School Committee Member FAQ

New to the school committeee? Find commonly asked questions and answers.

If you have additional questions after reading our FAQ below, you may …

  1. In order to be an effective school committee member, what are some of the more important resource documents each member of the committee should have?

    Every member of the committee should have a copy of the school committee policy manual, the budget, collective bargaining agreements, administrator’s contracts, district goals and objectives, the strategic plan, student and staff handbooks.

  2. As a member of the school committee, may I attend school council meetings?

    School councils convene following the requirements of the Open Meeting Law. They must post their meetings and attendance is open to all members of the public, including members of the school committee. However, it is important to note that unless a school committee member has been asked to officially represent the committee at a school council meeting, an individual member attending is an observer just as members of the public are who attend school committee meetings.

  3. What is the best way to clearly articulate the school committee’s official position regarding matters they have voted on?

    The committee should have a written communication policy that outlines the procedures for communicating with the public, media, parents, staff, and students. Many committees delegate this responsibility to the chair of the committee. It is important that official positions be clear and consistent to avoid confusion or misunderstandings.

  4. Why is it necessary to contact the superintendent and/or principal when a committee member wants to visit a particular school?

    No matter how well intended, unannounced visits may be perceived by the staff as an attempt to meddle in school business. Once elected or appointed, school committee members are viewed as elected officials who may be visiting for official reasons. Alerting administrators in advance sends a clear message that the purpose for the visit is to demonstrate support and interest. Advance notification also prevents visits from taking place when activities that cannot be interrupted, such as student testing, are taking place.

  5. Why do most school committees and teacher’s unions prefer to conduct collective bargaining sessions in executive session? It seems as though conducting bargaining in open session would produce faster and more realistic results.

    Unless you have been part of a bargaining team it may be hard to understand both the school committee and union need an opportunity to negotiate openly without fear that comments made during bargaining sessions will be misconstrued before a final agreement is reached. Executive sessions protects the confidentiality of the negotiations until both sides have agreed they have been completed.

  6. Can the school committee require the superintendent to appoint a committee member to search committees he/she appoints?

    No. The superintendent has the sole responsibility for appointing members to committees that he/she appoints. However, the school committee can develop policies that broadly outline the composition of some committees. For example, a policy identifying the categories of members, teacher, parent, administrator, and so forth, which will be included in a principal’s search, is appropriate as long as it does not conflict with the law.

  7. With standardized testing becoming more and more the focus for measuring student achievement, how can school committee members who are not professional educators keep track of the progress being made?

    Smart superintendents will educate the school committee that employs them! They know only too well that the better committees understand critical information such as standardized test results, the better they will be able to help develop strategies for improvement. School committee members should take advantage of the many resources available to them through national and state organizations that specialize in this area.

  8. Involving parents and the public has become more and more critical in order to reinforce credibility in our schools. While schools have benefited from more involvement, there are some matters that must be left in the hands of the staff or committee. How can a school committee explain that to the public?

    Openly, honestly, and respectfully. Most people do not object to playing by the rules if they know what the rules are. School committees should always be prepared to explain why a particular matter is outside of the public domain. References to the law, regulations, policies, or collective bargaining agreements usually clarify issues. There are always those who will not accept the information provided, but in those instances the committee will be assured they have handled the matter appropriately.

  9. Who hires the attorney who represents the committee?

    The school committee does. This is usually done in consultation with the superintendent since he/she will very often be interacting with the attorney on behalf of the committee. 

  10. Who enforces the open meeting law?

    The district attorney in the county where meetings take place. If there is any doubt about the validity of meeting publicly or in executive session, the district attorney for the county where the meeting is scheduled to take place should be contacted.