School Councils: The Saskatchewan Vision

By The School-Level Governance Working Group

SSTA Research Centre Report #96-13: 30 pages, $11.

Introduction This document represents the final report of the School-Level Governance Working Group, a body established by the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association in fall 1996. The purpose of this group was to take a critical look at the concept of school-level governance and to develop a consensus view of what this concept means for Saskatchewan.
Purpose and Objectives
Legislation
Membership
Responsibilities
Implementation
Conclusion
Summary of Recommendations
References
Appendix A: Representation from Stakeholders

Back to: Governance


The SSTA Research Centre grants permission to reproduce up to three copies of each report for personal use. Each copy must acknowledge the author and the SSTA Research Centre as the source. A complete and authorized copy of each report is available from the SSTA Research Centre.
The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.


Introduction

The School-Level Governance Working Group

This document represents the final report of the School-Level Governance Working Group, a body established by the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association in fall 1996. The purpose of this group was to take a critical look at the concept of school-level governance and to develop a consensus view of what this concept means for Saskatchewan. The members of the Working Group were:

- Dr. Michael Tymchak, Chair, Faculty of Education, University of Regina

- Mary Anderson, Saskatchewan School Trustees Association (SSTA)

- Barry Bashutski, Saskatchewan School Trustees Association (SSTA)

- Dr. Derwyn Crozier-Smith, Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF)

- Ralph Eliasson, League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents (LEADS)

- Joe Zolkavich, League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents (LEADS)

The Working Group met frequently from August to November, 1996. At its initial meetings, the Working Group developed the concept of School Councils that appears in the next section of this report and the principles that appear in boxes throughout the report. Later, the Working Group added detail to the basic concept and principles.

The Working Group invited a larger body of stakeholders to two of its meetings. On October 1st and October 21st, 40-50 people participated in discussion sessions. The organizations that these people represented are listed in Appendix A.

Related Activities

1. Concurrent with the activities of the Working Group, the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association undertook two activities to gather opinion about school-level governance. These activities were:

- a survey - The survey was distributed to all board of education chairpersons who were asked to complete it to reflect the view of their board of education. A total of 204 surveys were returned.

- a series of focus groups - Focus groups were held in 13 Saskatchewan locations. Participants in the focus groups included members of boards of education, members of district boards of trustees, members of local school advisory committees and other interested community representatives. One hundred and fifty-three people participated in the focus groups.

The views and opinions gathered through these processes was one of several sources of data that the Working Group considered when formulating the principles in this report. Summaries of the opinions expressed in the survey and focus groups appear in boxes titled, "Survey and Focus Group Participants Said" throughout this report. A complete summary of the opinion expressed in the survey and focus groups appears in the document New Directions for School-Level Governance (1996).

2. A mini literature review was done to support the work of the School-Level Governance Working Group. This literature review is presented in boxes titled, "What the Literature Says". Because School Councils are implemented in different ways in different jurisdictions, the literature on this topic is quite diverse and encompasses educational restructuring, educational change and site-based management, as well as School Councils.

3. Most other Canadian provinces are addressing the issue of School Councils. The School-Level Governance Working Group reviewed these activities and used the information gathered as background for creation of this vision for School Councils in Saskatchewan.

Terminology

In this report the term:

- "parent" refers to a child's legal guardian or significant caregiver. This might be the child's mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, foster parent or other guardian.

- "board of education" includes both boards of education and Conseils Scholaires.

- "community" refers both to the geographic area around a school and to the community comprised of the parents of the students who attend the school.

Organization of the Report

This report has six sections. They are:

- purpose and objectives

- legislation

- membership

- responsibilities

- implementation

- conclusion

A list of references and an appendix appear at the end of the report.


Table of Contents


Purpose and Objectives

What the Literature Says:

- About the Purpose of School Councils

School Councils have their foundations in a number of practical and philosophical considerations. They are seen as a way to:

- improve student achievement. There is a huge body of research which shows that when parents are involved in their children's education, the children's academic performance and behaviour improves and their interest in school increases (Durkin & Kingdon, 1995; Ferré, 1992; Mills, 1994; Rothwell, 1993; Storey, 1989). There is also some research evidence that community involvement improves students' achievement (Nettles, 1991). School Councils are often one component of a larger plan to increase parent and community involvement in schools.

It is important to note, however, that School Councils, in and of themselves, are no guarantee of improved student achievement (Chion-Kenney, 1994; Local School Councils ..., 1994). The key is broad-based parent and community involvement.

- democratize education. There are two aspects to democratizing education - giving stakeholders a voice in discussions that affect them and modelling democratic processes for young people (Odynski, 1995; Sarason, 1995).

... in a democratic school ... all of those directly involved in the school, including young people, have the right to participate in the process of decision making. For this reason, democratic schools are marked by widespread participation in issues of governance and policy making. Committees, councils and other school-wide decision-making groups include not only professional educators, but also young people, their parents, and other members of the school community. ... democratic planning, at both the school and classroom levels, is not the 'engineering of consent' toward predetermined decisions that has too often created the illusion of democracy, but a genuine attempt to honour the right of people to participate in making decisions that affect their lives (Beane & Apple, 1995, p. 9).

The School-Level Governance Working Group proposes that a system of "School Councils" be established in Saskatchewan.

The Working Group suggests that the existing legislation be changed so that a single body, the School Council, is formally responsible for linkages between the community and the school.

There would be one School Council for each publicly-funded school in Saskatchewan. All publicly-funded schools, including Community Schools, associate schools and schools that operate under the authority of a Conseil Scholaire would have a School Council. This requirement would not apply to private or independent schools.

