IMPROVING SCHOOL
GOVERNANCE

5.1 Role and Responsibilities

Why is this topic important?

All members of school council should know and understand their roles and responsibilities, and the functions and objectives of the school council, particularly the president. The president, with the principal, provides leadership, establishing the environment in which school council can operate effectively.

On completing this unit, the participant should be able to:

  • understand the skills required of an effective school council president
  • understand the roles and responsibilities of a school council president

The effective president

The role of the president requires, in particular, leadership and management skills.

An effective president is assertive, neutral, task-focused, and aware of the big picture. A good president knows the boundary of their authority, and the authority of the school council as a whole, and is able to keep confidences. A good president knows when to delegate.

A good president is one who is available to the school when needed, and to the other members of school council. The president should have a strong and successful working relationship with the principal, and the support of all school council members.

Before nominating for president, a candidate should consider what they could bring to the position. Do they have an understanding of the school, its direction and its needs, or the time and willingness to learn this? Do they have the patience and commitment to develop relationships?

Role of the president

The school council president has a strategic role to play in representing the vision, mission and purposes of the school. The president ensures school council fulfils its role and functions. As the chair of council meetings, the president ensures relevant matters are discussed, that there is full participation at meetings and that effective decisions are made.

The president’s duties include:

  • developing and working with the community towards a shared vision for the school
  • being an effective spokesperson and advocate
  • chairing meetings of school council
  • representing the school in public forums with the principal
  • promoting the school and the principal to the community.

The president and the principal have distinct responsibilities as outlined below.

The principal

As executive officer of the school council, the principal is responsible for:

  • providing council with timely advice about educational and other matters
  • preparing the council’s agenda in consultation with the president
  • reporting regularly to council about the school’s performance against its strategic plan
  • making sure that council decisions are acted on
  • providing adequate support and resources for the conduct of council meetings
  • communicating with the school council president about council business
  • ensuring that new council members are inducted.

The principal is an ex-officio member of all council sub-committees.

The school council president

The role of the school council president is to:

  • effectively chair school council meetings (ensure that everyone has a say in meetings and that decisions are properly understood and well-recorded)
  • be a signatory to contracts, the school strategic plan and financial accounts
  • together with the school council, endorse the school self-evaluation, terms of reference for school review, the school annual implementation plan and school annual report to the school community
  • attest to school compliance with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority registration requirements
  • preside at the annual public reporting meeting
  • ensure council stays focused on improving student outcomes
  • with the principal, be council’s spokesperson and official representative on public occasions
  • when votes are tied, have a second or casting vote.

The school council president is an ex-officio member of all council sub-committees.

At times of principal recruitment and selection, the president or his or her nominee is a member of the principal selection panel appointed by the school council.

Building relationships

The school council president needs to build strong working relationships with the principal, other councillors and the community. The president supports the principal in their role.

Taking the following steps can help build the relationship between president and principal:

  • upon being elected, meet the principal to discuss key aspects of the school
  • develop a shared understanding of the school’s direction and its priorities, as stated in the school strategic plan
  • arrange to meet the principal on a regular basis ahead of every school council meeting to discuss the agenda, issues to be tabled and any background information that needs to be circulated
  • ask the principal to keep you informed of school matters that may affect school council and the community
  • keep the principal informed of community matters that may be relevant to the school
  • introduce the principal to key members of the school community as necessary, particularly if the principal is new to the school
  • be available if the principal needs to discuss matters relevant to the school
  • understand the role of the principal and those matters of the school that are operational and therefore not the responsibility of the council
  • keep confidences shared by the principal.

Taking the following steps can help build the relationship between the president and other school councillors:

  • be a good listener and ensure all councillors have the opportunity to be heard
  • be willing to meet individual councillors to understand their particular situation
  • encourage new councillors to be active participants at meetings and delegate council tasks to members
  • welcome new councillors.

New councillors are briefed on existing school issues and processes. It is helpful to provide new councillors with a background information package which may include:

  • school strategic plan
  • annual implementation plan
  • council Standing Orders
  • code of conduct for school councillors
  • information about the Department’s values and ethical decision-making
  • current school policies (or where to access them)
  • minutes of last council meeting
  • list of common acronyms used in education
  • council members phone numbers and email addresses (with consent of the members)
  • folder or binder in which to file council paperwork.

Taking the following steps can help build the relationship between the president and wider school community:

  • whenever possible, attend school events such as music concerts, art exhibitions and athletic sports and be prepared to talk to staff, students and families
  • with the principal, consider whether it may be useful to meet local government officers and the local Member of Parliament.

 

Learning Activity