The MASC Member Handbook provides detailed guidance on the challenging yet rewarding responsibilities of school committee membership.
Serving the community as a school committee member is a complex and demanding responsibility; for most members, it is also one of the most challenging–and rewarding–of experiences.
This publication is not intended as a complete or thorough guide for effective school leadership. To cover all aspects of guiding education in local communities would require volumes. Rather, it is our hope that this introduction will encourage you to contact the MASC office for further information on specific subjects, or to learn more about the wide range of publications, programs and services available to MASC members. Remember, the MASC office and field staff are here to answer your questions and provide whatever assistance you may need to become a more effective school leader and advocate for quality public education in your community.
Background: A brief review
In the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony–and for almost 200 years thereafter–public elementary and secondary education was the responsibility of each community’s board of selectmen. In 1826, the Massachusetts legislature–citing the importance of ensuring public educational opportunities for all its children–provided for a special committee whose sole duty would be to oversee “those preparing the youth of the community to take their places as educated and responsible citizens.”
Only in America is the responsibility for education entrusted–via elected or appointed school committee members–to the citizens of each community. In other countries, education is the prerogative of the national government. The framers of our Constitution, however, chose to give jurisdiction over public education to the individual states and they, in turn, delegated this authority to locally elected or appointed officials. The reasons are obvious. First, it would be impossible for the state legislature to oversee the daily operation of the schools and, second, this system allows educational policies to better reflect local needs and goals.
It is to this purpose that you are now dedicated.
The Challenge of School Committee Service
While the responsibility for the operation of the public schools has always been a formidable one, the challenge has become increasingly complex. School committees must meet the requirements of the state Constitution, the laws enacted by the legislature and the regulations of the Department of Education. In addition, committees must be responsive to the needs of students and staff, and reflect the attitudes of the community–all within the fiscal constraints of inflation, collective bargaining, taxpayer pressure for budgetary restraint, and legislated limitation on tax levies. Within this framework, committees function as trustees of the community’s large capital investment in school land, buildings and equipment; as employer of various professional and nonprofessional employee groups; as the governing body of what is likely to be the community’s largest commitment of tax-appropriated dollars; and as educational policy-makers for the school system. To their dismay, committees often find that dealing with the day-to-day demands of the first three functions leaves little time and energy for long-range educational matters, including development of policy and long-term goals for the district.
As an individual member, you can help ensure that your committee fulfills its many responsibilities efficiently and effectively by preparing yourself for this important and demanding job. You should begin by familiarizing yourself with the MASC Code of Ethics. Although the Code has no regulatory or statutory standing, we encourage all members to refer to it often as it incorporates suggested standards of behavior and guidelines for appropriate school committee member conduct.
To help a new school committee member become informed on all aspects of the position, the superintendent and the committee chair should provide necessary assistance and orientation. New members should become familiar with the school district policy manual, the budget, the collective bargaining agreements and any other materials that explain the organization and objectives of the committee. While it is the responsibility of the new member to invest the time and effort required to become familiar with school and committee issues, the committee can ease the learning period by making new members feel welcome, encouraging questions and elaborating on those issues with which new members may be unfamiliar.
Once elected, each school committee member receives regular Association mailings, including the MASC Bulletin, MASC Journal and notices of important meetings, workshops and conferences. New school committee members should also ask their superintendent to order them a copy of the Massachusetts Selected General Laws for School Committees and School Personnel–MASC’s annual compilation of education-related legislation–an important reference tool for any school committee member. New members should also be encouraged to participate with colleagues at MASC division, statewide and national meetings. Other important sources of information for new members are MASC workshops and the annual joint conference of MASC and the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS). Aside from the valuable information that is gained from these programs, contact with school committee members from outside your own community will contribute to your effectiveness as a member. Keep in mind that becoming an informed school committee member is an ongoing learning process.
AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY
As a member of your school committee, you will confront a wide range of issues and concerns, such as:
- system-wide goals
- policy development
- community relations
- budget review and approval
- health and safety
- curriculum approval
- collective bargaining
As members become more involved in these issues, it may sometimes be difficult to relate the task at hand to the educational needs of children. On the occasions when consideration of long-range goals and policy development must be put aside for discussion of boilers and transportation, or when countless hours are spent preparing for and participating in collective bargaining sessions, the job may be frustrating. These are the times to remind yourself that to be entrusted by the citizens with the education of their children is a special privilege and such public service is its own reward.
In the course of school committee deliberations, legal questions frequently arise. While each committee should have its own counsel, MASC legal counsel is available to assist the committee by consulting with your counsel or providing legal opinions on specific issues. Requests for opinions must be submitted in writing and be the result of a vote by the committee. Before requesting formal assistance from MASC’s legal counsel, however, you might want to discuss the issue with a member of the MASC staff. A file of written opinions by legal counsel is maintained in the MASC office and the staff may be able to answer your questions quickly by referring to this file. For a lengthy legal matter such as arbitration, dismissal procedures or litigation, however, the school committee would be well advised to retain its own counsel.
VISITS TO SCHOOLS
Two issues which school committee members frequently confront concern school committee visits to schools and complaints raised by local citizens. School committee members have the same right to visit local schools as that of any citizen in the community; indeed, members should take advantage of opportunities to make such visits in order to become better informed about the school plans and programs. Nonetheless, it is important to strictly observe the policy which relates to such visits and be sensitive to the fact that the staff of the school looks upon the school committee as the employer. If there is no written policy, then courtesy dictates a phone call in advance to the superintendent and/or principal, making him/her aware of the reason for the visit and ensuring that it will not be disruptive to staff or students.
On the matter of citizen complaints, here again the district’s written policy should be the guide. All such complaints should be referred as soon as possible to the appropriate individual. Only after the complaint has been taken through the proper channels should the matter be considered for discussion at a school committee meeting. If the concern warrants committee discussion, the complaint should be presented to the committee in writing (to avoid misunderstanding) and should be placed on the agenda. The committee should give careful consideration to the problem and inform the complainant of any action taken to arrive at a solution. Once again, while courtesy and common sense go a long way, there is no substitute for clearly defined policy.
CONDUCT AS A MEMBER
The preceding section has been written in the hope that it will help school committee members to define their role, and to address specific problems. Always remember, however, that as a member of a school committee you may not take action, make statements, or make any commitment on behalf of the committee unless specifically directed to do so by a vote of the committee. And bear in mind that the committee can only take action during those scheduled times when the committee meets.
School Committee Meetings
The business of the school committee is conducted only at legally posted meetings. By law, school committee meetings are announced prior to the meeting and the public may attend. The purpose of the meetings, however, is to conduct the business of the school committee and the public must abide by the committee’s policy on public participation.
Except in cities, the school committee usually elects its officers at the first meeting after the local annual elections. In some cities the mayor presides as chairman. The superintendent is the chief executive officer of the school committee.
Statute requires that all meetings, except those conducted in executive sessions, shall be open to the public and the media. Except in an emergency, a notice of each meeting shall be posted at least 48 hours before the meeting. Emergency meetings may be held only when a sudden, unexpected occurrence or set of circumstances makes immediate action imperative.
A school committee may only meet in executive session in accordance with the requirements of the Open Meeting Law. (See Chapter 30A, Section 21 of the Massachusetts General Laws).
All votes must be by voice or roll call, except in executive session when votes must be by roll call. Secret ballots are never permitted.
The law further requires that the committee maintain accurate records of the actions taken. The records of each meeting become public records; the only exception is records of executive sessions which may be held secret as long as publication would defeat the lawful purpose of the executive session. A request for a copy of the public record must be honored. A reasonable charge may be assessed for any such copy.
The law provides that no person shall address the meeting without permission of the presiding officer. Any person interfering with the orderly conduct of the meeting may be removed if s/he fails to comply with the request of the chair to be silent.