School Councils would operate under the auspices of the boards of education that establish them.

What the Literature Says: - About the Purpose of School Councils (Continued)

- better meet the complex and diverse needs of children and young people. Many children today come to school with complex social, emotional and educational needs that cannot easily be met by the school alone (Government of Saskatchewan, 1994; Lowe, 1995). School Councils are one way of linking parent and community resources with the school to better serve children.

- acknowledge parents right to be involved in their child's education. Increasingly, parents consider it their right to make significant decisions about their children's schooling (Lewington & Orpwood, 1993; Lowe, 1995; Sarason, 1995).

- provide for greater public accountability. A variety of public audiences have indicated that they expect education to be more accountable to the taxpayer. School Councils are one means of increasing accountability (Infolink Consultants, 1995a).

Although School Councils are seen by many as having significant benefits, they are not without risks. Some educational stakeholders worry that parent representatives will only be interested in their own children, that involved parents will be disproportionably middle-class and not representative of the community, and that parents will be very vocal in expressing their opinions. There are also concerns about whether it is realistic to expect a high level of parent involvement. Do parents have the interest, time and expertise to participate over a sustained period of time (Mannan & Blackwell, 1992)?

Local school governance has been an issue in Saskatchewan for some time. The current legislation provides for two structures at the local level - district boards of trustees and local school advisory committees. District boards of trustees are provided for in rural areas of the province and local school advisory committees in urban areas. Local school advisory committees exist at the discretion of the board of education. Boards of education can also establish local school advisory committees in a school division that is not divided into school districts or where no school is operated.

The way in which district boards of trustees and local school advisory committees are chosen and their responsibilities differ. Thus, there is confusion, inconsistency, and sometimes, a perception of inequality between urban and rural areas of Saskatchewan.

This situation is further complicated by current legislation which specifies that parents must vote for district trustees in the school district where they live, not in the school district where their children go to school.

In 1993, the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association's Task Force on Educational Governance discussed the inconsistencies between urban and rural areas of Saskatchewan and made the following recommendation:

In both rural and urban school divisions, elected school-level governance bodies be established for each school to provide for local control and local decision making (Task Force on Educational Governance, 1993, p. 23).

The exact nature of these school-level governance bodies, their basic duties and the method by which they would be elected were not determined by the Task Force.

In June of 1996, the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association surveyed its membership regarding several governance issues. In the survey, Saskatchewan boards of education reaffirmed their support for school-level governance bodies.

As a follow-up, the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association established, in fall 1996, the School-Level Governance Working Group to examine and provide direction for a renewed system of school-level governance in Saskatchewan.

Although the need for consistency was an important reason for establishing the Working Group, it was by no means the only reason. Other factors influencing the establishment of this group were:

- the need to reaffirm the strong links between school, parents and community that have always existed in Saskatchewan.

Working together for the shared well-being of all is the "Saskatchewan way". Nowhere has this spirit of cooperation been stronger than in our province's education system.

Ever since the days of the one-room schoolhouse, there have been close connections between communities, parents and schools - close connections that have been fostered in dozens of ways ranging from parent involvement in extra-curricular and enrichment activities, to the traditional Christmas concert, to legislated structures that provide for parents and community involvement. These connections have enriched both the community and the school and contributed to quality education for our young people.

As the new century approaches, it is timely to reaffirm the commitment to shared community and school responsibility that is so much a part of our Saskatchewan heritage. This commitment includes collaboratively developing shared goals and vision, working as a team, and seeking out structures to build learning communities.

- the need to model desired practice and behaviour for our youth.

One of the purposes of education in Saskatchewan and in Canada is to promote the development of young people so they become fully participating citizens. Because we live in a democracy where fully participating citizens are expected to work together toward common goals, the education system must provide many opportunities for collaborative goal setting and collective action.

- the wish to share in decision-making regarding the structure of education in Saskatchewan.

In spring of 1996, the provincial government released a discussion paper (Saskatchewan Education, 1996) on the structure of public education. This discussion paper provided a foundation for public hearings that were held in summer and fall of 1996. This report by the School-Level Governance Working Group is timely in that it addresses a critical issue relating to educational governance in Saskatchewan.

School Councils are a mode of governance built upon the strengths of several institutions that have served education well in the past. The district board of trustees and the local school advisory committee have provided legislated frameworks for parent and community involvement in urban and rural areas of Saskatchewan. The Community School model shows the value of parent and community involvement and also offers examples of actions which can be taken to bring school, parents and community closer together. The Saskatchewan Federation of Home and School Associations (now called the Saskatchewan Association of School Councils in some parts of Saskatchewan) has been a force for creating linkages between the home, the school and the community.

Changing the legislation is important to provide consistency between urban and rural areas and to clarify the roles of all the individuals and groups that participate in the education system. But this is only the beginning. Revitalization of our traditional strong links among community, parents and schools will require commitment, collaboration and action by all of us.

The School-Level Governance Working Group recommends that:

1. The purpose of School Councils be to encourage and facilitate parent and community involvement, partnerships and communications with schools in order to strengthen programs and services and ensure quality education for all students. Specifically, the objectives of School Councils are to:

- foster cooperation, partnerships and shared responsibility among families, communities and schools for the education and well-being of children and young people;

- strengthen two-way communications, understanding and confidence between schools and family and community members; and,

- strengthen the learning program and advise upon services and supports needed to meet diverse student needs.


