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School Councils

Questions & Answers on School Councils

Part Two: Legal Responsibilities
F. Internal Operations

What requirements are councils subject to as a result of their need to comply with the Open Meeting Law?
The law leaves it up to each council to determine its own rules of operation except that "meetings of the school council shall be subject to the provisions of sections twenty-three A, twenty-three B and twenty-three C of chapter thirty-nine." These sections of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law require councils to:

  • Hold all meetings in public and allow anyone in attendance to audio and/or video-tape the proceedings as long as it is not disruptive to the meeting.

  • Post a notice of each meeting with the city or town clerk and in a public place at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.

  • Keep minutes indicating the date, time, place, members present and absent, and actions taken.

  • Adhere to a quorum, which is to be defined as a majority of the council members.

How can vacancies be filled?
The law leaves this matter up to the principal to decide "pursuant to a representative process approved by the superintendent and school committee." Several options can be considered. The position can be offered to the highest vote getter of the individuals who were not elected from the relevant constituency group in the most recent election. If that person is not available, the position can be offered to any of the other non-elected candidates. If there are no remaining candidates, the principal may hold a special election to fill the vacancy or ask the sending constituency, e.g., a pto or a faculty council, to recruit one of its members to fill the position temporarily until the next council election. This policy should be clearly defined in the by-laws.
Is the council's work stopped if under work-to-rule conditions the teachers on the council stop participating?
No. As long as access is guaranteed, an individual member's or a group's decision not to participate cannot stop the work of the whole council and thus deny other constituencies the opportunity to participate. Under the Open Meeting Law, a quorum for the council is a simple majority of current members, so meetings may be conducted in the absence of one constituency if enough other members attend.

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Last Updated: January 27, 1994
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