The Briars Method: The board doctor's SIX fundamentals of charter school board financial oversight

Let’s talk straight about charter school board financial oversight.

It’s one of the most serious responsibilities your board has and yet, how to effectively carry it out may be one of the least explained things about good governance. As a result, your board reviews a budget v actual and has some policies in place, but beyond those things, it lacks a clear framework for thinking about how to conduct financial oversight.

The problem with this approach is self evident across the charter school sector. Every year, dozens and dozens of stories of fraud, waste and abuse emerge. Not only do many of these result in investigations, school closures, harmful media coverage and convictions, they are a stain on the credibility of those of us who believe in the chartering ideal. The enemies of charter schools are quick to seize on such cases to paint all charter schools with the same broad brush of being malfeasant and incompetent.

The truth is, the board was caught off guard in most of the cases with whose details I am familiar. Ironically though, most cases charter school fraud, waste and abuse could have been deterred or at least detected much sooner had the board understood HOW to conduct financial oversight.

The problem is, most charter school boards have never been properly trained on how to conduct robust financial oversight. They simply review a budget v actual report, have some policies, require board members to co-sign checks, get an annual audit done and trust the leader, founder or charter management organization. As this training video explains, however, not only are these five things incapable of providing the board with reasonable assurance of proper financial oversight, they can actually lull the board into a false sense of security because doing them—apart from other sound practices—causes the board to think it is conducting adequate financial oversight when in fact it is not.

This training video (slightly more than hour) is intended to change that.

Besides being an experienced school leader and well known governance authority, Dr. Brian L. Carpenter is a certified fraud examiner (CFE). Having been trained in forensic accounting and fraud examination (at West Virginia University), Dr. Carpenter combines his deep understanding of charter school operations and governance with his knowledge of fraud deterrence in this video to provide your board with a framework for conducting sound financial oversight. Using an acronym he coined, “The BRIARS Method,” Dr. Carpenter will walk your board step by step through the six fundamentals that every charter school board should be doing when it comes to providing financial oversight.

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