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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
D. Self-Assessment and Improvement

What factors can be used to determine that councils have been effective and successful?
There are several indicators that can help councils periodically and informally to assess their functioning. These include:

  • Membership: Is the council reasonably representative of the socio economic and ethnic make-up of the school community?

  • Internal functioning: Do council meetings have good attendance? Does the council reach closure on important issues?

  • Representativeness and communication: Did the council involve the larger community in its work? Have other members of the school community asked for time to make presentations to or meet with the council? Is the school community aware of the council's "product," i.e., the school improvement plan? How is information about this plan communicated?

  • Resource enhancement: Has the council used its outreach ability and the involvement of its community members to establish links with groups that could make potential contributions to improving the school? These contributions could include new perspectives, skills, in-kind contributions of time and knowledge, and material resources.

What kind of technical assistance and preparation will councils need?
Ongoing training and technical assistance will be a key ingredient in maximizing school councils' effectiveness.

  1. For all council members, some training and orientation will be useful in the following areas:

    • An explanation of the state law establishing the councils. This booklet may be a useful resource.

    • A basic orientation on the fundamentals of school district operations. These fundamentals could include information on the system's goals and philosophy, constraints placed by federal and state laws and collective bargaining agreements, and laws and policies on who makes the final decisions on specific issues.

    • A district-specific orientation regarding local expectations for school councils. This could include but not be limited to:

      • Systemwide performance standards and educational policies that need to be reflected in an individual school's improvement goals.

      • School improvement planning formats that mesh building level and district-wide improvement plans.

      • School committee criteria (if existing) and procedures for the review and approval of each school's improvement plan.

      • The district's budget making process and calendar.

      • Any school committee guidelines for school councils' involvement in "other areas of school policy" as allowed for in the legislation

    • A brief overview of the elements of good practice that could be based, in part, on material contained in this booklet.

    The above "basic training" and orientation sessions could be included in each council's initial set of meetings or school systems may choose to hold a systemwide orientation meeting for all council members.

  2. Councils may also benefit from skill-building on some or all of the following topics:

    • Sensitivity training on "active listening" for all council members. Active listening builds group cohesion and enhances the process of consensus decision making.

    • Council co-chairs may find it useful to participate in a refresher session on agenda setting, effective meetings, strategic planning, and consensus decision making.


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Last Updated: January 27, 1994
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