School Site Councils – The Power of the Parents on School Committee Agenda

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Under ED Reform, The law requires that there be a school council “at each public elementary, secondary and independent vocational school in the Commonwealth.” The membership of school councils “should be broadly representative of the racial and ethnic diversity of the school building and community.”

School Committee members Jackie Doherty and Andy Decouteaux know the importance and value of parental involvement and have the following motion on tomorrow’s SC Agenda.

[by Andre Descoteaux and Jacqueline Doherty]:
Respectfully request the Superintendent provide the committee with the current status and membership, by school, of each School Site Council along with a list of meeting times for the remainder of this school year. In addition, provide the committee with an updated membership list and meetings schedule for the 2016-2017 school year prior to Oct. 1, 2016.

Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui also has a deep commitment to parental involvement and has been very receptive to the CPC and the need for schools to have School Site Councils.

While the motion is a good start, I’m hoping the School Committee will create a handbook explaining the needs and duties of School. Site Councils and follow the law by creating election policy rules to form these committee’s.

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.

On the DESE website the message is clear about the relationship between Site Councils and School Committee’s

The relationship between school committees and school councils has a strong potential for reaffirming and strengthening lay governance in public education. The law provides for an explicit oversight role for school committees. School committees have the responsibility to:

Set district-wide performance standards and educational policies that building level school improvement plans must take into account.

Review and approve building level school improvement plans.

Approve a representative process for the election of parent and teacher members of the council.

One thing I hope the Committee does is to create rules and guidelines that mandate that the makeup of the individual sites reflect the ethnicity of the school. Parents of all nationalities need to have a voice and under ED Reform the State strongly urges that.

The law reads “school councils should be broadly representative of the racial and ethnic diversity of the school building and the community.” Schools have an affirmative action responsibility to undertake the outreach needed to ensure an opportunity for all racial and ethnic groups to participate in the council. This responsibility may not involve setting quotas or developing proportional representation plans that guarantee seats on the council to members of particular racial or ethnic groups. There are, however, several strategies schools can pursue to enhance racial and ethnic representation.

Lowell is fortunate to have the Coalition for a Better Acre, Cambodian Mutual Assistant Assoc and people like Rady Mom, Anna Jabar-Omoyeni, Jun JU-Choi, Cham Pagne, Julie Ngor, Cheth Khim , Kamara Kay , Paul Ratha Yem , Dominich Ley , Ben Opara , Chris Roux and many others willing to help out and do outreach to assist in filling these school sites.

At LHS the law is clear that students have a place at the table – 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.

Above all PARENTS have a huge voice on the Council and has to be equal to any staff members- 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.”

It also has to me made clear that under ED Reform these schools sites must meet both Open Meeting and Conflict of interest Laws the same laws School Committee’s must follow.

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.

According to the State Ethics Commission’s Opinion EC-COI-93-21 (October 19, 1993), school councils are considered municipal agencies and their members, although they serve without compensation, are considered municipal employees for purposes of the conflict of interest law. This provision may be especially relevant to parent and community members of councils who may serve on other municipal agencies, boards and commissions within the community or who may do business with the city or town agencies. Because the circumstances of each case are different, the Department suggests that conflict of interest questions be directed to the State Ethics Commission, One Ashburton Place, Room 619, Boston, MA 02108. Telephone: (617) 727-0060. FAX: (617) 723-5851

Parents have a lot of power under the ED Reform Act especially when it comes to school improvements, discipline and other concerns and a school site Council is an important part of Ed Reform.

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