The A+ Reform Law required that every school in Georgia have operational school councils by October 1, 2003. All DeKalb County Schools organized school councils at the start of the 2001–2002 school year.
School councils bring communities and schools closer together in a spirit of cooperation to solve education problems, to improve academic achievement, to provide support for teachers and administrators, and to bring parents into the decision making process. School-based decision making is designed to increase the involvement of teachers, parents, and the community in the important decisions about how the school operates and performs.
Each council must have a minimum of seven members: four parents/guardians, two certified teachers, and the principal. Parents/guardians must hold a majority on the school council and a parent/guardian must serve as chairperson (Official Code of Georgia Annotated [OCGA] § 20-2-86[d]). School council members have been trained to organize meetings and develop school council bylaws, understand advisory status and authority, recognize legal issues such as open meetings and open records laws and confidentiality, make recommendations to increase student achievement, and to create a school improvement plan. Councils provide an opportunity for local school decisions by representing the interests of that school council to the principal, who in turn conveys the information to the area assistant superintendents, Superintendent, and if necessary the Board of Education.
The role of the school council in the principal selection process shall be advisory and specified in policy written by the local board of education and regulations developed by the superintendent (OCGA § 20-2-86[t] and Board of Education policy BBFA).
- For the purpose of this document, the term parent is inclusive of legal guardians.
- Election month is determined in the bylaws; the date is determined by school principal.
- Each school should identify procedures to elect a number of parent members to the School Council so that such parents or guardians make up a majority, at least two of whom shall be business persons.
- Every parent of students enrolled in school is eligible for membership on the School Council except for employees whose students attend the school where they are employed.
- School Council members must be eighteen years of age or older, with the exception of student reps.
- The parents, teachers, and business persons elected or selected shall serve on the council for a period of time pursuant to adopted bylaws.
- Parents of students in the highest grade in the school can serve on the School Council but shall vacate the position when their child enters middle or high school. These parents will be available for election at the new school assuming a vacancy exists.
- Parents of students in the highest grade of a feeder school should be advised that they can be nominated to serve on the School Council in the new school and can vote in the election.
- Parents who are elected shall no longer be eligible to serve if their child leaves the school.
- The principal notifies all parents of children in the school that they are eligible to be nominated or that they may nominate other parents for the number of parent seats open on the School Council.
- Nominations must be opened no less than two weeks prior to election date and will close the day preceding elections.
- The notification shall be determined through the following actions by principal:
- Compose a letter/flyer announcing the upcoming election to parents that defines the purpose of the School Council and includes an invitation for submittal of nominations for the number of parent positions open.
- Place an announcement of election date, place, and times in the local newspaper and the PTA/PTO newsletter, if timing is appropriate.
- Post the announcement on school bulletin board, marquee, and school web page.
- Request that a paragraph be written (no more than 100 words) including biographical information, reason why nominee would make a good parent representative, and attach a picture of nominee (the paragraph and picture are optional).
- Nominations are to be returned to principal who daily verifies that nominees will serve if elected.
- The principal shall develop a list of nominees and post daily on school bulletin boards and other conspicuous areas where announcements are normally posted.
- The election polling location in the school will need to be identified and the time for voting between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM
- The names of the nominees will be posted at the polling site and on the ballot.
- Prepare a list of students with parent’s names.
- When parents arrive to vote, check off their name and provide them with a numbered ballot (only one ballot per parent).
- No write-in votes will be allowed.
- Direct parents to the voting booth. After voting, ballots are placed in the ballot box.
- Following the closing of the polls at 7:00 PM, have three persons (not administrators) previously identified to count votes and determine the winners by those receiving the most votes.
- Verify the election results and provide a written report signed by those having counted the votes to the principal.
- Announce the results of election to all parents the next day by notice to be taken home by students, posted on bulletin boards, marquee, e-mail, website, and the like.
- Any nominee requesting a recount shall cause the count to be taken again.
- For the purpose of this document teachers shall be defined as all certificated personnel who serve four of six segments per day in the school, excluding administrators; hereafter certificated personnel will be referred to as teachers.
- Teachers are eligible to be elected to the School Council; the number being specified in the bylaws.
- The lead time for teacher nominations, election date, and posting the names of nominees are the same as stated previously. The principal verifies that nominees will serve, if elected.
- The election of teacher nominees is to be held during the school day. Each teacher shall receive and sign for a numbered ballot with nominees’ names.
- After voting, the ballot is placed in the ballot box. The ballot box should be monitored by two persons appointed by the principal. The votes will be tallied at the close of the school day by a committee comprised of one teacher from each grade or from three departments who are not nominees.
- The teacher(s) with the most votes will be declared the member(s) on the School Council.