Beyond these statutory restraints, the method of conduct of school committee meetings is determined by the committee. Because school committees exercise their powers and responsibilities in large measure through actions taken at their meetings, it is essential that the meetings be planned and conducted in a business-like manner. This makes good use of the committee members’ time and best serves the community and its schools. In addition, the law requires that school committees meet at least once every other month during the months school is in session with a five-member student advisory committee elected by the high school students in each school system. The student chair of this committee also serves as an ex-officio member of the school committee. Both school committee members and students must recognize the obligations and responsibilities which accompany this privilege.
To provide for orderly dispatch of business, the committee should adopt a system of parliamentary procedure. Any rules of procedure, whether formally adopted or developed by custom and practice, should be clearly defined in writing.
SETTING THE AGENDA
An effective school committee meeting begins with the planning and preparing of an agenda. An agenda form should be developed which includes provisions for routine business, communications, official reports, action items, and matters of an emergency nature which come up after distribution of the agenda. The agenda for each meeting should be accompanied by copies of communications, reports and other relevant material, all of which should be distributed well in advance of the meeting to allow time for study and review.
The school committee meeting should be held in a location which can comfortably accommodate the media and the public as well as those involved in the meeting.
The committee wishing to complete its business within a reasonable timeframe will consider the following operating procedures:
- Start the meeting on time.
- Allow adequate time for discussion of important matters. Avoid discussing trivia.
- Let it be understood that the superintendent’s recommendation is expected on action items.
- Avoid making important decisions late in the evening, when members may be tired. Such decisions are sometimes regretted in the light of day. If an issue requires extended discussion which may include input from the staff, students and/or citizens, schedule a special meeting for that purpose.
- Observe parliamentary procedure, keeping in mind that while informal exchange of views are appropriate and often desirable, courtesy and respect must prevail, and the orderly progression of the meeting should not be impeded.
- Listen to the views and concerns expressed by members of the audience. Thank the person for bringing his/her concerns to the attention of the committee, but do not engage in debate.
- Employ a secretary to record the minutes in order that school committee members and the superintendent may participate more effectively in the meeting.
- Refrain from reading aloud reports which have been presented in written form.
- Provide copies of documents to be discussed to the media and public so they may follow the proceedings.
As an individual member, you can contribute to the quality of school committee meetings by operating within the following guidelines:
- Be faithful and prompt in attendance at meetings. If you must be absent, or know that you will be late, notify the chairman so that the meeting will not be delayed on your account. If you arrive after the meeting has started, do
not expect a review of what has occurred before your arrival. The chairman or the superintendent can fill you in at another time.
- Do your homework before the meeting! There is nothing more disconcerting to others than to see a member break the seal of an information packet after taking a seat at the meeting, or to have a member indicate by questions or conversations that s/he is looking at the material for the first time.
- Recognize that the majority position is the official position of the committee. That is not to say that an effort to rescind or reconsider an action is not in good order, but if such an effort fails, accept the decision as that of the majority.
- Observe parliamentary rules to the extent required by the chair.
- Confine discussion to issues. When personalities are allowed to intrude, the committee often serves the media more and the community less.
- Think before you speak. Remember, whatever you say during a meeting is public record and may be reported by the media.
The school committee chairman should:
- Be thoroughly familiar with parliamentary procedure as it applies to committee operation.
- Schedule time to consult with the superintendent when drawing up the agenda and to prepare for the meeting.
- Start committee meetings on time.
- Conduct the meeting with the degree of firmness dictated by the situation. A general discussion might be better handled informally, while a debate or a controversial issue would require firmer control by the chair.
- Be circumspect in allowing each member to present his or her opinions, while tactfully preventing any member from monopolizing the meeting.
- Remember: humor can often relieve a tense moment.
While most of the chairman’s duties relate to the conduct of meetings, other responsibilities that rest with the chairman are:
- To be the official spokesperson for the committee.
