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Establishing a School Council

There are various procedures that can be followed in establishing school councils. The Department of Education has developed the following procedure:

     Step 1: Provide an Opportunity
     Step 2: Establish the Council
     Step 3: School Council Formation Meeting
     Step 4: Reporting

Step 1: Provide an Opportunity
Sections 2 and 3 of the Minister's Directive concerning School Councils sets out the process for providing an opportunity to establish a school council. The principal is required to provide parents with the opportunity to establish a school council prior to October 15 of each school year.

In the event that a school does not have a school advisory body as described in sub-section 2, the principal shall encourage the establishment of a school council for parents by giving notice to parents of children who attend the school and organizing a meeting for the purpose of establishing a school council.

Step 2: Establish the Council
Detailed accounts of the following guidelines are contained in the Minister's Directive concerning School Councils.

Membership
A school council must consist of the following members:

  1. a minimum of three parents who have children in attendance at the school;
  2. one or more teachers who are staff members at the school;
  3. the principal of the school; and
  4. at the discretion of the parent and teacher members of the school council, a student of the school.

 

The majority of members of a school council must be parents who have children in attendance at the school.

Q.   How long are the terms of office?

A.   Parent, teacher and student terms are one year. They may be re-appointed or re-elected for two additional terms. However, in the case of a small school, a parent or a teacher may be re-elected for additional terms if this is necessary in order to meet membership requirements.

 

Member Election
PARENTS
Where the school has neither a Home and School Association nor a parent advisory committee, parent members can be elected at a general meeting for parents that has been organized by the principal.

TEACHER
Teacher members of the school council must be elected by the school staff.

STUDENT
Student members of the school council must be elected by the duly elected student council executive, or by the students if a student council does not exist.

Step 3: School Council Formation Meeting
The date, time and location of the school council formation meeting should be widely advertised two weeks prior to the scheduled meeting. It is very important to let all parents and school staff know about the intention to establish a school council.

Q.   What are some ways to give public notice of a school council formation meeting?

A.   A few suggestions for advertising the formation meeting are through the school newsletter, sending a notice to each home, or arranging for a Public Service Announcement to be carried by the local radio station or newspaper.

 

The following is a suggested agenda for the school council formation meeting.

  1. Purpose of the meeting.
  2. Procedures for the meeting.
  3. Discussion and suggestions about parent representation.
  4. Election of parent representatives.
  5. Plans for the election of teacher and student members.
  6. Date for next meeting.

 

Q.   What do you suggest as the roles and responsibilities of the members of the school council?

A.   In order for school councils to be effective, members require an understanding of their responsibilities. The following is an overview of suggested roles and responsibilities for council members.

Chair

  • Facilitates school council meetings.
  • Communicates with the principal.
  • Helps to seek consensus and resolve conflict.
  • Organizes the agenda for council meetings in consultation with the principal.

 

Council Members

  • Communicate with parents, students, and teachers.
  • Work as a team.
  • Organize the schedule of events for the council.
  • Encourage parents to support education.

 

Principal

  • Helps to establish the school council.
  • Consults with the council on matters relevant to its functions.
  • Communicates with staff, students, council and school board.
  • Provides educational leadership.

 

Operating Procedures
During the first meeting of the elected representatives, the council should begin to define the operating procedures including:

  • election of a chair;
  • determination of a schedule of meetings;
  • discussion of strategies for communication with parents, students, and teachers.

 

Q.   Who should chair the school council and how should the chair of the council be selected?

A.   School councils have the option to decide on the chair and the manner of the selection of the chair. The chair will be a parent who is elected by the school council.

 

Q.   How should a school council approach the decision-making process?

A.   This issue should be addressed during the first meeting of elected representatives. The School Act specifies that a "school council shall determine its own procedure." Advisory groups work best when the group functions by building a consensus. Although it may be necessary to hold a formal vote in order to bring a matter to a conclusion, it is preferable that school councils avoid the use of formal rules of order. It is, of course, desirable to establish an agenda and maintain a record of discussions.

 

Step 4: Reporting

Q.   To whom are school councils responsible?

A.   Members of school councils are responsible to those who elect them. Parent members should maintain communication with, and provide regular reports to parents through the Home and School Association. In cases where there is no Home and School Association, parents should be invited to periodic meetings at which time they will be presented with reports or updates. Teacher and student members should report to school staff and students when appropriate. Finally, it is important that the school council seek input and suggestions from parents, students, and teachers.

 

Q.   If only a small number of parents express an interest in establishing a school council, what is the obligation of the principal?

A.   It is desirable that the body which elects parent members to a school council is representative of the geographical area served by the school and the grades accommodated at the school. If the number of parents who attend a meeting to establish a council is not sufficiently representative, it would be advisable to consider adjourning the meeting so that additional parents could be encouraged to attend.

 

Conclusion
Many researchers have investigated the characteristics of effective groups. The evidence indicates that groups are more effective when there is a focus on team building and the establishment of confidence and trust among the members of the group. It is important to realize that each member of the group has a particular role, and that the development of a productive group climate is accomplished by the concerted effort of each group member. It is prudent to begin slowly and to build on successes.

Schools exist in order to provide educational opportunities for students. The primary focus of schools and school advisory bodies is the improvement of learning opportunities and the protection of the interests of all students.

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