I have stepped away from the CPC to ensure that those parents who want to have a voice are able to be heard over my big mouth.
I’m 100% supportive of this group and will continue to advocate for parent involvement because I still have a daughter in Lowell Public Schools and under Ed Reform we as parents are supposed to have a strong voice and I will be strongly pushing for the School Committee and this Administration to give them that opportunity.
Now that the CPC is up and beginning to run to be able to succeed it needs a feeder system. Back when the CPC was started according to Jackie Doherty and Dick Howe they had active school site councils and PTO’s that membership was made up of. Today many Lowell Schools don’t have active School Site Councils even though the State mandates that they have one.
A quick look at the School Dept. Website shows no information about School Site Councils, no election policies and a look at the LHS and 8 middle school websites shows little to no information about School Site Councils expect for Minute meetings from November on the Pyne School webpage and under the Parent tab on the Butler School site the term School Site Council is listed for parent involvement.
Yet the Law is VERY Clear about public notification requirements:
What requirements are councils subject to as a result of their need to comply with the Open Meeting Law?
The law leaves it up to each council to determine its own rules of operation except that “meetings of the school council shall be subject to the provisions of sections twenty-three A, twenty-three B and twenty-three C of chapter thirty-nine.” These sections of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law require councils to:
Hold all meetings in public and allow anyone in attendance to audio and/or video-tape the proceedings as long as it is not disruptive to the meeting.
Post a notice of each meeting with the city or town clerk and in a public place at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.
Keep minutes indicating the date, time, place, members present and absent, and actions taken.
Adhere to a quorum, which is to be defined as a majority of the council members.
The law outlines four major areas of responsibility for councils. School councils are to assist principals in:
Adopting educational goals for the school that are consistent with local educational policies and statewide student performance standards
Identifying the educational needs of students attending the school
Reviewing the annual school building budget
Formulating a school improvement plan
For any school that contains grades nine to twelve, inclusive, the council shall review the student handbook each spring to consider changes in disciplinary policy to take effect for the following school year. (See Appendix B)
In addition, the law states that “nothing contained in this section shall prevent the school committee from granting a school council additional authority in the area of educational policy; provided, however, that school council shall have no authority over matters which are subject to chapter one hundred and fifty E of the General Laws.” (Question 34, below, addresses Chapter 150E.)
Do school committees have to review and approve the electoral process for all council members?
Yes. The law reads that “the principal, except as otherwise provided herein, shall have the responsibility for defining the composition of and forming the group pursuant to a representative process approved by the superintendent and school committee.” In addition, when parent elections are held by a locally recognized parent teacher organization, these elections are held “under the direction of the principal.” But the principal may not exert any influence over the nomination and election process.
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.”
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.
Advisory on School Governance
from the MASS Dept. of Elementary and Secondly Education.(Bold Mine)
. Educational Goals & Policies; Management & Leadership
State law:The school committee establishes educational goals and policies for the schools in the district, consistent with the requirements of law and the statewide goals and standards established by the Board of Education. (G.L. c. 71,[[section]] 37) The school committee’s status as the “employer” for collective bargaining purposes remains unaltered by Education Reform. (G.L. c. 150E, [[section]] 1)
The superintendent employed by the school committee shall manage the system in a fashion consistent with state law and the policy determinations of the school committee. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 52)
Principals are the educational administrators and managers of their schools, and shall supervise the operation and management of their schools and school property, subject to the supervision and direction of the superintendent. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 59B) Each principal works with a school council to define educational goals for the school, identify the educational needs of the students, and formulate a school improvement plan, consistent with state and local educational goals and policies. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 59C)
V. School Councils; School-Based Decision-Making
State law: The principal co-chairs the school council, which is a representative, school-based committee composed of the principal, parents, teachers, community members and, at the secondary level, at least one student. The principal works with the council to identify the educational needs of the students attending the school, review the annual school budget, and prepare a school improvement plan. The plan addresses issues such as professional development, student learning time, parent involvement, safety and discipline, and ways to meet the diverse learning needs of the students in the school. Each school council in the district submits its school improvement plan annually to the school committee. If the school committee does not review the plan within thirty days of receipt, the plan is deemed to have been approved. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 59C)
The school committee may grant a school council additional authority in the area of educational policy, except over matters that are subject to collective bargaining. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 59C)
The principal, in consultation with professional staff in the school building, is responsible to promote participatory decision-making among all professional staff for the purpose of developing educational policy. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 59B)
What are the educational benefits of site-based decision making?
Site-based decision making places the school at the center of planning, goal setting, and budgeting for school improvement. It provides additional opportunities for teachers and administrators who are closest to the teaching learning process to be innovative and creative. Site-based decision making also allows teachers and administrators to work with parents and the community to become more responsive to the needs of a particular school’s population. For example, the teachers at a particular school may find that, because of the characteristics of their students, they have a need for a particular type of inservice training that is not offered or needed district-wide. Under site-based decision making, this school may be given the discretionary authority over staff development resources to meet this need.
How does the establishment of school councils enhance the benefits of site-based decision making?
School councils enhance site-based decision making because they expand the participation of the school community in its schools’ decision making. The involvement of different groups on the council — teachers, parents, and non parent community members — provides the school with different and mutually complementary perspectives on its improvement goals and plans. In addition, by involving people who work in and support the school in the development of the school’s improvement plan, the likelihood will increase that the plan will be successfully implemented.
For the CPC to succeed the individual schools must first be required to follow the Law and establish school site councils and the School Committee must start by directly the administration make this a priority for the 2016/2017 school year and develop their own policy regarding elections / selections for these councils.