It is important that all council members clearly understand the regulations and policies so that they know where the boundaries lie in terms of what is and what is not within the scope of their duties. There is an important distinction to be made between providing advice and acting as an advocate on a specific issue.
Council’s role is to maintain a broad focus on a range of issues of a school-wide concern. From time to time, a school council may encounter the particularly difficult situation in which a council member demands that council devote all of its attention and energy to a single issue. In some cases, the member’s passion for the issue may be counterproductive to the council’s efforts to achieve its goals.
Some areas of the school council mandate requiring energy and attention are as follows:
- Setting goals to improve the school’s learning environment in collaboration with the principal, teachers, parents and community members
- Setting operating norms, that is, ways in which members dedicate themselves to working together
- Participating in the development or review of the School Effectiveness Plan
As specified in the regulation, school councils can provide advice to the principal and the board on any matter. It should be noted that they are not authorized to perform managerial or administrative responsibilities that belong to the principal
or to other school administrators. For example, assessing teacher performance in the classroom is the responsibility of school administrators and superintendents who are granted this authority under the Education Act.
It is important for council to take time to periodically discuss and evaluate what it has been doing and how effective the council has been. The Halton School Council Handbook, Section G pgs. 5-6, has several meeting effectiveness surveys and other tools to assist councils with this process. As well, council should schedule time to review progress on strategic plans and their role in the School Improvement Plan to ensure progress is being made.
The Halton School Council Handbook, Section F lists many strategies for managing an effective council including goal setting, decision making, team building and communications.