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School Councils

Questions & Answers on School Councils

Part Two: Legal Responsibilities
C. Membership Selection

How are members to be selected?
The law provides local leeway in the election process. It does, however, affirm the principle of peer selection:

  • Parent members are to be selected by the parents of students attending the school, in elections held by the local recognized parent-teacher organization.

  • Teacher members are to be selected by the teachers in the school.

  • The process needs to be fair, open and without the influence of the school committee, superintendent, or principal.

By extension, the spirit of the legislation and the experience of good practice suggest that student council elections or other representative processes be used to select the student member.
Non-school members may be recruited by principals directly or selected by the organizations that are invited to send representatives to the council.
What is the definition of a "parent-teacher organization?"
There are often several parent groups working in or with schools. Such groups may advise a particular program area, plan and implement special events, or function as subcommittees of larger groups. The parent-teacher organization that would be responsible for holding elections for parent representatives to the school council is that parent organization which is most representative of the entire parent constituency. The electing organization need to be open to all parents of all children in the school.
If a school has more than one parent-teacher organization, which organization holds the election of the parents to the council?
Schools that have more than one equally representative parent-teacher organization should determine a collaborative process for electing the parent representatives on the council. Two or more organizations may collaborate to hold an open schoolwide election of parents.
The primary consideration is that the election of parents be as open and inclusive as possible. Any parent, regardless of membership in a parent teacher organization, is free to (1) run for election to and (2) vote for parent representatives to the council.
What happens if there is no parent-teacher organization to hold the election of parents?
In such a case, the principal is responsible for developing a representative election process, subject to approval by the superintendent and school committee.
Do school committees have to review and approve the electoral process for all council members?
Yes. The law reads that "the principal, except as otherwise provided herein, shall have the responsibility for defining the composition of and forming the group pursuant to a representative process approved by the superintendent and school committee." In addition, when parent elections are held by a locally recognized parent teacher organization, these elections are held "under the direction of the principal." But the principal may not exert any influence over the nomination and election process.
In order to enhance representation, may parents and teachers be elected by "subgroups" within the parent or teacher community?
No. The election of parents and teachers must, by law, be open to all parents and teachers, respectively. However, to encourage representation that includes, for example, underrepresented parents or teachers from each grade in a school, the nomination process may be designed to yield candidates from the "subgroups." For example, a citywide school may hold nominating caucuses for parents from the north, east, south, and west quadrants of the city; the middle school may nominate teachers from each of the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. In the election process, all parents must be able to vote for all parents and all teachers for the full slate of teachers. In addition, a slate of candidates that is nominated by caucuses should also allow candidates who are "at-large," and not nominated by the caucuses. In other words, a council may not have "reserved" seats for grade levels, "pods" or subgroups of either the teacher or the parent population.

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Last Updated: January 27, 1994
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