Working With Your School Committee:
A Student Guide
Section Two: How the System Works
What School Committees Do
The school committee is responsible for overseeing the local public schools. Elected by the voters of the school district (which is usually one town but may be a region of several towns), members control the budget, negotiate union contracts and set policies for the public schools in that district.
The school committee hires a superintendent who is the head administrator. He or she is responsible for running the schools in the district and reports directly to the school committee.
The secretary for the school committee publishes an agenda for each meeting. Copies are available to the public from the superintendent's office. With a few exceptions, meetings are open to the public as required by the Commonwealth's "open meeting" law (MGL Chapter 39, Section 23A, See Appendix Two). Anyone can attend the proceedings or obtain copies of the materials presented to the school committee, including students.
The SAC to SC is the students' official representative to the school committee. It is the school committee's representative to the students as well. Just as the teachers' union represents the interest of teachers, the SAC to SC acts on behalf of students to strengthen communication between them and the school committee.
Meetings follow a set of rules for formal conduct called parliamentary procedure. The chairperson of the school committee runs the meeting. An agenda sets the order of business. These are the standard parts to an agenda:
- Minutes from last meeting
- Old business
- Citizens' statements
- New business
- Bids and contracts
Parliamentary procedure was designed as a way to organize public debate in an orderly fashion, especially for large groups. The chairperson controls who speaks. Each person who wishes to speak must be "recognized," or given permission to talk to the committee. This is called "obtaining the floor." Anyone can be recognized, although nonmembers usually are invited specifically to speak. As a school committee member, the student chairperson of the SAC to the SC can obtain the floor, offer motions, and engage in debate (See Appendix Five for some information about Parliamentary Procedure).
Other Educational Organizations
The Massachusetts Board of Education is a nine person board that creates statewide policy for public education. Members are appointed by the Governor, with the exception of the student Board member. The student Board member is elected by the State Student Advisory Council. The student Board member has full voting rights. The Massachusetts Board of Education's secretary is the Commissioner of Education.
The Commissioner is hired by the Massachusetts Board of Education. He or she reports directly to the Board and supervises all Department of Elementary and Secondary Education employees.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is a state agency. Department professionals help communities improve their schools and monitor the local school districts to ensure they are complying with state and federal laws and regulations.
The State Student Advisory Council (SSAC) is a network of students elected across the Commonwealth that advises the Massachusetts Board of Education and brings information about student issues to high schools. The group discusses educational and student-related issues, of local, regional and statewide importance. There are eleven regional SACs. Each regional council sends four members to the State Student Advisory Council. This is the central student organization at the state level. After developing proposals on topics such as student skills or student discipline, they present the information to the chairperson who is the voting student member on the Massachusetts Board of Education. The regional and the state councils meet monthly from September through May.
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