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Education Laws and Regulations

School Councils Questions and Answers
Part Three: Suggested Practices in Implementing the Letter and Spirit of the School Councils Law
A. Membership

If there is no parent-teacher organization, what are some other ways of ensuring representativeness in the election of parent members on the council?
Developing a process to elect parents to the council in schools that do not have a formal parent-teacher organization can pose a special challenge. In these situations, schools can use the following strategies:

  • Request existing parents' groups, e.g., Chapter I Parents Advisory Committees, Bilingual Parents Advisory Committees, and sports and booster clubs, to nominate candidates from among their members; coordinate a run-off election from among these candidates.
  • Hold elections at the conclusion or beginning of cultural assembly programs, school plays, open-house nights, or other educational or social events that bring parents into the school.
  • Hold "at-large" elections from among the parent body by soliciting nominations through direct mail and school and community newspapers. Request that parents nominate themselves or others for membership on the council. This approach has been highly successful in generating volunteers. In some schools, a mail ballot run-off election has been necessary as there have been more volunteers than seats on the councils.
  • Invite all parents to a evening informational meeting at which the school council is explained and parent council members are elected.
  • Announce that elections will be held in conjunction with a forum, possibly with a respected guest speaker, on an issue of current concern to parents. Elect parent members at the conclusion of the forum.

Should council members serve for fixed terms?
The law indicates that the principal "shall have the responsibility for defining the composition of and forming the group pursuant to a representative process approved by the superintendent and the school committee." The principal should not be arbitrary and must consider the needs of the school.

There are two major considerations to weigh in regard to the length of council members' terms:

  • The value of continuity and experience on the council that is provided by long term membership.

  • The value of having fresh perspectives and increased access to council participation that results from a greater turnover of members.

Establishing staggered terms for teachers and parent members of councils will help to accommodate the desire for continuity and expanded access. To create staggered terms, one third of each membership category is elected for terms of one, two, and three years in the initial year of the council. These members can be re-elected for a full term when their term expires. Non-school members that formally represent community organizations can continue to serve at the pleasure of the sending organization.

What unique role can the "non-school" community members of the council play?
Community representatives may have areas of special interest, expertise, and connections that can help the school council to be more effective and creative in its approach to school improvement. Community representatives bring a broader community orientation to the council by acting as:

  • Resource linkers who establish contacts with community service organizations, other municipal service agencies, and business groups.

  • Specialists in technical areas of expertise.

What are some ways of recruiting the non-school, community members of councils?
Schools can use several strategies to select the non-school community members:

  • The school committee may identify a pool of community leaders and community organization representatives with an interest in working on and supporting school improvement. Schools can select, from this pool, individuals to whom invitations are offered to join the council.

  • School committees can provide local guidelines for the identification of community organizations and constituencies from which non-school members of councils could be selected. These organizations and constituencies, which could include higher education, cultural and human service agencies, business, senior citizens, etc., could be invited to recommend individuals who would be interested in serving on councils.

  • Schools with contacts with the community, through volunteer and other partnership programs that involve "non-parents" from higher education, business, cultural and human service, or other institutions, can invite these partners to designate representatives to school councils.

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Last Updated: January 27, 1994

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