Saturday, November 6, 2010

School Councils

Massachusetts Association of School Committees presentation on school councils
Ed Reformers:
  • don't believe what they say about parent empowerment
  • huge measures of condescension
  • at some levels, condescension rises to abject contempt
  • that contempt is extended to local government
"how often have you been told by Doctor somebody who never took anyone's appendix out that this is what's right for your child"

School Committee is the elected legislature for the schools; hire superintendent; sets policy; sets and manages budget; conducts collective bargaining; establishes policy for electing school councils
School Councils are "site-based management" under ed reform. "To be sure that principals were responsible to their communities, we gave parents a very powerful role on school councils." They have an advisory role, designed to empower parents, and "when you allow parents into the process, it's like insurance. They not only like being there, they refuse to leave!"
"School Councils present one of the most potentially effective vehicles for parents and faculty to have a voice, to be collaborate, and to impact public education in their community."
  • to empower parents
  • to keep principals accountable to parents and faculty
  • to draw on wisdom and good judgment of community members
  • build community partnerships and strengthen community support
  • a check and balance against state and federal regulators who disdain local authority
Don't underestimate ANYONE: "after I graduated from Smith, I put myself through law school, and then I was clerk of courts. So either you give me some answers or I walk out of here and start making phone calls."
Must be a representative body: principal serves as co-chair, parents, teachers, community members, and student (at secondary level)
Review annual school budget, review and provide input into school improvement plan
Superintendent evaluated on "how accountable they make their principals and how responsive they are to their school councils"
establish partnerships, advance policy development, staff developement, curriculum development
School Plan could have:
  • inviting parental perspective on issues
  • student achievement strategies
  • professional development
  • role of parents in the building
  • plans to address school climate
  • school safety
  • strategic plan
  • discipline
  • diverse needs of a diverse population
  • and whatever is hot button...RTTT, etc
about RTTT: "if you're not confused, you're not paying attention...RTTT is currently understood by about eleven people in Massachusetts"
Principals "would be crazy" not be updating their school councils on implications of RTTT

School Councils MAY take policy positions (they just can't use school funds on elections)
School Council members MAY ENDORSE candidates AS INDIVIDUALS
School Councils may hold public forums, if they are non-partisian
He notes further that if a school council or school committee members have a blog, that is protected speech under the First Amendment.

principals providing budget reports to school council might be a good policy
with the change in the House, "it's unclear RTTT is going to be funded for four years"

the student member on a secondary school council is a voting member
School Committee reviews school improvement plans (which are now, in Worcester, accountability plans)
An effective school council: is collegial, focused on school improvement, are creative and energetic, encourage initiative, identify imporant issues, have a good work ethic, share responsibilities, follow through on what they talk about, have a diverse membership base, and report out to their public.
MASC does school council trainings

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