Recordkeeping Policy Basics — Charter Boards
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There are many instances where charter school boards must be able to produce specific documents or allow access to old emails at the turn of a dime. For example, you need immediate access to key documents to respond to charter renewal processes, an unexpected request from the authorizer, unforeseen lawsuits, a required update to funders or a notice from the Internal Revenue Service. Such situations may merit their own stress, but imagine the relief of being able to provide the name of a specific person to contact who is sure to have access to the relevant documents or even being able to hand over a set of organized binders with current and relevant information. A good document retention and destruction policy will help your board keep the right documents without creating unnecessary clutter.
As a matter of legal compliance and basic governance practices, charter schools must have a written document retention and destruction policy to ensure that board members and school leaders know who is responsible for preserving which documents and for how long. This tool presents helpful advice your board should consider in creating its recordkeeping policy.
Tips for Organizing Your Board’s Policy
Convey the Importance of Recordkeeping
Effective Recordkeeping policies explicitly state the purpose of the policy and why it is so important. Boards members and school leaders must understand the importance of proper record keeping and implement the requirements of the policy in the regular course of business. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 prohibits the destruction of electronic and hardcopy documents relevant to litigation, which means destroying certain documents could lead to criminal liability. You may also choose to discuss examples of why this policy is needed during a review of the document with the board and school leadership.
Assign Roles and Responsibilities
Now that you know why your board must have a document retention and destruction policy, the next step is determining to whom the policy applies, the roles of the board and school leader in maintaining records, and who will actually write the policy. A starter policy could be created by your board’s governance committee, however you may want to consult qualified legal or financial counsel to ensure all necessary documents are included and for the correct periods of time.
Identify the Documents and Storage Time
A helpful start in organizing and identifying your document needs may be to create categories based on federal, local, authorizer and funder requirements. You may then divide the documents by what the board maintains and what the school leader manages. For example:
- Board Level Documents
- A board member roster; board & committee meeting minutes; agendas; a board calendar; bylaws; audited financial statements; insurance policies; IRS requirements
- School Level Documents
- Student-level academic and demographic data; school level policies; receipts and purchase orders
Create a list of your documents, grouped by document type, and assign a document schedule (the period of time to keep each record). You may choose to create a table in your policy, as shown in the sample document retention policy created by Public Counsel. Because there is no sole law or rule that can be used to determine the documents or document retention schedule, it’s important to consult the government entities, authorizer and philanthropic entities relevant to your school to create an accurate list.
Determine the Method and Location for Storage
Finally, create a system for storing and maintaining your documents that your board and school leader will use. Whether you scan documents for online storage or solely maintain hard copies, pick a method that is easy to follow and implement into the daily course of business. While the initial organization and storage may be time-consuming, the alternative of pulling together documents on short notice should be avoided. Make sure roles are clearly assigned and each stakeholder in the process knows what documents to store, where to maintain them and how long each document must be kept.