1 Creating Education Partnerships to Meet the Needs of Businesses and Their Employees JFK Medical Center Charter School, Palm Beach County, Florida SUMMARY Employee-sponsored child care is a popular strategy for improving employee morale and retention and for increasing community goodwill. Recognizing these connections, hospital offi cials at the JFK Medical Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, decided to open a charter school in 2002 that offers priority enrollment for its employees children. The charter school founders hoped the new school would help address Florida s high turnover rate of nurses and health care technicians by enhancing employee satisfaction. In this promising practice profi le, the National Resource Center on Charter School Finance and Governance highlights the JFK Medical Center s workplace charter school. Promising Practice in: Charter School Finance Charter School Governance Implemented by: State Policymaker Charter Authorizer Charter Operator Other Inside: Implementation Details Impact Lessons Learned Additional Comments Useful Resources Contact Information BACKGROUND In the late 1990s, Florida was the fi rst state 1 to pass charter school legislation that provides for the creation of charter schools in the workplace and sets forth incentives for businesses to participate in this program. Businesses are exempt from taxes for property that is used for creating worksite partnerships with public schools and public school districts. Section (15) of the charter school legislation states: (a) In order to increase business partnerships in education, to reduce school and classroom overcrowding throughout the state, and to offset the high costs for educational facilities construction, the Legislature intends to encourage the formation of business partnership schools or satellite learning centers and municipal-operated schools through charter school status. 1 Currently, charter school law in fi ve states Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire explicitly provides for workplace charter schools. In addition, Colorado and New York allow for-profi t organizations to apply to establish a charter school. Most other states allow partnerships with for-profi t organizations, making an arrangement between a charter school and a workplace possible, although without enrolment priority given to children of employees.
2 (b) A charter school-in-the-workplace may be established when a business partner provides the school facility to be used; enrolls students based upon a random lottery that involves all of the children of employees of that business or corporation who are seeking enrollment... and enrolls students according to the racial/ethnic balance provisions.... Any portion of a facility used for a public charter school shall be exempt from ad valorem taxes... for the duration of its use as a public school. For many years, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, a national child care provider, has operated a child development center, a preschool, and an infant day care center for JFK Medical Center employees (see In 2002, JFK Medical Center employees persuaded the center to open a multimilliondollar charter school on its campus. Beth Brill, who was then vice president of administrative services, convinced the medical center board of trustees to open the charter school so the center s more than 2,000 employees could continue to keep their children in a high-quality early care and education environment and the medical center could offer another benefi t to help retain its employees. The medical center created a workplace charter school serving students in kindergarten through grade fi ve where the learning experiences refl ect our current and changing world, our community, our families, and our business, explained Brill. The campus consists of a four-building facility, outdoor climbing structures, a full-size basketball court, an outdoor stage and courtyard, and gardens throughout the property. IMPLEMENTATION DETAILS In July 2000, at the urging of employees who had children enrolled in on-site child care run by Bright Horizons and who wanted their children to continue to attend elementary school at the medical center, Beth Brill approached the JFK Medical Center s board of trustees to conduct a study looking into building a school at the center. Employees wanted to send their children to a school that could accommodate the following priorities: The medical center operates on 12-hour shifts, so employees need before- and after-school child care from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. At the time the school was founded in 2002, employees wanted smaller class sizes for their children than the school district was providing. Employees and center administrators alike desired greater integration between the medical center and the school. Parents wanted to be more involved in their children s school experiences, and medical center leaders were interested in ways to introduce the children to careers in health care. Brill asked the JFK Medical Center Board of Trustees to evaluate the potential for establishing a charter school. Although no other workplace charter schools were operating in Florida at the time, she was committed to developing a school with a focus on helping employees balance work and family needs, particularly to support the medical center s goal to retain valuable employees. Brill and the board decided to expand the already strong relationship with Bright Horizons to run the charter school. The two organizations agreed to conduct an evaluation and write the charter petition to establish a charter school at the medical center. The JFK Medical Center and Bright Horizons then created several complex arrangements to establish and fund the charter school. Initially, the medical center supplied the land. Bright Horizons gave $7 million toward building