Table of Contents


Legislation

What the Literature Says: - About Legislation

Most Canadian provinces have enacted (or are in the process of enacting) legislation establishing school councils of one type or another. Several summaries of the legislation have been published (Infolink Consultants, Inc., 1995b; Lowe, 1995; Rideout, 1995). But these summaries are of limited value since activity is ongoing and the situation is changing almost daily. The legislation enacted by the provinces has both differences and commonalities.

The main differences are:

- whether School Councils' statutory recognition is permitted, recommended or prescribed. In some provinces, the legislative language is permissive - Councils "may" exist. In other provinces, they are recommended or required (Lowe, 1995); and,

- in the extent of School Councils' powers. "At one end of the continuum, Councils are strictly advisory bodies; at the other, they are granted full governance over all school-related matters, and in effect, they possess powers usually held by elected school boards" (Lowe, 1995, p. 7).

The main similarities are:

- a parent representative is usually the chairperson of the Council;

- teachers' representatives may have a vote, but the principal usually does not; and,

- membership often includes middle or high school students and school support staff (Durkin & Kingdon, 1995).

Although legislation legitimizing School Councils is often the first step in their implementation, it by no means ensures their successful operation. Experience in Kentucky, Chicago and other jurisdictions in the U.S. shows that all participants must learn new roles and new skills; that relationships, reporting structures and accountability must be clarified; and that communication is essential. The American experience also shows that it is sometimes difficult to develop meaningful parent involvement (Peterson-del Mar, 1994; Radnofsky, 1994; Steffy, 1993; Van Meter, 1994; Walberg & Niemiec, 1994).

In Saskatchewan, the school division is the basic administrative unit. Each school division is managed by an elected board of education. Within most rural school divisions, there are school districts - each with an elected district board of trustees. These school districts remain from the late 19th and early 20th century when hundreds of small school divisions were established in Saskatchewan.

The Larger School Units Act of 1944 established larger units of school administration - today's school divisions. The small school districts within a school division were not disestablished, but most of the powers of district boards of trustees were transferred to the larger "units" of administration. Today, district boards of trustees are primarily advisory bodies. Major administrative and financial matters are handled by the school division's board of education. School districts exist only in rural areas of the province.

Survey and Focus Group Participants Said: - About Legislation

Eighty percent of those responding to the SSTA survey said that the legislation regarding district boards of trustees in rural areas and local school advisory committees in urban areas should be rewritten.

- A Commitment to Meaningful Parent and Community Involvement: Participants stated that effort is required to sustain parent involvement, but that parents who are engaged in their children's education are better informed and more supportive of the school. A change in legislation was supported as a desirable improvement, but was not seen as essential to building and sustaining meaningful parent and community involvement. To be successful, any change in legislation would need to be accompanied by a renewed commitment from boards of education, school principals, communities and provincial organizations. If educational governance in Saskatchewan were to be restructured to create larger administrative units, there would be greater support for further decentralizing decision making to the school level.

- Build on Best Practice: Participants acknowledged that a lot is being accomplished now in many communities. Rather than just inventing a new structure, it is important that we identify and support what is currently being done well and extend these effective practices as a common expectation.

- Roles and Responsibilities Must Be Clearly Defined: A wide range of involvement for parents and communities in schools is evident within school divisions and across the province. Many participants favoured establishing Councils for all Saskatchewan schools with a common role, expectations and guidelines.

The existing legislation provides that in urban school divisions where school districts are not required to be established, the board of education may establish a local school advisory committee. Boards of education can also establish local school advisory committees in a school division that is not divided into school districts or where no school is operated. Local school advisory committees exist entirely at the discretion of the board of education. The process for appointing/electing members is not specified in the legislation and varies from one board of education to another. They are often appointed or elected by a group such as the Home and School Association or elected at an annual meeting. The responsibilities of district boards of trustees and local school advisory committees as defined in legislation are also somewhat different.

Understandably, these differences between urban and rural areas lead to confusion and, sometimes, to perceptions of inequality.

Survey and Focus Group Participants Said: - About Legislation (Continued)

- Requirements Must Be Flexible: Seventy-two percent of respondents to the SSTA survey said that the system of School Councils and their responsibilities should be similar in urban and rural areas. Participants stated that it is desirable to establish a common structure and minimum expectations for School Councils for all of Saskatchewan. These minimum expectations should provide all parents with basic rights. But the requirements must also be flexible enough to accommodate a broad range of approaches and diverse community expectations. In several school divisions, significant decision-making authority has already devolved to the school level. Any changes in legislation must provide for this reality as well as for School Councils that would initially serve only as a support group for the school. It was suggested that these differences might be accommodated by having School Councils establish their own constitutions under the authority of the board of education.

- Empower Communities: Participants were frustrated because they felt powerless to influence many of the real issues facing children in their school. They also expressed a perception that government regulations have reduced the capacity of communities to respond. The reluctance of people to get involved was partially attributed to a sense of frustration at not being able to influence what matters and to a financial climate that is encouraging communities to compete against each other. Participants said that communities want to control the factors that enable them to do the very best for their children.

A further problem with the existing legislation is that it does not provide for linking mechanisms between the school, the district board of trustees or local school advisory committees, and the board of education.

Replacing both existing local-governance bodies with a system of School Councils would provide consistency across the province. School Councils would be established in The Education Act as formal legal entities subject to the overall authority of the board of education.

The legislation establishing School Councils would provide a common framework for every Council in Saskatchewan and would be enabling in nature so that a diversity of practice can develop in response to local needs.

The School-Level Governance Working Group recommends that:

2. School Councils should be established through legislation and their minimum responsibilities defined in statute. These minimum responsibilities should include advising both the school principal and the board of education.

