Who is best qualified to make decisions about a
school? Policymakers in states across the country agree that those who
are involved with schools and students on a day-to-day basis — teachers,
parents, and other school employees — can make some of the best
decisions. This belief led to the creation of the School Site Council (SSC).
The school site council is a group of teachers, parents, classified employees, and students (at the high school level) that works with the Principal to develop, review and evaluate school improvement programs and school budgets. The members of the site council are generally elected by their peers. For example, parents elect the parent representatives and teachers elect teachers.
The exact duties of school site councils vary from state to state and
even between districts in the same state, but site councils generally
either make decisions or advise the Principal on the school budget
and the academic or school improvement plan. In addition to academic
planning, many site councils are also responsible for making decisions
about parent engagement, safety, and discipline.
Over the course of a year, a typical council might consider the goals of the school or district and then work with the Principal to evaluate the school's progress toward those goals. In this evaluation, the council might consider school test scores, attendance and discipline records, parent surveys and input from students.
After looking at the big picture of the school's progress, the council and the principal create a plan for improvement. This plan might involve a new academic program, staff member or parent outreach strategy. For example, one council might use funds to develop a new math program, while another might decide to hire a reading specialist. Another council might decide that hiring an additional teacher to reduce class sizes in a particular grade or a parent liaison to get more parents involved would be the best use of its money. Because school budgets are limited and many funds can only be spent in certain ways, there are always tough decisions to make.
School site council members don't just represent their own interests. They have an obligation to make decisions that will best serve the whole school community. In fact, many site councils are specifically charged with finding ways to close gaps in achievement between groups of students.