SCSC is Furlow’s authorizer, meaning they are the entity that has granted us the ability to be a public school. They are also the primary entity that would revoke that ability. The board is therefore accountable to them for a great many things, including academic performance, financial performance, and operational compliance. Under the umbrella field of operational compliance, the board is held accountable to various standards, such as Georgia educational requirements, federal educational requirements, student rights, disability rights, employee rights, health and safety requirements, and more. In that way, the Furlow board is also accountable to the Georgia Board of Education, Georgia Attorneys General, federal Department of Education, and others.
12. How much work, and what kind of work, is involved in Governing Board membership? What training requirements are board members required to fulfill?
It is difficult to capture the work involved in being a board member; as volunteers, members put in hours wherever and whenever they can—hours which are rarely logged or reported anywhere. As a whole, the work of the board is somewhere north of a thousand hours per year.
The work of the board is varied, depending on individual roles. However, all members are involved in policy development, which includes research, review, and writing. Board members chair the standing committees, and therefore work on setting committee goals and agendas, researching for committee tasks, maintaining minutes, and preparing committee recommendations for full meetings. On top of that, there are various formal reports for submission, evaluations to be conducted, discussions with counsel, financials for review, etcetera.
Board members are required to complete a minimum of 12 training hours per fiscal-year. Failure of even a single board member to complete these requirements affects operational compliance and therefore endangers the charter.
13. What is the role of Committees, what Committees are there, and how do I join them?
In general terms, the role of committees is to work on specialized problem solving, come to some sort of proposed solution, then bring that recommended course of action to the board. Different committees have different areas of expertise, and currently include Academics & Curriculum, Finance, Diversity and Inclusion, Governance, and Resource Development. More information on the committees can be found here (scroll down for committee descriptions). All committee meetings are open to the public, and will often allow for more non-member, public interaction than occurs at a board meeting. To formally join a committee as a voting member, please contact the specific committee chair to see if they are currently seeking membership and what they would ask of you in order to join.
14. How can I express my concerns about Furlow Charter School to the Governing Board?
Communication with the board is best done through two main avenues: public address or the Information, Concern, or Grievance form. For public address, you can simply show up to a meeting and sign up on the sheet available immediately beforehand. If you prefer your communication to be in writing, please see the Communicating with the FCS Board page and follow the instructions there.
Do consider that for many matters, the board will not be the appropriate intervening party, and you may get a faster response to your concerns by going through an advisor or administrator first. Remember that the board can only conduct business at meetings, so concerns delivered to the board will often not be addressable until at least the next board meeting.
15. Where are Furlow’s Governing Board members listed?
On the Board Members page.
16. What is the difference between a ‘called meeting’ and a regular meeting? Under what circumstances do called meetings happen, and how can I ensure that I am informed about them?
Regular meetings are the monthly board meetings, currently held the third Tuesday of each month, at 6pm at FCS. A ‘called meeting’ is any meeting scheduled outside of those regular meetings.
As mentioned above, the board may not hold group discussions or conduct business outside of a public meeting. Therefore, if something needs to be done but cannot or should not wait until the next regularly-scheduled meeting, a meeting must be called so that business may be conducted.
At a minimum, called meetings will be physically posted on the school bulletin board. Additionally, they will be listed on the Board Meeting Dates page, and efforts are made to get them on Facebook and to the Americus Times Recorder.
17. Where can I find Governing Board minutes, policies, and other documents?
All public documents can be accessed from the Board Documents page.
18. Why was my complaint to the Governing Board transferred to the Executive Director or other administrator?
There are a few possible reasons. Most likely it was a concern that is really an administrator’s purview; as discussed above, most of the day-to-day operations and decision-making of the school do not actually see any board involvement. Additionally, if matters were not raised early in the chain of command (i.e., first to advisor, then to admin), the board might refer the matter elsewhere.
19. What happens after I speak at public address?
In most circumstances, board members will not immediately respond to public address. Additionally, many public comments are regarding issues that are about to come before the board for action; if action is already taken on the matter before the meeting is adjourned, the board will typically not follow-up with the speaker, as the matter is closed. In scenarios where new information is brought and the matter will not be addressed at that meeting, the speaker may later be contacted by a board member or other school staff for follow-up.
20. Where are Furlow Governing Board meetings advertised?
Meeting schedules can be found on the Board Meetings page, the FCS Google Calendar, and the bulletin board in the school foyer. Nearing a regularly-scheduled meeting date, an agenda will be posted on the foyer board and on the Board Documents page.