3. The structure legislated for school-level governance bodies should be consistent across Saskatchewan, in both urban and rural areas.

4. The legislation establishing School Councils should enable each Council to adopt its own constitution which must reflect at least the minimum requirements of the legislation. The legislation should specify that, for a School Council to become a legal entity, its constitution must be approved by the board of education under whose auspices the Council exists.

5. The legislation establishing School Councils should specifically state that they are not permitted to raise funds through a tax levy.

6. The legislation establishing School Councils should specifically state that boards of education should retain responsibility for hiring, placing, suspending, dismissing or disciplining board employees. It should state that School Councils are permitted to function in an advisory capacity only and not in a decision-making capacity in regard to personnel matters.

7. Provincial legislation establishing School Councils should recognize the need for continuity. Two- or three-year terms for Council members would be conducive to continuity.

8. School Councils should be funded by their boards of education. Under no circumstances should they be funded directly by Saskatchewan Education. Rather, the costs of School Councils should be recognized in the grants that boards of education receive from Saskatchewan Education.

9. The legislation establishing School Councils should specify that communication between Saskatchewan Education and the Councils flows through the boards of education under whose auspices the Councils operate.


Table of Contents


Membership

What the Literature Says: - About the Membership of School Councils

School Councils always include parents and the school principal. They often also include teachers, other school staff, students and other community members. The members are usually elected, but in some situations they may be appointed.

Enacting legislation regarding the membership of School Councils is only the first step. Two significant challenges face every school and School Council:

- facilitating participation - Initially at least, parents may be reluctant to participate in the Council, because past experience has taught them to equate parental participation with fundraising. Or, only middle-class parents may be willing to participate (Storey, 1989). Writers in this field agree that successful parent participation programs (including School Councils) have as their base a school-wide commitment to values, purpose and process - a commitment that begins with the principal (Ost, 1988; Storey, 1989).

- learning new roles - Experience shows that if a School Council is to operate effectively, the principal, teachers, Council members and parents all must learn new roles (Peterson-del Mar, 1994; Steffy, 1993). For example, "principals must learn to share authority, or traditional power relationships will merely be furthered. Principals who exercise power through, rather than over, others create conditions favouring staff cooperation to achieve valued outcomes" (Peterson-del Mar, 1994, p. i). Some of the change in roles that is needed comes about naturally as people gain experience (Steffy, 1993), but it can be facilitated through systematic training programs (Holt & Murphy, 1993; Peterson-del Mar, 1994; Steffy, 1993).

The School-Level Governance Working Group suggests that the legislation require that, as a minimum, the membership of a School Council should include parents, community members, and teachers with parents and community members in the majority. The constitutions developed by individual School Councils might provide for the representation of other groups such as other school staff and students (in middle years and high schools) on the Council.

Representatives for each group that sits on the Council would be selected through separate processes. Parents and community representatives would be elected at an annual meeting. The election/selection processes for other groups represented on the Council would be locally-determined and would be described in the Council's constitution.

The school principal would be an "ex officio" member of the Council. The locally-developed School Council constitution would determine whether the principal has a vote.

Survey and Focus Group Participants Said: - About Membership

- Council Membership: Participants in the SSTA survey said that School Councils should include (in descending order of importance) parents, community representatives, teachers, students and other school staff.

- Election Process: They said that parent and community representatives should be elected annually for alternating terms. Fifty-six percent of respondents said that elections should be for a three-year term; 37 percent supported a two-year term. Although about half (56 percent) of respondents said that parent and community representatives could be elected at a public meeting, most wanted a fairly structured process. Eighty-seven percent supported the development of regulations and guidelines to direct the election process and 60 percent supported the need for a formal system of voting with secret ballots.

- Role of the Principal: Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that the school principal should not be a voting member of a School Council.

Some School Councils may want to reserve seats on the Council for specific individuals or representatives of specific organizations, for example:

clergy (in the case of Catholic schools);

a representative of the board of education; and/or,

representatives of agencies that purchase educational programming from the board of education, such as First Nations.

Whether these individuals have a vote would be determined by the Council's locally-developed constitution.

In order to ensure that the interests of all members of the school community are represented on the School Council and to promote equity and fairness, it is important that the membership of the Council reflect the socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, social and gender make-up of the school and surrounding community. The School Council's locally-developed constitution can include mechanisms which provide for equity.

The School-Level Governance Working Group recommends that:

10. The legislation specify that:

as a minimum, the membership of a School Council include parents, community members and teachers, with parents and community members in the majority;

parents and community members be elected at an annual meeting; and,

School Councils may, in their locally-developed constitutions, provide for other categories of members and prescribe the process used to designate/select/elect these other members.

11. School Councils be encouraged to include mechanisms in their constitutions to ensure that their membership is representative of the socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, social and gender make-up of the school and surrounding community.

12. The members of the School Council select their own chairperson.

13. The school principal be an "ex officio" member of the School Council. The locally-developed constitution of the School Council will determine whether the principal is a voting member.


Table of Contents


Responsibilities

What the Literature Says: - About Responsibilities:

The literature contains hundreds of descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of School Councils, boards of education and school principals.

School Councils' responsibilities range from having almost complete authority over everything that occurs in the school including hiring, evaluating and dismissing staff; to having responsibility for advising the board of education in a limited number of areas (Lowe, 1995; Storey, 1989). Despite this diversity, however, both theorists and those who are actually implementing School Councils agree that clear definition of roles and relationships is essential (Local School Councils ..., 1994; Prasch, 1990).

the roles of the councils and their relationships to board members, superintendents, principals, teachers and others in the school [division] need to be clarified to avoid misunderstandings, unresolvable conflicts, or abuses of power. How a school council fits into the fabric of the school system should be clearly defined.