- To ensure that any statement made to the media or to the public represents the position of the committee.
- To represent the committee on public occasions.
- To provide leadership such that individual school committee members work together as an effective policy-making body.
School District Policies
It is imperative that written guidelines be established so that your school system will not flounder from day to day and from crisis to crisis. These guidelines, called policy statements, are local matters and may vary widely from one community to another.
The 1993 Education Reform Act clearly defined policy making as a critically important responsibility for school committees, and central to the smooth and effective operation of the schools. The committee should ensure that policies are well-organized, clear, and available to all. Their purposes include:
- Providing consistency in dealing with day-to-day issues.
- Delineating the procedures under which the school committee will govern itself.
- Clarifying the relationship between the superintendent and the school committee.
- Specifying guidelines under which the staff is to operate.
- Recording the solution of a problem, so that it need not be constantly reconsidered.
- Allowing for continuity.
- Enabling the community to better understand how the school committee operates.
The educational policies of a community are found in decisions that have been made concerning certain issues. As policies are identified, they should be put in logical order: a policy handbook can then be assembled from this material. The statements should always be based on principles and issues; personalities should never be involved. Policies should be worded so that future applications can be clearly defined. New policies are created as necessary. Once policy statements have been developed, they should be carefully reviewed by the committee before adoption. Particular attention should be given, of course, to requirements of state and federal law, which no local policy may violate. Any action found to be contrary to the law is void.
Keep in mind, also, that a school committee may not adopt policy which is in conflict with a provision of collective bargaining agreements.
Once a policy handbook is compiled, it must be regularly reviewed and updated. While some policies may stand unchanged for years, others may need to be revised within a relatively short time. Outdated policies should, of course, be deleted immediately from the manual, and a copy of all current school committee policies should be located in each public school building.
While the authority to make policy decisions belongs exclusively to the school committee, the responsibility for carrying out the school policies should be left to the superintendent and the professional staff–those people who have the skill and training needed for these specialized tasks. In the absence of a clearly defined policy, administrators must make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
MASC POLICY SERVICE
MASC offers a policy service to its members which can be an invaluable resource to committees as they develop local guidelines. MASC policy support services include: providing sample policies on particular topics; the complete MASC Policy Reference Manual which conforms to state and federal law; a contract policy service which provides a customized policy manual tailored to individual districts; and a policy subscription service that regularly provides members with sample policies based on recent state and federal legislation.
Chapter 150E, the collective bargaining law for public employees, became effective July 1, 1974, superseding the original public employee collective bargaining law in place since 1965. The current statute requires that public employers bargain with their employees concerning wages, hours, conditions of employment, and standards of productivity and performance. Both parties are expected to meet at reasonable times and to bargain in good faith; neither party is compelled to agree to a proposal or to make a concession. A provision of the 1993 Education Reform Act requires that the chief executive officer of a city or town will participate and vote as a member of the committee. If no chief executive officer exists, then the chair of the board of selectmen will serve. In regional districts, the boards of selectmen from each town shall select one member to represent all the boards.
The method for bargaining with professional employees of school committees has generally taken the form of one bargaining unit for teachers and non-administrative staff whose duties are directly related to teaching. In Massachusetts, they are usually represented by either the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), an affiliate of the National Education Association; or the Massachusetts Federation of Teachers (MFT), an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
One of the changes that resulted from the 1993 Education Reform Act was the exclusion of principals from collective bargaining, although principals are permitted to have individual contracts. The law also excludes from collective bargaining certain managerial employees classified as “confidential” employees. When a dispute arises concerning the status of such managerial employees, the decision as to collective bargaining rights has been made by the Labor Relations Commission on a case-by-case basis. While it is clear that superintendents do not have collective bargaining rights, the law does permit contract discussion with the superintendent and other non-union employees to take place in executive session.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING COUNSEL
Most school committees find themselves negotiating with an assortment of bargaining units representing other employees including nurses, instructional aides, secretaries, custodians, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, etc. In order to deal with the intricacies and time requirements of the collective bargaining process many school committees have retained counsel for collective bargaining under the provisions of MGL Chapter 71, Section 37E. This section, signed into law in 1969 and amended in 1985, provides that school committees may spend up to $25K annually for collective bargaining purposes. The original section and the amendment were both filed by MASC.
