Figure 2. SUNY Institute Staff Structure
At the State University of New York Charter Schools Institute (SUNY Institute), former director James Merriman organized his staff by core function (see fig 2) rather than assigning individual staff members to a group of schools or a geographic area, as some of the other authorizers profiled in this guide have done. This way, when school leaders have questions, they call the person who is knowledgeable about a particular area, such as facilities, federal programs, or accountability. Rather than hire people who have subject expertise but little education experience, the SUNY Institute looks for people who have both. "Because SUNY is operating an educational program," Merriman says, he "expects all staff members to understand schools" core business." Filling staff positions with former educators has been an ongoing challenge, however. According to Merriman, "Charter schools have a hard time staffing, and the authorizing ranks are thin too." In his experience, many people with education experience come from a bureaucratic background where they focused only on compliance. Often, "They don"t get it. Their instinct is to do what a superintendent would do, to the detriment of the charter school"s autonomy." To find talented staff members who "get it," SUN Y Institute has conducted national and regional searches for individuals who can work effectively in a performance-based accountability system.