Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School
Matt Underwood : Executive Director
Brief
Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School already had their policies documented, but as different people had contributed to them over the years, they had become a disorganized and sometimes difficult to understand collection of Word documents. They needed an online, searchable policy guide that would be available to families of students, employees, and the general public, but they also needed PDF versions of certain policies that would only be accessible to select groups. The ANCS team worked with Manual Makers to structure their existing policies into a clear, consistent, and methodical format.

Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School

Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (ANCS) is a K-8 public charter school, with two campuses in the Atlanta Public Schools district. The second oldest charter school in Atlanta, ANCS was formed in 2011 by the merger of the Neighborhood Charter School (NCS) and Atlanta Charter Middle School (ACMS), two successful charter schools that had been open since 2002 and 2005, respectively. As a center of community education excellence, ANCS is committed to providing students with an innovative and personalized education experience, but the school needed to improve the organization and coherence of its policy documents. They wanted to create an online, searchable policy guide; as it would be available to families of students, employees, and the general public, it needed to be both easy to navigate and understand. Additionally, ANCS needed PDF versions of personnel and board governance policies, school bylaws, and other policy documents that would only be made available to certain teams. Though the collections themselves would differ, the information these manuals shared needed to remain consistent. The school had already worked with Manual Makers’ co-founder, Michelle Newcome, for years through pro bono projects, and as they found her to be both professional and detail-oriented, the board selected Manual Makers for this project.

Neighbors and the Net

“Manual Makers reviewed all of our existing policies and put them into a consistent, easy-to-understand format, as well as organized them by type and embedded cross-references to related policies within each policy.  The final product was a user-friendly policy guide accessible to all on our school’s website.”

Matt Underwood, Executive Director, Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School

Manual Makers traveled to the nearby Grant Park and Ormewood Park areas to visit both Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School locations. We spent time with Executive Director Matt Underwood, Director of Finance & Operations Kari Lovell, and other members of the team to develop an understanding of the school and how it works to support its students. By conducting extensive interviews with personnel in every department, as well as evaluating ANCS’s existing policies, Manual Makers worked to develop the content and define the structure the manuals would follow.

To create an accessible online version of the policy manual as well as PDF documents, we decided to use our dynamic content management software, MadCap Flare. With this powerful tool, we were able to develop multiple outputs and delineate the information that would be included in each. Using this design, edits only needed to be made once to be applied to each output, preserving the consistency of the materials.

After the site visits, ANCS collaborated with Manual Makers through our online platform. Although our locations are close together, this provided ANCS with the flexibility to share documents and other information in the ways that worked best for them. As Manual Makers conducted research into the federal and state laws governing the way schools are run, and leveraged the school’s legal counsel to ensure compliance, ANCS was able to stay updated about the progress of the project. Once the board approved the final content, Manual Makers prepared the new policy documents for implementation.

Transparency and Growth

“My first reaction to the finished product was, ‘This is great!’”

Matt Underwood, Executive Director, Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School

With ANCS’s online policy guide, the school is set up for many more years of community-driven academic success. Along with the PDF versions of some of their policies, ANCS has found it easier to onboard new employees; their accessible and refined resources are easy to share and navigate, with a coherent structure and cross references to connect related information. But they also found that working with Manual Makers has enabled them to create a historical record to track any changes that may be made to the policies, as well as to provide more transparency with their board policies. ANCS knows they can always return to Manual Makers with updates in the future. “I would recommend Manual Makers to other schools – in fact, I already have!” says Matt Underwood.  

Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School has come a long way since a small group of motivated parents grew their dream of a diverse, academically achieving, and community-nurtured urban public school into an institution with an enrollment of 650 students. With revised and restructured policy documents, ANCS can now carry their vision forward and continue to develop with clarity and stability.