If, after bargaining for a reasonable length of time, it appears that no progress is being made, either party or both parties acting jointly may petition the Board of Conciliation and Arbitration to determine if an impasse exists. If the Board determines that an impasse does exist, it will appoint a mediator whose task it is to bring closure to the issue(s) at impasse.
If this effort is unsuccessful, the parties may proceed to fact-finding. A fact-finder selected from a list provided by the Board will hear testimony from the parties supporting their respective positions. Based upon the fact-finder’s analysis of the testimony and supporting data, he/she will issue a report with recommendations that are non-binding on the parties. If the recommendations of the fact-finder are not accepted and the impasse continues, the parties, as a rule, go back to the bargaining table.
Occasionally, the union decides to call a strike. Under Massachusetts law, a strike by public employees is illegal. There is, however, no statutory penalty imposed by the state for participation in an illegal strike. The employer must petition the Labor Relations Commission to make an investigation. If the Commission concludes that a strike is occurring or about to occur, it will institute proceedings in the Superior Court.
If the Court is satisfied that a strike is occurring or about to occur, it will issue an order to the union. If the striking union does not comply, then the Court imposes a penalty for non-compliance. The participants in a strike are subject to disciplinary or dismissal proceedings by the employer. However, this provision is seldom employed. Striking teachers receive compensation for any days that must be made up to meet the 180-day school year requirement. Grievance arbitration
During the life of a collective bargaining contract, there are bound to be disagreements on the interpretation or administration of the contract by the employer. Most contracts include a grievance procedure which provides an opportunity for an employee to seek redress of a perceived misapplication of a contract provision. These procedures often culminate in final and binding arbitration. If the remedy sought by the grievant is denied at every level up to and including the school committee, an arbitrator will be appointed either by the Board of Conciliation and Arbitration, selected from a list prepared by the American Arbitration Association, or appointed locally on agreement by the parties. The decision of the arbitrator in a grievance arbitration is final and binding.
Working with the Public
Good public relations is the responsibility of the school committee, the superintendent, and every school employee–professional as well as support staff. Public relations is a 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year responsibility; it takes place at every meeting, it exists in every statement issued by the school department, and occurs every time someone answers the school phone. School committees should keep in mind that theirs is a public service and that decisions relating to the school and the committee must be shared with the public.
As the representative of the community, the school committee is accountable for the quality of education in the school district. It is the responsibility of the school committee to inform, as well as to listen to, constituents. In order for the public to clearly understand the role of the school committee–its goals and objectives–there must be an effective communications program that will clearly identify the committee’s expectations for the school district.
Good public relations is achieved best through an ongoing program. The school committee should not wait until a crisis develops and then expect understanding and cooperation. The foundation must be built every day of every month, year round. Long before an emergency arises, you should become acquainted with the community’s goals for its children, with the attitudes of the citizens you serve, and with the members of the media–who can have great influence on your relations with your constituents.
There are several ways to keep the community informed: send a newsletter or report to every household in the district at least once a year, which clearly explains the role of the school committee; distribute surveys or questionnaires to find out what the public really thinks; utilize local cable television to cover school meetings and other education-related events; issue regular press releases and hold educational sessions for community residents; and finally, attend and participate in school and community events.
Except in the event of an executive session, school committee meetings are open to the public. In order to ensure that visitors feel welcome, sufficient and comfortable seating arrangements should be provided. Agendas of the meeting should always be available and you may want to consider posting in the meeting room the school committee policy for public participation.
