On April 16, 2007, over 300 school council chairs, school principals, administrators and Board trustees from the Ottawa Catholic School Board joined together to discuss “Best Practices for School Councils.” The following points summarize the feedback received from participants.
A. Strategies for Conducting Effective Council Meetings
- School Council members should communicate through school newsletters, web sites and council letters when school council meetings are scheduled. Agendas should be posted.
- School Council Chair should set the agenda in advance with the principal.
- School Councils should set goals and determine activities at the beginning of the year.
- Respect meeting times. Start and finish on time.
- Meetings should have structure and consistency.
- School Councils are required to maintain minutes and should post minutes for school community (website, e-mail list, in school).
B. Strategies for Attracting and Retaining School Council Members
- School Council members should keep all parents informed of meetings, events and activities via newsletters, websites, bulletin boards, Education Week, Program Night.
- School Councils may hold parent workshops that would be of interest to their community i.e., Workshop Topics: Reading with your Child, Helping with Home work, Helping with Organizing, Bullying, Safe Schools, Summer Fun, Social Activities, Drug Awareness.
- School Council co-hosts events with principal, i.e. BBQ, Muffin Breakfast, Meet-the-Teacher Evenings.
- Parent Involvement Funds are managed by the Board’s Parent Involvement Committee and can help school councils hold events (BBQ, muffin breakfast) to bring parents into the school.
- The best way to attract new members is to personally invite parents to meetings.
- Invite parents to help with school council events that require volunteers.
C. Accountability for School Council Funds
All School Councils receive Parent Involvement Funds of $500 per School Council or $1,000 for 7-12 schools. Funds are for events or activities to “engage parents in their child’s education.” Funds must be spent between September 1 and June 30 every year and must be reported to the Director of Education.
- If a School Council has a bank account, a minimum of two School Council Members’ signatures are required. Ideally one should be that of the Treasurer.
- School Council members are required to keep accurate records (e.g. a good accounting program) and report regularly at school council meetings and to the parent community.
Best Practices for Fundraising:
- School Councils should set goals if fundraising takes place. Not all school councils undertake fundraising.
- Fundraising should be fun and involve students and their families. School councils should be careful not to overtax families.
- Whenever possible, partner with principal/staff, other school councils, High School Student Council and community (or parish).
D. Strategies for Developing Better Partnerships:
Family of Schools
- All School Councils should share dates of meetings with their Family of Schools. This prevents families in more than one school from experiencing timetabling conflicts.
- School may meet with councils from other schools to share ideas or discuss and tackle common issues or topics.
- School Councils may organize joint parent workshops. Note: School Councils may have a parish and community representative on their council.
- Church bulletins are a good place to advertise school events. Contact your local parish church office.
- Invite your parish priest to school meetings or events (Mass).
- Invite a parish council member or local church member to join the School Council as a parish representative.
- Try to attract a community representative on Council. Consider approaching a local business person or a co-op partner in your high school.
- Help facilitate volunteer partnerships, i.e.. seniors’ residences, group homes, other charity groups, i.e. Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women’s League, Lions’ Club, Optimist Club.
E. Strategies for Developing a Successful Succession Plan
- Acknowledge the contributions of council members and volunteers (appreciation event, thank you’s in newsletters, etc.).
- Keep good records for every event that the council organizes to make things easier for the following year
- Share the workload so you don’t “burn out” your volunteers.
- Invite new parents (junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten, grade 7 and/or grade 9 to School Council meetings. Hold information nights for new families.