the facilities, for which it receives annual capital outlay funds or reimbursements for its charter school investment from the state. The charter school board then incorporated itself as a nonprofi t foundation, over which Beth Brill currently presides as the president, in order to be eligible to receive state funds. The foundation also maintains contractual agreements with the various parties: the school board hires Bright Horizons to use the building and operate the school; the board also has a deal with the JFK Medical Center to use the land; and the medical center pays Bright Horizons a variable annual operations and management fee of more than $100,000 to offset its expenses and is responsible for cleaning and maintenance at the school site. The JFK Medical Center Charter School, because it is a public school and district charter, has access to some school district resources. The school purchases used buses and surplus books from the district, and its teachers participate in district professional development when opportunities are available. In exchange for 5 percent of the school s state funding, the district also acts as an auditing body, reviewing charter policies and compliance concerns, and 2
3 helps with certifi cation issues, curriculum resources, and special education. Although the charter school board could have paid the district for teachers, it opted to have Bright Horizons manage teacher recruitment and supervision. According to Brill, the school pays less than the district for experienced teachers, but many teachers prefer the private school-like environment that affords them more control over their classes and curriculum. The charter school is now open to all affi liates of the JFK Medical Center as well as members of the community. Enrollment priority is given to the children of medical center employees, JFK physicians (who are not hospital employees) and their staff, and hospital vendor personnel, including Bright Horizons staff. Returning children and their siblings also have priority enrollment over children of new hospital employees. According to Principal Chuck Shaw, approximately 60 percent of the 470 students enrolled in the school are the children of employees and 40 percent are the children of other community members (see Student Demographics). Student Demographics The JFK Medical Center Charter School serves a diverse student population, in line with stage averages. Ethnicity JFK Medical Center Charter School White 41% 46% Hispanic 23% 25% Black 18% 23% Multiracial 9% 4% Asian/Pacifi c Islander 7% 2% American Indian/Alaskan Native 1% 1% State Average In its early stages, before the charter school moved to its permanent campus, the sponsors took several steps to give teachers input into the development of many of the policies that guide school operations. As a result of teacher feedback, the school uses parent volunteers to supervise parking and lunch duty, requires students to wear uniforms, and encourages students to sit in small groups during meals so they can practice good manners and family dining skills. Furthermore, though the charter requires parents to volunteer 75 hours per year, they can do so in many different ways and during nontraditional times of day, including evenings and weekends. Notably, events such as graduation are held after 7:30 p.m. to ensure parents can participate in important school activities. IMPACT Since the JFK Medical Center Charter School opened in August 2002, the hospital has experienced higher productivity; stronger recruitment; and improved satisfaction among all employees, not just among those who use the school. According to Brill, since the school opened, the hospital has seen an increase in employees who apply to work at the hospital because they want their children to benefi t from the charter school. In addition, the hospital has begun to develop stronger relationships with community members whose children attend the school. Brill noted that current employees whose children are enrolled in the school not only enjoy their children being nearby, but also score higher on their annual performance reviews and have lower worker compensation injury rates than those who do not have children in the charter school. Employees are more focused at work, because they are not worried about the well-being of their children, and they have an even greater incentive to work to benefi t the hospital. Overall, employee satisfaction has translated into increased retention rates and led to the medical center being recognized for several years by Working Mother magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies for working mothers. Employees are more focused at work, because they are not worried about the well-being of their children, and they have an even greater incentive to work to benefi t the hospital. Unspecifi ed 1% Source: / other/5262#students Not available 3
4 The decision to sponsor a workplace charter school is one of numerous innovative benefi ts the JFK Medical Center has offered its employees during the past 40 years. By providing on-site child care, wellness programs, massages, and car repair services, in addition to the charter elementary school, the center has been able to reduce the turnover rate of nurses, specifi cally, to 8 percent and of employees, generally, to 16 percent; these rates are well below average rates for the health care industry nationwide. LESSONS LEARNED Implementation Challenges The most unexpected challenge in sponsoring the JFK Medical Center Charter School was the high legal expenses associated with creating the complex contractual arrangements. During the fi rst two years of the charter school, the school board also faced zoning issues; it had to rent and convert an old department store to house the interim school facility. Since Bright Horizons conducted its initial capital projections, it has had to deal with some