Good working relations with the media can be very important to the school system, and media representatives may often be present at your open meetings. To assist them in their efforts to report the events of the meeting, committees should arrange for a suitable media table in the meeting room and also make available information packets that can be used to follow along during the meeting. In your relations with the media, remember that nothing is ever “off the record.” Don’t say anything you don’t want to see in print. Nor should you volunteer observations–just answer the questions directly. To avoid giving conflicting statements, it’s a good idea to designate a single committee member (usually the chair) as the official spokesman for the group. S/he is responsible for answering any questions and acting as an informational liaison between the committee and the superintendent.
It’s a good idea to keep in mind names of reporters and editors as well as media deadlines. Committees should provide information to the media on a regular basis, but shouldn’t be discouraged if a lead is not picked up. When a school-related story does appear, be sure to let the reporter know you appreciate the coverage, etc. Put any comments in writing, with a note to the editor.
News releases should accurately reflect what is happening in the school system. The public is eager for good news about their schools; a success story is always welcome.
By law, the superintendent of schools is the chief executive officer of the school district and the educational leader of the community. He or she has a wide range of responsibilities and is accountable to the committee for:
- implementation of school committee policy
- preparation and administration of the budget
- evaluation of staff and program
- appointing and dismissing principals
- hiring staff other than building-based
- recommending, for school committee approval, hiring of assistant superintendent
- publishing district policies established by the committee, e.g., conduct of teachers and students
- evaluation of principals and administrators
- operation of the educational program
- hearing student appeals resulting from expulsion that occurred due to violation of the student handbook rules pertaining to possession of a controlled substance, dangerous weapon or assault on a member of the educational staff
- recommending, for school committee approval, professional development
- plan for principals, teachers and other professional staff
- approving principal’s staff recommendations
- notifying, on or before June 15th, teachers without professional teacher status if he/she will not be reappointed for the next school year.
In the course of meeting these responsibilities, the superintendent must maintain a positive working relationship with the committee and the staff, while developing programs that meet the needs of the students and the community.
SELECTION OF A SUPERINTENDENT
The selection of a superintendent is the most important task a school committee undertakes. Finding an individual with the necessary background and skills requires thoughtful examination of the expectations of the committee and the community. How successfully this challenge is met will have a profound effect on the direction of education in the district.
There are various methods for selecting a superintendent. Some committees prefer to form a subcommittee composed of their own members; others prefer to involve the full committee in the entire process; still others prefer to have a professional advisor assist in the search for candidates. In an effort to solicit greater community input, many school committees use screening committees which include community members. MASC, of course, is always available to discuss the search process with the committee. School committees may also contract with MASC to conduct the search. Whatever process is used, the selection of the superintendent is solely the responsibility of the committee.
The Great and General Court
Legislation has always been of prime concern to school committee members. School committees, as has been pointed out, were created by the legislature in 1826 to give local control to public education. Since that time, concern has grown that this local control will be eroded by minutely detailed legislation and by budgetary control issues.
School committee members need to be familiar with the legislative process. In order that careful attention may be given to important legislation, MASC has developed a procedure for legislative action through its Legislative Committee. MASC staff members spend many hours screening the thousands of bills filed in the legislature annually. Those bills of concern to school committees are studied by MASC’s Legislative Committee, which reports to the MASC Board of Directors on the position it believes the Association should take on the various bills.
The official position of the Association on legislative issues is based on three important considerations: action taken at the Annual Meeting; positions taken by the Association in the past; and the best interests of public education.
In addition, MASC submits bills based upon: resolutions passed by its Delegate Assembly, action of the Board of Directors, or action of the Legislative Committee. Similar legislation may be resubmitted and sponsored by MASC within a three-year period.
The importance of grassroots support cannot be overstated. The events of the past few years clearly indicate the need for individual members to participate in this process. To help members keep up-to-date on the status of relevant bills, the Association e-mails legislative updates which discuss the impact and/or progress of current and pending legislation and posts items requiring immediate attention on the Association’s web site. MASC legislative counsel advises school committee members to establish contact with their legislators before they find it necessary to call on them for support.