Community Business Persons and Other Members
- Community business persons and other members may be identified to serve on the School Council, providing the bylaws allow for such members and parents maintain a majority.
- The principal will determine a list of community businesses and other members after receiving recommendations from the faculty. The Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, 100 Black Men, school organizations, and the like may be contacted for business persons to serve.
- The principal will ask these business persons and other members if they would agree to serve, if selected.
- The principal, teachers, and parents on the School Council will convene to select business persons and other members from the list of recommendations.
- The principal shall notify those selected to serve.
- school councils are subject to the Open Meetings Act (Official Code of Georgia Annotated [OCGA] § 20-2-86[f])
- gathering of a quorum of the members of the school council or any committee of its members created by the school council at which any public matter, official business, or policy is to be discussed or presented, or at which official action is to be taken or recommendations on any public matter, official business, or policy are to be formulated, presented or discussed
- all meetings are open unless otherwise provided by law.
- regular meetings of the school council
- announce the time, place, and dates of regular meetings
- information available to general public and posted and maintained in a conspicuous place available to the public at the regular meeting place
- members of the school council shall be sent notice of meeting at least seven days prior to a meeting (OCGA § 20-2-86[f]), and
- regular meetings may be cancelled or postponed
- announcing the meeting of the electing bodies of the school council (OCGA § 20-2-86[g])
- provide public notice at least two weeks before the May meeting of each electing body
- announcing called meetings
- post a written notice for at least twenty-four hours at the place of the regular meetings
- give written or oral notice at least twenty-four hours in advance of meeting to legal organ in the county where the meetings are to be held or to a newspaper having a general circulation in the county at least equal to that of the legal organ
- members of the school council shall be sent notice of meeting at least seven days prior to a meeting (OCGA § 20-2-86[f]), and
- in counties where legal organ is published less than four times weekly, notice shall be the posting of a written notice for at least twenty-four hours at the place of regular meetings and, upon written request from any local broadcast or print media outlet whose place of business and physical facilities are located in the county, notice by telephone or fax to the requesting media outlet at least twenty-four hours in advance of the called meeting.
- school council agenda
- make available upon request the agenda of all matters expected to come before the school council prior to meeting
- post agenda at the meeting site as far in advance as reasonably possible and, at a minimum, at some time during the two week period immediately prior to the meeting
- failure to include an item on the agenda which becomes necessary to address during the meeting does not prohibit the school council from considering and acting upon the item.
- minutes and summary of meeting
- provide written summary of subjects acted on and school council members present to the public for inspection within two business days of adjournment of the meeting
- minutes shall be promptly recorded and open to public inspection once approved as official by the school council no later than immediately following the next regular meeting of the school council
- minutes may be released prior to approval of the school council
- minutes must include at a minimum names of school council members present, description of each motion or other proposal made, and record of all votes
- minutes must reflect the name of each person voting against the proposal or abstaining or it is assumed that the action taken was approved by each school council member in attendance
- if the vote is a roll-call vote, name of each person voting for or against the proposal shall be recorded
- minutes of school council meetings shall be made available to the public at the school office (OCGA § 20-2-86[l])
- school council members shall receive a copy of minutes within 20 days following each school council meeting (OCGA § 20-2-86[l])
- visual and/or sound recording of open meetings shall be permitted
- meeting or portion of a meeting may be closed to the public for
- consulting with legal counsel pertaining to pending or potential litigation, settlement, claims, administrative proceedings, or other judicial sctions
- discussing future acquisition of real estate
- discussing or deliberating the appointment, employment, compensation, hiring, disciplinary action or dismissal, or periodic evaluation or rating of an employee—note: other meetings not pertinent to school councils may be closed—and
- considering a matter involving the disclosure of personally identifiable information from a student’s educational records (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [FERPA] 22 United States Code [USC] § 1232g].
- procedures for closed meeting
- specify reason(s) for closing the meeting; must be within the exceptions listed above and recorded in the minutes
- majority vote of a quorum present for the meeting must vote to close the meeting
- minutes must reflect the names of the school council members present and the names of those voting to close the meeting
- minutes are available to the public as are other meeting minutes
- only that portion of the meeting that deals with exceptions under the law shall be closed; other portions of the meeting must be open
- when a meeting or portion of a meeting is closed, the chairperson of the school council shall execute and file with the minutes of the meeting a notarized affidavit stating under oath that the subject matter of the meeting of the closed portion of the meeting was devoted to matters within the exceptions provided by law and identifying the specific reason for closing the meeting
- votes on personnel matters discussed during a closed session must occur in an open meeting/li>
- a meeting may not be closed in order to discuss whether or not to close a meeting.
