Questions & Answers on School Site Councils- FROME THE DESE WEBSITE

OVER A SHORT PERIOD I WILL POST QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS THAT DESE SHOWS FOR SCHOOL SITE COUNCILS along with some commentary about what is presently going on here in Lowell.

Questions & Answers on School Site Councils

Part Two: Legal Responsibilities
A. Establishment of Councils

Are all schools required to establish a school council?

Yes. The law requires that there be a school council “at each public elementary, secondary and independent vocational school in the Commonwealth.”

GN: That should include LHS which seems to instead use Friends of Lowell High as a catch all for Parent Involvement.

If a principal is responsible for more than one school, does a separate council have to be formed for each school?

The law requires each school to have a school council. If two school buildings are linked operationally — for example, one principal is responsible for one building serving students in grades K-3 and a second building serving students grades 4-6, and the buildings are under a shared administration and a single PTO — then a single school council may be formed to encompass both buildings. However, if the two buildings function as discrete schools — for example, one principal is responsible for two K-6 elementary schools with separate administrations and separate PTOs — then a separate council should be formed for each school.

If a school district has several small schools under the leadership of the same principal, must he/she be the chair of each school’s council?

Yes. The law requires the principal to be one of the two co-chairs of the council. The other co-chair is to be selected by the council as a whole rather than appointed by the principal. Councils can set their own internal rules of operation, including rotating responsibilities for the co-chairs.

Who is responsible for organizing a school council?

The law explicitly gives the school principal responsibility for defining the composition and overseeing the formation of the council pursuant to a representative process approved by the superintendent and school committee. As co-chair of the council, the principal is also responsible for convening the first meeting of the council. At this meeting, the other co-chair is to be selected.

To whom do councils report?

Councils are to assist principals by reviewing the school building budget and developing the school improvement plan. Councils may also take on other responsibilities, including policymaking, as granted by the local school committee. Councils’ school improvement plans are submitted to the local school committee for review and approval.

Who is to be on the council?

The legislation specifies that the council is to consist of parents of students attending the school, teachers, and “other persons drawn from such groups or entities as municipal government, business and labor organizations, institutions of higher education, human service agencies or other interested groups, including those from school-age child care programs.” Also, for schools containing any of grades nine to twelve, there should be at least one student on the council.

How many members should the council contain?

The law leaves it up to each principal, “pursuant to a representative process approved by the superintendent and school committee,” to define the size and composition of the council. It does, however, make three stipulations about membership.

Parents “shall have parity with professional personnel on the school councils.” Regardless of the size of the council, the number of parent representatives must be equal to the number of teachers who serve on the council plus the principal.

“Not more than fifty percent of the council shall be non-school members.” “Non-school members” are defined as members who are “other than parents, teachers, students and staff at the school.”

The membership of school councils “should be broadly representative of the racial and ethnic diversity of the school building and community.”

GN: This is important because presently Lowell School Site Councils don’t meet the Law for their make-up

What is the reason for parity in representation among parents, community members, and school professionals?

The provision of “parity” is based on the experience of the Chapter 188 school improvement councils and the national research on effective school-community councils. Research on small group dynamics in groups that mix lay people (e.g., parents) and professionals has shown that when lay people are outnumbered they are not likely to articulate their special perspective as “customers” of the school. “Parity” provides a critical mass in which parents can feel comfortable in expressing their views while educators retain a strong voice on the council.

In situations in which differences of opinion are split along lay-professional lines, “parity” creates pressure for compromising and reaching consensus, since neither side can override the other with its numerical majority.

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