signifi cant budget shortfalls. Moreover, Florida changed its student enrollment cap in charter schools from 586 to 487 students, so it will now take longer than anticipated for Bright Horizons to recover its investment from the state. Brill believes the trusting relationships already in place among the various stakeholders and their shared vision for the school s success and sustainability has helped the school survive these challenges. The charter school leaders have also faced the diffi - culty of meeting the needs of poor and homeless students in the community. As medical center employees, they were used to taking care of people; they became overwhelmed at the increasing community expectations. To meet the high social service needs of students and their families, JFK charter school staff members have reached out to other social service organizations to help students whose parents are not affi liated with the JFK Medical Center, which already provides support to its employees and their families. Brill and her counterpart at Bright Horizons had a business background, so they initially approached the charter school startup as just another business project, relying on their own previous education experiences and drawing on external resources for guidance and support. Brill maintains that to replicate the success of the JFK workplace charter, the organizations involved must be large enough to handle the various fi nancial and philosophical crises that arise in business and education settings. For example, even though the JFK Medical Center is a freestanding hospital, it is part of the national Hospital Corporation of America, a chain with thousands of employees and large buying power. Furthermore, Brill noted that it is not enough for a company to assign someone, such as the human resources director, to oversee the establishment of a workplace charter school. It is critical to identify a leader someone with drive and passion and the confi dence of the board of trustees, employees, and community to champion and take ownership of the process from beginning to end. Keys to Success Brill credits the success of the charter venture to the fact that the school was developed in partnership with the school district to address JFK Medical Center employees desire to balance work and family needs. She maintains that one of the best decisions the medical center made was to hire and work with people steeped in the school district environment who could facilitate trusting relationships between the school and district. The fi rst principal was a former school district employee; the second principal, who was in the district charter offi ce during the fi rst year of the school s operation, has ensured the school and district continue to work in partnership. One of the best decisions the medical center made was to hire and work with people steeped in the school district environment who could facilitate trusting relationships between the school and district. One of the important lessons Brill learned by visiting private schools and other charter schools in the area was that school districts often view charter schools as competition. Drawing on their experiences in the highly regulated health care industry, Brill said that she and her colleagues treated the district as the school s partner: The district is our accreditation agency, and we are here to support the [district]. Because the school founders asked the district what it wanted from a charter school and what the medical center could do to create a good relationship, the school 4
5 district responded positively to the needs of both organizations. The fact that the medical center perceived the school district as a business partner, according the district respect for its work, eased the potential interorganizational tensions related to management, funding, and teacher recruitment that challenge many charter schools and their employees. As a result of the strong partnership and success of the school, in July 2007 the district renewed the school charter for another 10 years. USEFUL RESOURCES JFK Medical Center Charter School. Meeting the Evolving needs of Employees and their families. Solutions Online. article. aspx?id=131 (retrieved May 12, 2008). Snell, Lisa. Workplace Charter Schools: Florida Blazes the Trail. E-Brief No Los Angeles, Calif.: Reason Public Policy Institute, May Wohlstetter, Priscilla, Joanna Smith, Courtney L. Malloy, and Guilbert Hentschke. Charter School Partnerships: 8 lessons. Los Angeles, Calif.: Center on Educational Governance, CONTACT INFORMATION Beth Brill, Vice President, Human Resources East Florida Division Hospital Corporation of America 450 East Las Olas Boulevard, Number 100 Fort Lauderdale, Florida Chuck Shaw, Principal Michele Drobot, Assistant Principal JFK Medical Center Charter School 4696 Davis Road Lake Worth, Florida This Profi le is one in a series highlighting promising practices in charter school fi nance and governance implemented by state policymakers, charter authorizers, and charter operators across the country. This Profi le was written by the Center on Educational Governance for the National Resource Center on Charter School Finance and Governance (NRC). Promising practices are selected from nominations received by the NRC on the basis of innovativeness, evidence of positive impact, and potential for transferability and usefulness. The NRC has not conducted program evaluations of the initiatives profi led and does not endorse particular policies, practices, or programs. For more information on this Profi le, please contact the Center on Educational Governance at (213) The contents of this Profi le were developed under a grant from the Department of Education (Grant No. U282N060012). However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government. To nominate a promising practice for inclusion in this series, go to nomination.asp. 5