- violation of Open Meetings Act
- anyone knowingly and willfully conducting or participating in a meeting in violation of the open meetings act is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, punished by a fine not to exceed $500
- superior courts have jurisdiction to enforce the open meetings law; attorney general has the authority to bring law enforcement actions, criminal or civil
- if a superior court determines that a school council has not complied with the act, the court shall—unless special circumstances exist—assess in favor of the complaining party reasonable attorney’s fees and other litigation costs
- any action taken in violation of the open meetings act is not binding
- agency which provides access to information in good faith shall not be liable
When taking action on items on the agenda, the school council should have clearly outlined procedures for handling motions and taking votes. These procedures must conform to the requirements specified in law and should conform to standards that are incorporated into a parliamentary guide such as Robert’s Rules of Order.
This summary will focus on legal requirements mandated for school councils and suggested parliamentary procedure that school councils may follow in taking official action during meetings.
A quorum must be present in order to conduct official business. Quorum means a majority of members. If the school council is comprised of seven members, a quorum is four members.
- More than half of the school council members present representing a quorum. Except as noted below, every motion is to be determined by a majority vote of members present, representing a quorum. For example, if the school council has eleven members and six are present, a quorum exists. If two members vote “yes” on a motion, two members vote “no,” and two members abstain, the motion fails. The majority of members present (more than half) did not vote “yes” for the motion. Abstentions often can have the same effect as a vote against the motion. The adoption of bylaws or changes in the bylaws requires two-thirds affirmative votes (OCGA § 20-2-86[h]). A majority vote of the school council is necessary to withdraw a school council member’s membership status due to inactivity as specified in the bylaws (OCGA § 20-2-86[c]).
- unanimous consent
- Rather than voting on every issue, the chairperson can ask for “unanimous consent” on items that do not seem to be controversial. This can be done by saying, “Is there any objection to … ?” If there is no objection, the action can be taken.
A motion is a proposal by a council member that the council take certain action.
Any council member, including the chairperson, may make a main motion to introduce a subject for action. A long motion should be written and given to the chairperson. The council member who makes the motion is not required to vote in favor of it.
Second a Motion
Any council member may second a motion except the individual who made the motion. A second merely implies that the motion should come before the school council for discussion. The school council member who seconded a motion is not required to vote in favor of it. If a motion does not receive a second, it fails and no vote is taken. Once a main motion has been seconded, the presiding officer states the question (reads the motion) and indicates that it is open to debate.
Debating a Motion
Customarily, the person who makes the motion speaks first. School council members should confine their remarks to the pending question. The chairperson may participate in the debate. When the chairperson determines that debate is ending, he/she can ask, “Is there any objection to calling the question?” If there is no objection, proceed to a vote on the motion. If there is objection, the chairperson should take a vote on whether or not to end debate.
Subsidiary motions are used to address or dispose of the main motion. All of these subsidiary motions require a second.
- used to change the wording of the main motion—debatable; requires majority vote
- used to refer a motion to a committee for study or revisions—debatable; requires majority vote
- used to delay consideration of a motion until a stated future time—debatable; requires majority vote
- lay on the table
- used to delay consideration of a motion until the majority decides to “take from the table”—not debatable; requires majority vote
- move the previous question
- used to end debate on a motion—not debatable; requires a two-thirds vote
- postpone indefinitely
- used to drop the main motion and avoid a vote on it—debatable; requires majority vote
Incidental motions are used to address concerns and questions related to procedure.
- point of order
- A point of order is used by a member to call attention to a breach of the rules. The effect is to require the chair to make a ruling on the question. If the member is dissatisfied with the result, the ruling may be appealed. An appeal motion requires a second, is debatable, and requires a majority vote.
- parliamentary inquiry
- used to request the chair’s opinion on parliamentary procedure
- point of information
- used to inquire about facts related to the business at hand
Voting on the Motion
When the debate appears to be closing, the chair can ask, “Are you ready for the question?” If no one desires further debate, the chair puts the question to a vote after restating the motion. The voice vote or show of hands may be used. The chairperson may participate in the vote, and members may choose to abstain from voting. Proxy voting and secret ballots are not allowed. The chairperson states the results of the vote.
If the school council is voting to go into executive session, the secretary must record the names of those school council members voting to go into executive session and the motion stating the reason that the school council is going into executive session. A majority vote is required.
Voting to adopt or amend bylaws of the council requires an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the council members.
- date, time, and location of meeting
- members present
- members absent
- quorum established/quorum not present
- business transacted
- approval of minutes from previous meeting
- motions—maker of motion, wording of motion, if motion passed or failed
- topics of discussion
- summary of Committee Reports
- agenda items for next meeting
- time of adjournment
Within twenty days following the council meeting, the minutes should be available to the public in the school office, sent to all council members, and submitted to:
Mrs. Pauline Cadien
Support Services, AIC” (courier)