The vision and mission of a charter school rest with the founders and first governing board. Charter school leaders in Colorado have had an ongoing discussion for years about how to make sure that key features of the charter school remain consistent over time and are not changed by future boards.
In the first draft of a common charter contract there is a section for "unique featuers," which should be written by the charter school's founders. This essentially "writes in stone" what matters most to the charter school's design. Examples include the use of uniforms, a longer school day and school year, a college prep curriculum, or project-based learning. Because these features are listed in the contract, changing them would constitute a "material change" and require approval by the authorizer's board.
Charter school leaders like knowing there is a way to identify unique characteristics of the school that founders advocated for when they were applying for the new charter school. In the past, some boards have written these features into their bylaws, board policies, or charter application in the hopes that they would have staying power. No one, however, had confidence in trusting the adherence to the original vision and mission to future board members without some level of accuntability to ensure the vision would remain as established.
It should be noted that some charter school applicants have difficulty in identifying what the school's key features are. In situations like this, the authorizer may need to help guide the thoughts of the founders into something that's clearly communicated and consistent with the vision and mission.