Many educators agree on what local school councils should avoid. For example, they should not:

make decisions that violate school board policy;

try to take on the role of the principal, superintendent, a school board, each of whom must maintain unique and specific responsibility for the school system; nor,

venture beyond the limits of their expertise or their assignments (Local School Councils ..., 1994).

One of the keys to successful operation of a School Council seems to be development of divisional policies that specify the relationship between the board of education and Councils, the Council's place in the strategic division plan and permissable exemptions from policy and procedures (Peterson-del Mar, 1994).

If School Councils are to operate effectively, it is critical that the responsibilities of boards of education, School Councils and principals be clearly defined and understood by all.

Responsibilities of Boards of Education

The legislation should specify that boards of education are responsible for ensuring that there are School Councils in every school under their jurisdiction.

As well, boards of education are responsible for allocating resources to School Councils. The types of resources needed will vary from one school to another, but in most situations will include an operating budget, space to meet, support from the principal and secretarial support.

Boards of education have a responsibility to develop a dispute resolution mechanism in the event that significant differences arise between the board and the School Council. Possible dispute resolution mechanisms include neutral third-party mediation and/or descriptions of processes that can be used to identify and clarify issues.

For those principals who are already heavily involved with a parent's group, a district board of trustees or a local school advisory committee, the establishment of School Councils may mean a change in focus. Where principals are not presently involved with parents' groups, it may be necessary for boards of education to recognize and accommodate the responsibility that comes with creation of the School Council.

The responsibilities of School Councils outlined in this report are not intended to reduce the responsibility and authority of boards of education or their administrators (directors, superintendents, principals). Council responsibilities fall under the overall framework of the policies of the board of education. The Council respects and supports the role of the principal as the in-school administrator who is accountable to the board of education for ensuring the quality and operation of the school program.

The School-Level Governance Working Group recommends that:

14. Boards of education shall be responsible for ensuring that there are School Councils in every school for which they are responsible.

15. Boards of education shall be responsible for establishing policy for the School Councils under their jurisdiction. Policy should address issues such as:

an operating budget for the School Council(s);

responsibilities, beyond the legislated minimum, of the School Council(s);

inservice support for members of School Council(s);

processes by which the board of education can seek and receive advice from the School Council(s); and,

a dispute resolution process in the event that the board of education and the School Council have significant differences over important issues.

Survey and Focus Group Participants Said: - About Responsibilities

- Purpose of a School Council: Participants in the SSTA's survey said that the purpose of a School Council is to advise on (in descending order of importance) communication, school improvement, the school program, resource allocation and school personnel.

- An Advisory Role with Credibility: Participants supported a meaningful and influential advisory role for School Councils. Most participants recognized that there are legitimate roles for parents and the community in schools. Some questioned the concept of granting "power" to School Councils. While there are clearly some areas of authority that might be delegated to School Councils, boards of education would remain ultimately responsible for all that happens in the school division. The issue is not so much a question of power but of ensuring meaningful involvement. A high degree of involvement is desirable but does not necessarily translate into authority.

- A Proactive Role: To deal only with problems would reduce the School Council to a reactive role. The School Council should function in a proactive role by serving as the intersection through which all major school policies and activities are coordinated. By presenting information and listening to community ideas, School Councils could serve as an essential communication link.

Responsibilities of School Councils

A list of the minimum responsibilities of School Councils appears below. Additional responsibilities could be determined by School Councils and the boards of education under whose auspices the Councils operate. These additional responsibilities would be reflected in the locally-developed constitution of the School Council. However, boards of education would be prohibited by law from delegating responsibility for taxation and for final decisions regarding staffing to School Councils.

Responsibilities

(1) Planning and Decision Making

As a minimum, the School Council would:

- recommend to the board of education, in partnership with school staff, students, parents and community members, school improvement plans and activities including the mission, values and priorities of the school;

- participate with the principal and school staff in developing the principles to guide school planning and operations on issues such as discipline, parent/school communications, school events, transportation, and student needs;

- provide advice to school administrators on the school program including the range of programs offered, locally-modified courses and extra-curricular activities;

- recommend to the board of education, criteria for staffing;

- encourage community use of school facilities and recommend to the principal and board of education, improvements to school facilities and equipment;

- recommend to the board of education, arrangements respecting religious instruction in the school;

- recommend to the board of education, the language of instruction that is to be used in the school (although language of instruction is usually English or French, it can also be any other language including Ukrainian, Cree or Dené);

(2) Communications

As a minimum, the School Council would:

- encourage school/home/community two-way communications;

- seek the views of the school community;

- keep the principal and staff up-to-date on the views of the school community;

- keep the trust under which confidential information is exchanged;

(3) Partnerships and Resources

As a minimum, the School Council would:

- identify and solicit supports and resources from the community including fund raising;

- facilitate Integrated School-Linked Services where appropriate;

- participate in community development activities where appropriate;

(4) School Council Member Development

As a minimum, the School Council would:

- increase their own knowledge and understanding of school and student issues and needs; and,

- identify (where appropriate) potential school and community leaders and encourage potential leaders to develop skills and abilities for participation;

(5) Council Operations

As a minimum, the School Council would:

- make decisions in a manner that encourages multiple views to be brought forward and consolidated into a "single voice" decision;

- hold regular public meetings;

- develop a constitution that includes procedures for selection of Council members, formal rules of conduct, and procedures for ensuring the rules of conduct are observed. Rules of conduct and procedures will include conflict resolution, conflict of interest, and confidentiality guidelines, and a code of ethics;

- establish documentation procedures for the recording and reporting of Council decisions which will be made public. This will include development of an annual report to the larger school community represented by the Council; and,

- manage and control any budget raised by or allocated to it, maintaining accurate public records and preparing an annual financial statement.

