Reference should be made to Minister's Directive No. MD 99-04, School Councils.
In 1993, a new School Act was approved. The Act provided for the establishment of school councils. Subsequently, a committee which included representatives from school boards, the Prince Edward Island Teachers' Federation, the Prince Edward Island Home and School Federation and the Department of Education prepared a plan for the implementation of the legislation. A Minister's Directive concerning School Councils was issued in 1995.
During the fall of 1995, six regional meetings were organized by the Department of Education in cooperation with the Prince Edward Island Home and School Federation. The purposes of the meetings were to provide information concerning the establishment of school councils and to clarify the roles of parents, students, teachers and principals. A draft handbook on school councils was distributed at each meeting, and participants were given an opportunity to review it and forward responses to the Department of Education.
In the fall of 1998, the Minister of Education established a representative committee to review the manner in which the provisions of the School Act which govern school councils have been implemented. The committee reviewed the provisions of the School Act, the relevant Minister's Directive and the contents of this Handbook. The committee also surveyed all principals to identify the models of implementation that are used in the schools. This revised Handbook reflects the advice given by the committee in its report to the Minister of Education.
The support provided by the Prince Edward Island Home and School Federation and other partners is gratefully acknowledged. Clearly, there is a strong commitment to the enhancement of parental involvement in education and to the continued development of partnerships between the home and the school.
In the education system, few decisions are made by individuals working in isolation. Indeed, research has demonstrated that students achieve at higher levels when their parents actively demonstrate an interest in and support for education. Recognized school advisory bodies represent a forum through which parents, teachers and principals can work together to improve the quality of the education system.
Functions of School Councils
The operation of school councils is governed by sections 66 and 67 of the School Act R.S.P.E.I. 1988, Cap. S-2.1 and by the Minister's Directive concerning School Councils. Section 66 of the School Act recognizes and confirms the right and desire of parents to be involved in the education process. In each school, parents are to be provided with an opportunity to establish a school council, Home and School Association, consultative committee or other representative school advisory body. When established, school advisory bodies have a role in providing the school principal with advice on a number of school-related matters.
Q. What is a school council?
A. A school council is an advisory body of the school as defined in section 66 of the School Act and is established in accordance with the policy set down by the Minister of Education. The membership of school councils includes parents, teachers, and principals. Students may also be represented. A school council exists to provide advice to the principal and to facilitate and encourage co-operation between parents and educators. A school council represents the interests of all students.
Section 66 also contemplates that a Home and School Association may assume the functions designated in Section 67 for a school council. School consultative committees have been established in some schools and serve the same functions as those identified for school councils and Home and School Associations. It is recognized that these bodies may serve the advisory role intended for school councils under the School Act.
Q. What is meant by the term "advise"?
A. Advise means to provide recommendations or suggestions on school-related matters that fall within the jurisdiction of school councils as defined in section 67 of the School Act. The principal has the obligation to consider the advice of the school council. However, the principal is legally bound by contract and by the School Act and may not legally delegate decision-making to a school council or other recognized school advisory body.
Q. What is the relationship between school advisory bodies and the school board?
A. The School Act does not provide for any formal relationship between the school board and school advisory bodies. This is consistent with the primary role of a school advisory body which is to provide advice to the principal.
The move to establish school advisory bodies is based on the following principles:
- Education is a shared responsibility.
- Students must be the first consideration for all decision-making.
- Teamwork, cooperation and communication among education partners will benefit the entire school community.
- Involving parents in improving the school will enhance the education experience for all students.
- School advisory bodies can offer a wide range of benefits to all education partners.
Through school advisory bodies, students should:
- see parents taking a more active role in the school; and
- benefit from a concerted effort to improve the education system.
Through school advisory bodies, parents should:
- exchange ideas with other education partners;
- share in the success and achievements of students and the school;
- improve communication among education partners; and
- better understand the role of educators.
Through school advisory bodies, teachers and the school should:
- receive increased support and feedback from parents and students;
- better understand the expectations of parents and students; and
- work with education partners who understand their role and value their efforts.
Q. What kind of advice could a school advisory body offer a principal?
A. School advisory bodies can provide principals with advice on various school-related matters as set out in section 67 of the School Act including fund-raising, extracurricular activities and community access to school facilities. Initially, school advisory bodies could concentrate on improving communication channels between the school and the community.
School advisory bodies may not:
- assume the roles of teacher, principal, support staff or school board;
- be involved in the day to day process of management of the schools;
- represent specific interest groups or permit special interests to dominate the agenda of the council;
- go beyond an advisory role.
Q. Can school advisory bodies deal with matters such as the evaluation of school staff?
A. The School Act provides that school boards are responsible for recruitment, employment and management of staff. The School Act also includes provisions that require principals to carry out certain duties regarding the supervision and evaluation of staff. Finally, information concerning staff is privileged and may not be released or discussed by school board personnel.
Q. How does the advisory process work?
A. The School Act identifies a number of topics on which school advisory bodies can provide principals with advice. In some instances, the school principal has jurisdiction to make decisions. In others, the Minister of Education or the school board has jurisdiction. When the principal receives advice on matters within his/her jurisdiction, he/she may act upon the advice. When principals receive advice concerning matters outside of their jurisdiction, such as curriculum or programs, they would communicate this advice to the appropriate provincial or school board official. In instances where parents wish to make a representation, the school advisory body may decide to communicate directly with appropriate officials.