Working With Your School Committee:
A Student Guide
Section One: Background Information
The purpose of this guide is to help students participate in decisions about their education. One way to do this is to work directly with the people who make these decisions. Because school committees in Massachusetts are the elected bodies responsible for the public schools in each district, it makes sense for students to work with the school committee in their community. Since 1972, a state law has provided a concrete method for students to work with school committees. This law established the Student Advisory Committee to School Committee (SAC to SC). To encourage greater involvement, in 1987, an amendment was passed allowing for a student member to serve on each school committee in an ex officio capacity.
Why Have a SAC to SC Guide?
This guide will help students elected to the SAC to SC to be more effective in the work they do, and to assist the students in understanding their roles and responsibilities. Because the SAC to SC from one town rarely meets other SACs to SCs, some students decided to put together materials they hoped would be useful resources.
Although this guide is designed for students, school committee members have also found it helpful in determining how to work more effectively with their SAC to SC.
How to Use this Guide
Each section deals with a different aspect of the SAC to SC. Sections One and Two introduce the SAC to SC and explain how the committee relates to other organizations such as student government, the school administration and the state education system. Sections Three, Four, and Five explain ways to organize the SAC to SC, how to work with the school committee including making informal and formal proposals, and how to stay in touch with the student body. Section Six offers an explanation of school budgets. Section Seven explains some special issues of importance. A resource section at the back of the book includes some helpful sample forms and other sources of help and information.
History of the SAC to SC
In the 1960s, students fought hard for a role in educational decision making. Their demands were based on both the educational benefits and the fundamental fairness of allowing students to participate in running an institution which so greatly affects them. These ideas gained support from educators and legislators. The movement for student involvement led to the enactment of Chapter 95 of the Acts of 1972. The law reads as follows:
- Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows: Chapter 71 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after Section 38L the following section: Section 38M. School committees of cities, towns, and regional school districts shall meet at least once every other month during the months school is in session, with a student advisory committee to consist of five members to be composed of students elected by the student body of the high school or high schools in each city, town, or regional school district.
Though modestly worded, Chapter 95 was a significant step. Students now had a voice at the school committee level where most of the important decisions about local education are made.
In l987, Chapter 71, Section 38M, was amended to establish student membership on each school committee. The chairperson of each SAC to SC now becomes an ex-officio, non-voting member of the school committee which entitles the chairperson to receive minutes and agenda for meetings and to be recognized and speak during meetings. Although the student member is not granted by law the right to attend executive sessions, the school committee may choose to allow the chairperson to attend. Likewise, the ability to vote is not granted. However, some communities have extended the privilege (e.g., Amesbury Public Schools), while others allow the vote to be recorded but not counted.
Purpose and Responsibilities
The student body elects the SAC to SC to represent its views, and to advise the school committee. The student member allows direct access to discussions and decisions that may occur during school committee sessions.
What are the goals of SACs to SCs?
- To promote communication between the school committee and the student body.
- To inform the school committee about the student body's attitudes, interests and concerns, both positive and negative.
- To advise the school committee as part of its decision-making process.
- To initiate and present proposals to the school committee about issues important to the student body.
- To inform the student body about how the school committee functions and what it is working on.
- To be truly representative of the entire student body.
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