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School Councils

Questions & Answers on School Councils

Part Three: Suggested Practices in Implementing the Letter and Spirit of the School Councils Law
C. Representation and Community Outreach

How can school councils maximize their representativeness and become more inclusive in their decision making?
"Inclusiveness" refers to a way of doing business that provides for continual contact between the council and the school and community constituencies it represents. Councils can become more inclusive by:

  • Exceeding the requirements of the open meeting law by giving more notice of the time and place than the law requires and by including the agenda in the posted notice.

  • Setting aside the last few minutes of each council meeting to develop a preliminary agenda for the next meeting. In this way, council members can informally canvass the thoughts and opinions of the constituents they represent in between meetings.

  • Providing for a public comment period at every council meeting. During this period, council members or visiting members of the school and community can bring their issues to the attention of the council. Please note: the ground rules for such sessions should rule out individual grievances (e.g., a parent's complaint about a class placement) and personnel issues requiring confidentiality.

  • Establishing subcommittees with extended memberships. An extended subcommittee typically consists of one or two members of the council and other volunteers from the school and community who join the group as resource people or interested parties to work on a specific issue for a finite period of time. Extended committee membership provides an opportunity for involvement for parents, teachers, and community members who do not have the time or interest to serve on a permanent standing committee.

How can the school council be coordinated with other councils or advisory committees that exist at the school?
In some schools, the creation of a school council will require discussion and understanding of the council's "boundaries" and how the council interacts with other groups already in existence in the school or the school system. Such coordination will help to ensure that various groups within the school do not exist in isolation from each other, duplicate efforts, or develop conflicting programs.
When groups within a school or a school system collaborate with each other and the school supports rather than hinders this cooperation, it is more likely that common goals will be achieved. Schools can develop several ways for coordinating school councils with existing governing and advisory structures, as the following suggestions indicate:

  • Organize the school council as an umbrella organization with non-voting representation from other councils and committees in the school or school districts.

  • Develop a system of councils and committees which has overlapping representation for coordination and collaboration of activities.

  • Organize the school council as a subcommittee of a larger umbrella group.

  • Establish communication among the school council and other existing councils through designated liaison people.

  • Involve members of other councils or advisory committees as extended members of specialized subcommittees that advise the school council.


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Last Updated: January 27, 1994
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