The School-Level Governance Working Group recommends that:

16. The School Council, in cooperation with the board of education under whose auspices the Council operates, is responsible for developing processes to encourage and solicit community input and support.

17. School Councils, in their activities and decision-making processes, should strive to follow principles of participatory democracy in which decisions are made through forums involving stakeholders. The focus should be on decision-making through consensus, rather than through majority rule.

Responsibilities of School Principals

The principal of the school is a key person in the operation of a School Council. The principal will be responsible for facilitating the formation of the School Council and for supporting parents in their new role.

In addition, the role of the school principal includes:

bringing the educational plan for the school to the School Council for review;

serving as a resource person for the Council, answering questions and providing information as appropriate;

bringing school and community issues to the Council for review; and,

ensuring that appropriate administrative support is made available to the Council.

The School-Level Governance Working Group recommends that:

18. The principal of the school shall be responsible for facilitating the formation and operation of the School Council.

19. The principal of the school shall be responsible for establishing processes which provide for two-way communication between the school staff and the School Council.


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Implementation

What the Literature Says: - About Implementation of School Councils:

The literature on School Councils includes literally hundreds of descriptions of the implementation process. These descriptions are well summarized in the quote below.

If effective school councils are to be established, the research clearly indicates that they will need 1) a clear statement of purpose; 2) a formal definition of authority outlining who can advise, decide, review, or veto; 3) a formal selection process that provides wide representation within the community; 4) an identification of which issues the council will address; 5) an understanding of the relationship of the council to the board, superintendent, principal, and other advisory groups; and 6) a comprehensive orientation for all incoming council members. Such councils will also need school and district level support, an appropriate enabling structure to facilitate their mandate, adequate information to perform their duties, and an heightened awareness of their role by the public at large. Furthermore, members of the council will need opportunities for realization and occasions when their contributions are recognized through modest, but sincere, expressions of appreciation (Rideout, 1995, p. 18).

However, most of the descriptions of the implementation process focus on the rational and technical processes involved in establishing School Councils. They offer linear, rational, step-by-step guides about how to proceed.

Marshak (1996) points out that when we focus on the rational elements of change, we ignore or neglect the emotional experience of change and that neglected emotion can sabotage the best rational planning.

Educational change, including the introduction of School Councils, is usually entered into because it promises a gain. Marshak says, however, that change involves loss, as well as gain. He argues that much resistance to change is not really opposition to change "per se" but rather an expression of the sense of loss that comes with the change. The best way to deal with this loss and the accompanying grief is to acknowledge it and talk about it freely, rather than pretending that change brings only gain.

The School-Level Governance Working Group recommends moving to a system of School Councils because such a system has the potential to improve student achievement, to enhance community participation in education and to make local governance more consistent across the province. Elections would be held at community meetings and would not be subject to the highly structured requirements of The Local Government Elections Act. Such a system has the potential to realize small savings.

However, the introduction of School Councils should not be viewed as an opportunity to reduce grants to boards of education. Rather, it should be seen as an opportunity to reinvest any savings in educational programming and services to students. Special needs tutoring, acquisition of library materials and computers, and inservice training for School Councils are potential uses for this money.

Survey and Focus Group Participants Said: - About Implementation

- Supporting School Councils: The following types of support were suggested as being useful to the implementation of School Councils (listed in descending order of importance).

School Council training and inservice programs offered by the school division and provincial organizations.

Developing common measures and indicators of School Council effectiveness.

Developing dispute resolution mechanisms.

Making boards of education responsible for School Councils.

Making the school principal responsible to the School Council for implementation of directives within its scope of authority.

Including School Councils in the SSTA.

- Financial Support: Participants' opinions about the operating budget that a School Council needs were:

less than $500 - 15%

$501-$1,000 - 38%

more than $1,000 - 47%

- Cost Implications: Discussion participants recognized that the establishment of School Councils would place additional demands on school division budgets and administrators' time. As much as possible, the establishment of School Councils should be cost neutral to students. Most participants said that available resources should be used in new ways to support School Councils.

- School Council Handbook: Ninety-eight percent of respondents supported the development of a handbook describing School Council responsibilities and operating guidelines.

Implementation of any new system takes time and a systematic effort. Below are some considerations related to implementation of School Councils.

- implementation under different circumstances - Each school division is unique and so no two will implement School Councils in exactly the same way. For example, in the cities, some boards of education might adopt a ward system in which designated board members are the contact people for School Councils in specific parts of the city. Others may choose to rotate board members so that each meets with a different School Council each month. Still others might set up an executive for all the School Councils in the city that meets regularly with the board of education.

- inservice training - Many members of School Councils will need inservice training in areas such as working effectively with the school principal and staff, making decisions through consensus, and managing meetings. Other groups may require training on how to work with School Councils. For example, boards of education, teachers and school non-instructional staff may need to develop new skills in order to work effectively with a Council.

Inservice education relating to implementation of school Councils would be most effective if it is jointly developed and delivered by the major educational partners.