In recent years, the legislative schedule has not always allowed enough time for MASC members and/or staff to testify at hearings. Nevertheless, it is vital that you inform your legislators of your position on specific bills. Call them, write or e-mail them, and visit them!
The legislature (also known as the Great and General Court) consists of 40 senators and 160 representatives. Legislative sessions begin in January and run for 18 months. The leaders of each chamber are elected by its members–a President of the Senate and a Speaker of the House–who then appoint the individual and joint standing committees.
Residents of the Commonwealth have access to the lawmaking process to a unique degree. First, each citizen has the right of free petition on any subject, such petitions to be filed on or before a certain date. Second, all bills are assigned to the appropriate committees before which public hearings must be held–any citizen may speak as a proponent or opponent of any bill. Third, all bills must be reported out of committee with recommended action. Each legislative committee must report its assigned bills either as “Ought to pass” or “Ought not to pass.” When adverse reports of committees are accepted by the branch in which such petitions originated, the matter is usually disposed of for the session.
- Bill & petition
A bill and a petition are filed together with the clerk of the House or the Senate. Since most are filed in the House, we will use it as our example.
- Referral to committee
The clerk assigns the bill a number, and refers it (with rare exceptions) to one of the 21 standing joint committees.
- Hearing & debate
The committee holds a public hearing, debates and possibly amends the bill; it then votes on whether to recommend that the House pass the bill. By a rule of the House and Senate, every bill must come out of committee by mid-April. It then goes to the House floor, with the committee’s recommendation attached.
- First reading
The House clerk reads the bills title and puts it on the calendar for debate. If the bill was reported favorably and involves spending state funds (most do), it is sent to the House Ways & Means Committee (bills involving county money go to the Committee on Counties).
- Ways & Means Committee
The Ways & Means Committee may hold its own hearings on the bill, make its own amendments, or even combine several bills on the same subject into one. (Or it may do nothing–the vast majority of bills referred to the Ways and Means Committee never emerge.) After the committee votes on whether to recommend passage, the bill goes back to the House floor for its second reading.
- Second reading
On the second reading, the bill is open for debate and amendment on the floor of the House. The House then votes on the bill and, if it does not pass, the game is over.
- Third Reading
If it passes, the bill goes to the Committee on Bills in Third Reading, which checks it over for accuracy, consistency and constitutionality. It then goes back to the House.
- More debate
The House clerk reads the bill for the third time, and it is again open to debate and amendment. If it is approved (i.e., “passed to be engrossed”), it goes to the Senate.
- The Senate
The Senate does virtually the same thing as the House did–referral to Ways and Means, three readings, two debates and, finally, passage to be engrossed. If the bill survives each of these steps, it then goes to one of two places:
- Engrossing Division or conference committee
If the House and Senate Bills are identical:
The bill goes to the Engrossing Division. Here it is printed on special parchment for final passage.
If the Senate measure is different:
The bill goes to the House for yet another vote. If the House “concurs” with the Senate amendments, then the bill goes to the Engrossing Division.
If the House does not concur:
The bill goes to a conference committee, which reconciles the differences between the two versions. Once there is a compromise, the bill is voted up or down, without amendment, in both the House and Senate. Now, it is finally ready for the Engrossing Division.
- Enactment votes
The engrossed bill is presented first to the House, and then to the Senate, for the enactment votes. This is its final passage in the General Court.
- Governor: sign or veto
It now goes to the governor, who has 10 days to either sign it, veto it, send it back with amendments, or allow it to become law without his or her signature.
- Further legislative action
If the bill is vetoed: The legislature can override the veto only with two-thirds vote of both branches. If the veto is overridden, the bill becomes law. If the veto is sustained, the bill is dead. If the governor vetoes the bill after the year’s legislative session has ended, the bill is also dead. This is called a pocket veto. or If the bill is sent back to the legislature with amendments: The amendments must be approved by a majority in both branches. If the amendments are not approved, the bill is returned in its previous form to the governor, who may sign or veto it or allow it to become law without his or her signature.
