IMPROVING SCHOOL
GOVERNANCE

5.3 President- Online learning activity B- How to run effective school council meetings

Goal

To enable school council presidents to test their understanding of the role of the school council president, the requirements for an effective school council meeting, and how to run an effective school council meeting.

Steps

  1. Review the scenarios and provide responses.
  2. Compare your responses to the suggested responses.

Situation One

Your council meeting is about to commence. Your membership according to the council constituting Order is fourteen: seven parent members, four Department staff members including the principal, and three community members. Two of your parent members are Department employees and one community position remains unfilled. Present at tonight’s meeting are the principal, three teachers, two community members (including the president) and four parents, one of whom is a Department employee. Do you have a quorum?

Answer:

  • Your council must have at least half the members currently holding office present and non-Department members must be in the majority. Parent members who work for the Department elsewhere are considered Department members for the purpose of a quorum.
  • There are 10 members present, out of 13 current members, so the total numbers are satisfactory for a quorum.
  • However, of the ten members present, five are employed by the Department (the principal, three teachers and one parent). This means that the non-department members are NOT in the majority.
  • There is no quorum.

Situation Two

One council member continually dominates school council meetings, no matter what item on the agenda is being discussed. You are aware that some other members hardly speak at meetings.

Answer:

  • Have in the Standing Orders (meeting etiquette) that all conversations go through the chair.
  • Use phrases such as, “Let’s see what other members think.”
  • If one council member still dominates the meeting, discuss with the principal and consider having a conversation with the council member outside the meeting.

Situation Three

You receive a letter from a parent upset at how the principal has handled a situation that resulted in her son being suspended for three days. The parent believes the suspension was not warranted and the principal was victimising her son. The parent wants this matter raised at school council and plans to attend the next council meeting to see that it is.

Answer:

  • This is not a matter for council but an operational matter.
  • You should respond promptly to the parent advising them of the parent complaint policy. If the parent has tried to resolve the matter with the principal and is not happy with the outcome they should contact the region.
  • Advise the parent that the letter will not be tabled or discussed at school council.

Situation Four

You are about to close the school council meeting when a council member indicates he wishes to have a matter discussed. He starts by saying some parents are concerned about the behaviour of a teacher outside school hours.

Possible Answers:

  • This is not a matter for school council.
  • President should stop the member speaking and suggest it is raised with the principal outside of the meeting.
  • In discussion with the principal, “any other issues” as an agenda item could be removed. If a councillor wants to raise an issue it should be discussed with the president/principal.

Situation Five

Your council has been considering a contentious issue for several meetings. Finally a motion has been put and the voting sees five votes for and five votes against. As president and chair, your vote went for the affirmative. Now what do you do?

Possible Answers:

  • In the event of a tied vote, the chairperson gets a casting vote, even if they have already voted.
  • The chair’s casting vote can be different to their original vote.
  • Given the closeness of the vote council might consider developing a communication strategy for how this decision is to be communicated outside of council.
  • Remind the council that the decisions made by council must be those of the group rather than of an individual. Council members contribute their individual perspectives to discussions and thereby assist the council to come to an informed decision.

Situation Six

The finance sub-committee has recommended that council not renew the council’s contract with the current cleaners. It recommends the school should hire a new cleaner, who is the brother-in-law of the principal.

Possible Answers:

  • The principal has a conflict of interest and must not be present during the discussion unless invited to do so by the person presiding at the meeting.
  • The principal must not be present when a vote is taken on the matter.
  • The principal may be included in the quorum for the meeting.

Situation Seven

School council decides it is time to review the school dress code and sets up a working party to consider this. Policy states the community must be consulted on changes to the dress code. How should you proceed?

Possible Answers:

  • The working party could invite members of a parent committee, student representatives and other school groups to join its discussions.
  • An online survey could be set up and community members encouraged to participate.
  •  Focus groups could be run at different times to enable parents to contribute to the discussion with interpreters made available as needed.
  • Students could run focus groups with other students (e.g. via junior school council, Students’ Representative Council).
  • Pen and paper surveys (including visual surveys) could be left at the office or other locations where families gather.

Situation Eight

As president of the school council, you are approached by a small group of staff members who would like to have a discussion with you about the school. You feel this is positive and agree to meet with them. At the meeting the group commences to make direct comments about their dissatisfaction with some teacher colleagues and the principal.

Possible Answers:

  • You should stop the conversation.
  • This is not a matter for the president or for school council.
  • You should direct the teachers to the school’s complaints policy. This will explain that complaints such as theirs should be directed to the regional office of the Department.
  • Complaints about teachers should be raised with the principal. Complaints about the principal should be raised with the regional office of the Department.

Conclusion

The key points to remember are:

  • the school council president is responsible for the effective running of school council meetings
  • the president needs to be able to work effectively with all school council members, the principal and the wider school community
  • the school council president needs to ensure the focus of council is on governance, not school operational issues
  • working with the principal, the president needs to ensure that any concerns raised are addressed.

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