- School Council handbook - a comprehensive School Council handbook would help ensure a smooth implementation process. The handbook might include a sample School Council constitution, guidelines concerning the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders, and answers to frequently asked questions. This handbook will need to be revised frequently to reflect new learning about what promotes Council effectiveness during the two to four years when School Councils are being implemented.

It would be appropriate for Saskatchewan Education to assume a leadership role in development and maintenance of this School Councils handbook. Saskatchewan Education's work in this area should be supported by a committee of people who are actively involved in implementing School Councils. Numerous other jurisdictions have developed School Council handbooks or implementation manuals (Alberta Education, 1995; Laarhuis & Tumbach, 1995; Nova Scotia Department of Education and Culture, 1995; Ontario Ministry of Education and Training, 1996). Although these will be useful sources of ideas, they should not simply be adopted for use in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan's situation is unique.

- disestablishment of a School Council - When a school closes, its Council will be disestablished. The Council's locally-developed constitution should specify the disposition of the Council's assets in this situation.

The School-Level Governance Working Group recommends that:

20. If they are to be effective, School Councils will require human and financial resources. The money presently spent on elections for district boards of trustees should be reinvested in school programming and services for students including School Councils.

21. Saskatchewan Education assume a leadership role in the development and maintenance of a School Council handbook, and that this handbook be developed in cooperation with a committee of stakeholders.

22. A two- to three-year transition period should be provided for the phasing-in of School Councils.


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Conclusion

The work of the School-Level Governance Working Group and other developments on Saskatchewan's educational scene have led to a dialogue about the importance of parent and community involvement in education. School Councils have the potential to increase parent and community involvement and also to make local-level educational governance consistent and fair across Saskatchewan. The next step is to establish processes that will further develop the vision for School Councils outlined in this report, explore the legislative changes required, and begin the implementation process.


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Summary of Recommendations

Purpose and Objectives

1. The purpose of School Councils be to encourage and facilitate parent and community involvement, partnerships and communications with schools in order to strengthen programs and services and ensure quality education for all students. Specifically, the objectives of School Councils are to: - foster cooperation, partnerships and shared responsibility among families, communities and schools for the education and well-being of children and young people;

- strengthen two-way communications, understanding and confidence between schools and family and community members; and,

- strengthen the learning program and advise upon services and supports needed to meet diverse student needs.

Legislation Establishing School Councils

2. School Councils should be established through legislation and their minimum responsibilities defined in statute. These minimum responsibilities should include advising both the school principal and the board of education.

3. The structure legislated for school-level governance bodies should be consistent across Saskatchewan, in both urban and rural areas.

4. The legislation establishing School Councils should enable each Council to adopt its own constitution which must reflect at least the minimum requirements of the legislation. The legislation should specify that, for a School Council to become a legal entity, its constitution must be approved by the board of education under whose auspices the Council exists.

5. The legislation establishing School Councils should specifically state that they are not permitted to raise funds through a tax levy.

6. The legislation establishing School Councils should specifically state that boards of education should retain responsibility for hiring, placing, suspending, dismissing or disciplining board employees. It should state that School Councils are permitted to function in an advisory capacity only and not in a decision-making capacity in regard to personnel matters.

7. Provincial legislation establishing School Councils should recognize the need for continuity. Two- or three-year terms for Council members would be conducive to continuity.

8. School Councils should be funded by their boards of education. Under no circumstances should they be funded directly by Saskatchewan Education. Rather, the costs of School Councils should be recognized in the grants that boards of education receive from Saskatchewan Education.

9. The legislation establishing School Councils should specify that communication between Saskatchewan Education and the Councils flows through the boards of education under whose auspices the Councils operate.

Membership of School Councils

10. The legislation specify that:

as a minimum, the membership of a School Council include parents, community members and teachers, with parents and community members in the majority;

parents and community members be elected at an annual meeting; and,

School Councils may, in their locally-developed constitutions, provide for other categories of members and prescribe the process used to designate/select/elect these other members.

11. School Councils be encouraged to include mechanisms in their constitutions to ensure that their membership is representative of the socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, social and gender make-up of the school and surrounding community.

12. The members of the School Council select their own chairperson.

13. The school principal be an "ex officio" member of the School Council. The locally-developed constitution of the School Council will determine whether the principal is a voting member.

Responsibilities of Boards of Education

14. Boards of education shall be responsible for ensuring that there are School Councils in every school for which they are responsible.

15. Boards of education shall be responsible for establishing policy for the School Councils under their jurisdiction. Policy should address issues such as:

an operating budget for the School Council(s);

responsibilities, beyond the legislated minimum, of the School Council(s);

inservice support for members of School Council(s);

processes by which the board of education can seek and receive advice from the School Council(s); and,

a dispute resolution process in the event that the board of education and the School Council have significant differences over important issues.

Responsibilities of School Councils

16. The School Council, in cooperation with the board of education under whose auspices the Council operates, is responsible for developing processes to encourage and solicit community input and support.

17. School Councils, in their activities and decision-making processes, should strive to follow principles of participatory democracy in which decisions are made through forums involving stakeholders. The focus should be on decision-making through consensus, rather than through majority rule.

Responsibilities of School Principals

18. The principal of the school shall be responsible for facilitating the formation and operation of the School Council.

19. The principal of the school shall be responsible for establishing processes which provide for two-way communication between the school staff and the School Council.

Implementation of School Councils

20. If they are to be effective, School Councils will require human and financial resources. The money presently spent on elections for district boards of trustees should be reinvested in school programming and services for students including School Councils.

21. Saskatchewan Education assume a leadership role in the development and maintenance of a School Council handbook, and that this handbook be developed in cooperation with a committee of stakeholders.

