Engaging Parents: Inviting new members
The effort expended in notifying members of the school community of the school council meetings will result in a stronger group whose decisions are more valid in the eyes of the community.
The following are some shared “best practices” to engage parents:
- Meet and greet early in the year (e.g., coffee at drop off on the first day)
- Advertise in school and community newsletters/blogs/social media
- Offer babysitting, if appropriate
- Offer translation services, if appropriate
- Circulate the year’s meeting dates at the beginning of the school year (including start and finish time of the
- Provide incentives to students to get the notice home
- Use the school communication system (e.g., email, phone)
- Advertise any particularly pertinent or special agenda items
- Inform people of the start and finish time of the meeting
Membership: Council Members
Ministry of Education Ontario Regulation 612/00 clarifies who is eligible for membership on a school council. School councils are composed of parents, who form the majority, as well as the Principal, a teacher, a non-teaching staff member, a student (mandatory at the secondary level, optional at the elementary level), and community representatives.
To ensure that the interests of all members of school councils are represented in a balanced manner:
board employees can be elected as parent representatives, or appointed as community members, at their child's school, unless they are also employed at that school;
- board employees cannot serve as parent/community members in the school where they work;
- prior to being elected as parent members – or appointed as community representatives – in the school where their children attend, school board employees must notify the parents of the school community of their employment with the board;
- board employees cannot serve as chair or co-chair of a school council; and
- trustees and M.P.P.s cannot serve on a school council trustees cannot serve on a school council in the board where they are a trustee.
Who makes up the school council?
Members of Councils include:
- Appointed members (i.e., community representatives)
- Designated members (i.e., Principal)
- Elected members (teacher representative, parent representatives, student representative, non-teaching staff representative)
Elected members will be chosen by their peers
- Teachers – elected by teaching staff
- Students – elected by student population (required for secondary schools only)
- Non-teaching staff – elected by non-teaching staff members
- Parents – elected by parents or guardians of students enrolled in the schoo
All members of the school council shall:
- attend Council meetings regularly;
- participate actively in the work of the school council, chairing sub-committees as required;
- maintain a school-wide perspective on school council issues and seek to achieve consensus in decisions;
- act as link between the school council and the community;
- encourage the participation of parents from all groups and of other people within the school community; and
- participate in information and training programs.
The school council chair/co-chair shall:
- facilitate development of the procedures to be approved at an open meeting of the school community;
- call school council meetings as per the procedures;
- prepare a written agenda for school council meetings in consultation with the school Principal prior to each meeting; chair school council meetings;
- ensure that responsibilities of school council members unable to perform their duties are maintained;
- report regularly on school council recommendations; communicate with school Principal, council members, school community;
- communicate with school Principal, council members, school community and senior board staff and trustees as required.
O. Reg. 612/00
Note: The school council Co-Chair shall act on behalf of the Chair in the event of absence.
Principals are designated non-voting members of councils. O. Reg. 613/00 requires Principals to facilitate and assist with the work of school councils. Among other required roles, they must support the council’s activities, seek its advice in appropriate areas, and act as a resource. Their collaboration is essential to a council’s success. We support the roles set out for Principals in O. Reg. 613/00.
In addition to the role of council members, the Principal will:
- facilitate the establishment and assist in the operation of the school council
- support, promote and communicate the school council’s activities;
- obtain and provide information including regulations, board policies, collective agreements required by the school council to enable it to make informed decisions; and
- encourage the participation of parents from all groups and of other people within the school community.
In addition to the role of council members, the secretary will:
- record minutes of all school council meetings and make them available to the school community;
- maintain a file of all correspondence, minutes of school council meetings, by-laws and reports; and
- maintain a current membership and a contact list of school council members.
In addition to the role of council members, the treasurer will:
Under O. Reg. 612/00, each council is required to have a teacher member elected by members of the school’s teaching staff and a non-teaching staff member elected by non-teaching staff.
In addition to the role of council members the staff rep will:
- Act as a link between the school council and staff.
