There is often confusion regarding the roles of parents in the School Council and Parent Advisory Council. I have prepared this explanation so that you can understand the difference and make an educated decision about getting involved with these two valuable organizations in support of our school.
School council is a collective association of parents, teachers, secondary students, principal, staff and community representative(s) whose purpose is to advise the principal and the board respecting matters relating to the school.
It is a means for parents and community members to work together with the school to support and enhance student learning.
Membership in the school council is defined in regulation and in the School Act. The majority of the members are parents of children enrolled at the school. Other members are the principal, one or more teacher representatives and a high school student, if the school has a high school.
A school council may also have an Early Childhood Services (ECS) parent, if the school has an ECS program, and a community member. The Executive of the School Council is made up of the Chair, Vice-Chair, Principal, Teacher Rep and Secretary. Some school councils have student reps and community reps as well.
A school council is a vehicle to support meaningful parental involvement in decisions that affect the school and its operations. School council provides the venue for parents to reflect the wishes of the broader community for the education of its students and to actively participate in giving advice and support to the principal in the operations of the school.
The actual decision-making authority of the school council is limited to
- setting policies to govern school council activities at the school level, as described in the School Act,
- planning support activities that align with school council‘s purpose and
- choosing which advice to provide the principal and board on areas that specifically fall to them.
The Role of the School Council
A school council should review its mission, vision and goals annually to ensure it reflects the views of the current membership. Other school council functions may include:
- consulting with the principal so he or she can ensure students have opportunities to meet Ministry standards,
- fiscal management is sound and the community‘s expectations are taken into consideration during school-based planning
- advising the principal and the school board/charter board being involved in school-based planning
- sharing ideas and information with other school councils and provincial organizations
- communicating information to the school community and other school councils
- setting policies that relate to school council functions, such as:
- location of school council meetings
- mailing address for school council correspondence
- school council orientation and development policy
- financial policy
- fundraising policy
- communications policy
- minutes of school council meetings
- pertinent information unique to the school council.
What School Councils are Not
It is important to be mindful that, as with all partners in education, there are limits to the work that can be done by
a school council. Roles that are not to be taken on by a school council include:
- school governance
- employment issues
- school management
- listening to complaints.
It is not the primary role of school councils to:
The Parent Advisory Council is an organization formed by the parents of students in a school for the purpose of fundraising and volunteering to support the operations of the school. It is NOT made up of teachers and school staff, but rather parents who usually form a Non-Profit Society for the purpose of conducting fundraising activities independent of the school budget. Ultimately, the principal is legally responsible for the operations of the school, and the School Council and Parent Association fall under that obligation.
The PAC executive is sometimes, but not always, the same executive members from the School Council. The one main difference is that the school Principal is NOT a member of the executive in the PAC. The PAC has separate bylaws from the School Council and the principal advises the operations of the PAC and ensures that PAC operations are legal and supportive of school operations. At Thickwood School, the PAC works closely with the school staff to provide financial support for school initiatives such as purchasing SMART Boards for classrooms and playground equipment.
At Thickwood School, we try to keep meetings to under an hour once a month. This ensures that we do not ask an unreasonable commitment from parents to help support the operations of the school. As a member of the executive, there will be more of a time commitment in order to conduct follow-up business for the operations of the Council. This time commitment varies depending on the position, but it is reasonable and moderate and the school community can only get better with more people willing to offer time and service to the school. The meetings are usually held after the School Council meeting, but it can occur a different day and even a different time. Our meetings typically occur the third Thursday of the month at 6:30 in our staffroom.
Roles and Responsibilities
- Be responsible for planning the agenda for meetings
- Convene & preside at all meeting of the council
- Act as a spokesperson for the council and supervise the council
- Ensure that all decisions of the council are carried out
- Represent the council to the board
- Prepare and submit an annual report to council and school board
- Assist the chair in carrying out his/her duties
- Assume the responsibilities of the chair in the absence of the chair
- Assume other duties and responsibilities as assigned by the council
- Chair the council nomination committee
- Take, keep and arrange for the distribution of the minutes of the council meetings
- Look after the correspondence of the council
- Keep an accurate list of the names and address of the council members
- Ensure that accurate accounts, receipts and disbursements of the council finances are maintained
- Present an account of the funds to the members and prepare accounts for auditing
MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL
- Participate in the meetings of the school council
- Communicate information about the council activities to the students, parents, teachers, support staff and community members. Regularly obtain their views on education and related issues
- Perform other duties and responsibilities as assigned by the council