22. A two- to three-year transition period should be provided for the phasing-in of School Councils.


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References

Alberta Education. (1995). Public education works ... School council resource manual. Edmonton, AB: Author.Beane, J. A., & Apple, M. W. (1995). The case for democratic schools. In M. V. Apple and J. A. Beane (Eds.), Democratic schools (pp. 1-25). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Chion-Kenney, L. (1994). Site-based management and decision making: Problems and solutions. Arlington, VA: American Association of School Administrators.

Durkin, M., & Kingdon, H. (Eds.). (1995). Effective beginnings: A guide to new partnerships in schools. Ottawa, ON: The Canadian Home and School and Parent-Teacher Federation.

Ferré, D. J. (1992). Parental involvement in school decision-making. Unpublished Master of Education Thesis, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK.

Government of Saskatchewan. (1994). Working together to address barriers to learning. Integrated school-linked services for children and youth at risk: Policy framework. Regina, SK: Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment.

Holt, A., & Murphy, P. J. (1993). School effectiveness in the future: The empowerment factor. School Organization, 11(3), 175-186.

Infolink Consultants, Inc. (1995a). Who's running our schools? Education governance in the 90's: A handbook for school boards. Ottawa, ON: Canadian School Boards Association.

Infolink Consultants, Inc. (1995b). Who's running our schools? Education governance in the 90's: Provincial summaries. Ottawa, ON: Canadian School Boards Association.Laarhuis, S., & Tumbach, D. A. (1995). School councils: 95-1 policy advisory service. Edmonton, AB: Alberta School Boards Association.Lewington, J., & Orpwood, G. (1993). Overdue assignment: Taking responsibility for Canada's schools. Toronto, ON: John Wiley.

Local school councils ... Where we stand. (1994). Arlington, VA: American Association of School Administrators.

Lowe, E. (1995). In the public interest: A discussion paper on school-community councils. Ottawa, ON: The Canadian Home and School and Parent-Teacher Federation, and the Canadian Teachers' Federation.

Mannan, G., & Blackwell, J. (1992). Parent involvement: Barriers and opportunities. The Urban Review, 24(3), 219-226. Cited in Lowe, E. (1995). In the public interest: A discussion paper on school-community councils. Ottawa, ON: The Canadian Home and School and Parent-Teacher Federation, and the Canadian Teachers' Federation.

Marshak, D. (1996). The emotional experience of school change: Resistance, loss and grief. NASSP Bulletin, 80(577), 72-77.

Mills, C. (1994). Extending the learning community: Involving parents and families in schools. Regina, SK: Saskatchewan School Trustees Association.

Nettles, S. M. (1991). Community involvement and disadvantaged students: A review. Review of Educational Research, 61(3), 379-406.

New directions for school-level governance. (1996). Regina, SK: Saskatchewan School Trustees Association.Nova Scotia Department of Education and Culture. (1995). Establishing school advisory councils. Halifax, NS: Author.Odynski, Lynn. (1995). Ensuring school councils can work effectively. CEA Newsletter, (462), 5-6.Ontario Ministry of Education and Training. (1996). Getting started: A resource guide for establishing school councils. Toronto, ON: Author.

Ost, D. (1988). Teacher-parent interactions: An effective school-community environment. The Educational Forum, 52(2).

Peterson-del Mar, D. (1994). School-site councils. (ERIC Digest, No. 89). Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No.ED 369 154)

Prasch, J. (1990). How to organize for school-based management. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Radnofsky, M. L. (1994). Empowerment and the power not to change: Teachers' perceptions of restructuring. International Journal of Educational Reform, 3(2), 154-164.

Rideout, D. (1995). School councils in Canada: A cross-country survey. Education Canada, Summer, 12-18.

Rothwell, K. (1993). Parent involvement and school boards: A partnership. Ottawa, ON: Canadian School Boards Association.

Sarason, S. B. (1995). Parental involvement and the political principle. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Boss.

Saskatchewan Education. (1996). Structuring public education for the new century: Ensuring quality education for Saskatchewan students: Public discussion paper. Regina, SK: Author.

Steffy, B. E. (1993). The Kentucky education reform. Lessons for America. Lancaster, PA: Technomic.

Storey, V. J. (1989). Building the parent partnership: A guide for school leaders. Vancouver, BC: EduServ.

Task Force on Educational Governance. (1993). Final Report. Regina, SK: Saskatchewan School Trustees Association.

Van Meter, E. J. (1994). Implementing school-based decision making in Kentucky. NASSP Bulletin, 78(563), 61-70.

Walberg, H. H., & Niemiec, R. P. (1994). Is Chicago school reform working? Phi Delta Kappan, 75(9), 713-15.


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Appendix A: Representation from Stakeholders

Representatives of the following organizations joined the School-Level Governance Working Group at its meetings of October 1, 1996 and October 21, 1996. About 40-50 people participated in each of these meetings.

- Canadian Parents for French

- Gordon's First Nation

- League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents (LEADS)

- Representatives of district boards of trustees

- Representatives of local school advisory committees

- Saskatchewan Association of School Business Officials

- Saskatchewan Association of School Councils

- Saskatchewan Community Schools Association

- Saskatchewan Education

- Saskatchewan School Trustees Association

- Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation

- Saskatchewan School-Based Administrators

- University of Regina, Faculty of Education

- University of Saskatchewan, College of Education

Note: Participants at the meetings of October 1 and October 21, 1996 shared their opinion on various aspects of school-level governance and commented on a preliminary draft of this report. Attendance at these meetings does not mean agreement with or acceptance of this report.


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