Under O. Reg. 612/00, each secondary school’s council must have at least one student representative selected by the school’s students; student representatives are optional at the elementary level.
In addition to the role of council members the student representative will:
- Attend meetings regularly
- Act as a link between the school council and the student body.
These members are the council’s links with the broader, and often diverse, community serviced by a school. They can help the council respond to the community’s concerns. They can also offer individual expertise, and can identify resources in the community that the school can use to set up mentoring programs, student placements, etc.
In addition to the role stated for council members the community representative will:
- Act as a link between the community and school council
Parent Involvement Committee Representative
These members act as a link between school council and the HDSB regional Parent Involvement Committee (PIC). The school PIC representative(s) will attend 2 regional meetings (fall and spring), bringing the school perspective to these meetings. They will provide updates to school council meetings, as appropriate (e.g., PIC Annual Conference, Parent Reaching Out Grant application information, etc.) and share regional communication with the school (e.g., PIC News).
School Council Representative Limitations
- Staff members who have children as students in the school are not able to be parent representatives. They may, however, act as the Teacher Representative on council.
- Due to potential conflict of interest, Trustees and M.P.P.s may not serve on council. They can attend and participate in meetings as guests and/or participants.
- Some school councils exist alongside other school groups such as Parent Teacher Organizations, and Home and School Organizations. Members of other groups within your school should be encouraged to participate fully in school council activities.
Elections for Council vacancies may occur at any time during the school year. All School Councils will hold elections for the coming year within 30 days from the opening day of school in September. O. Reg. 612/00
Notice of Election
The notice of election should be distributed to the school community no less than 14 days prior to the planned election. The communication should come from the principal. The notice should include the following details:
- the number of school council member positions to be filled
- nomination form access and the procedure for submitting them
- due date for nominations
- vote date
- Prepare a nomination form
- Each nomination form should allow space for the candidate to provide a statement
- The date of close of nominations should be specified on the form as well as the procedure for submitting nomination forms (see Appendix A: Nomination Form)
Processing of Nomination Forms
- Nomination forms should be received by the due date and time in order to be accepted for election purposes
- Where the number of nominations received is less than or equal to the number of positions vacant, nominees should be declared elected. (see Acclamation process)
- Where no nominations have been received, state that the position will exist as a vacancy to be filled at a future election round (state when this will be)
- If another election is required, ensure that a “Notice to Voters” is sent to the community
Notice to Voters
An election needs to be conducted when the number of nominations exceeds the number of vacancies. The election can be scheduled for an independent date, or as part of a regularly scheduled council meeting. Ensure that the date of the election, and those eligible to vote are well publicized. Candidate’s statements should be published along with this information. Consider translation, where appropriate and feasible.
Acclamation of Council Members
When fewer nominations have been received than there are available positions on the Council, nominated members may be acclaimed, or elected unopposed. This process should take place at a Council meeting, and nominated members should be in attendance. To be elected unopposed, the Chair should announce the number of positions available, and the number of nominations received. The nominees are then named. If required in your Constitution, a motion may then be moved to accept the nominees as elected unopposed.
Conduct of Election
In the event an election is necessary, a ballot identifying relevant details of the election should be prepared. (i.e., the number of people to be elected, the names of the nominees).
- Appoint a Returning Officer who will be responsible for the counting of ballots
- Make the necessary arrangements for the casting of secret ballots (e.g., ballot boxes and private marking areas)
- Proxy votes should not be accepted, and voters may only cast one ballot
- Candidates receiving the highest number of votes will be declared elected
- If a vote in any election is tied, the winner could be determined by the drawing of lots
Statement of Election Results
Ensure that election results are published as soon as possible. Publication could be through a regular newsletter, special flyer, web page notice, or any combination of these. Include the results of the counting of votes, or the candidates elected unopposed and any vacant positions remaining. The names of only those people elected should be specified. Successful candidates need to be contacted immediately and advised of their terms of office and other details concerning the council (e.g., first meeting item, membership contact list, meeting dates etc.).