- Bill becomes law
When a bill finally becomes law, it takes effect in 90 days, unless an emergency preamble is put on the bill, which makes it effective immediately.
The MASC office is located in downtown Boston at One McKinley Square. MASC’s experienced professional staff is available to assist members by phone and through on-site consultation.
The MASC Board of Directors
MASC is governed by a board of directors consisting of four officers elected at the annual meeting (president, president-elect, vice president, secretary-treasurer), the immediate past president, and the eight division chairs. The Board, which meets regularly with the executive director, establishes general policy, and creates standing and special committees. The Executive Committee of the Board of is made up of the officers and the immediate past president, and meets when necessary to recommend actions to the full Board.
See the current MASC Board of Directors.
The legal counsel for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees is available to advise the Association on matters of law that may arise in the conduct of its affairs. Legal counsel will also, on written request from a member school committee, furnish opinions on questions of law. As stated earlier, a file of written opinions by legal counsel is maintained in the MASC office, and the staff may be able to answer your questions quickly and efficiently by referring to this file.
Learn more about MASC Legal Services.
The Association is comprised of seven geographical divisions, a vocational-technical division and an urban division. Each division is required to hold a minimum of two meetings during the year, featuring programs of importance and interest to the membership. Each division elects a chair, who serves on the MASC Board of Directors.
The MASC divisions are as follows:
- Division I: Northeast
- Division II: Metropolitan
- Division III: Southeast
- Division IV: Central
- Division V: Connecticut Valley
- Division VI: Berkshire
- Division VII: Cape and Islands
- Division VIII: Vocational–Technical
- Division IX: Urban
See the MASC Division List for a full list of all members by division.
The Association is able to take immediate action to obtain information from the proper source in emergency situations, and to disseminate this information to its members as soon as it is verified.
MASC offers a wide range of professional development opportunities through workshops and information sessions held throughout the state. These training programs are conducted by MASC staff as well as national and state education experts. Programs address relevant topics designed to assist school committee members and administrators in more effectively carrying out their responsibilities and better serving their communities. In addition to its regularly scheduled workshops, MASC also offers customized sessions on a variety of issues including school committee roles and responsibilities; group dynamics; superintendent evaluation; effective meetings; policy development; education reform issues; and community relations.
MASC members automatically receive the MASC Bulletin and Journal. The Association also publishes and distributes articles, monographs, and reports on important educational topics, as well as the Massachusetts Selected General Laws for School Committees and School Personnel:the latter is available to members at a nominal charge.
MASC/MASS ANNUAL JOINT CONFERENCE
The MASC/MASS annual joint conference presents a program of nationally known speakers, current-issue panel discussions, informative exhibits, and demonstrations of successful instructional and management initiatives in local districts. The MASC Delegate Assembly is also held following the three-day event at which time officers are elected and the Assembly considers resolutions submitted in conformance with the MASC By-Laws. These resolutions often result in the filing of legislation by the Association, or the establishment of Association positions.
Code of Ethics
The acceptance of a code of ethics implies the understanding of the basic organization of school committees under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As an elected public official, a school committee member is expected to adhere to those state laws that apply to school committees since school committees are agencies of the state.
This code of ethics outlines three areas of a school committee member’s responsibility: (1) community responsibility; (2) responsibility to school administration; and (3) relationship to fellow committee members.
- A school committee member in his/her relations with the community should:
- Realize that his/her primary responsibility is to the children.
- Recognize that his/her basic function is policy-making and not administrative.
- Remember that he/she is one of a team and must abide by, and carry out, all committee decisions once they are made.
- Be well informed concerning the duties of a committee member on both a local and state level.
- Remember that he/she represents the entire community at all times.
- Accept the office of committee member as a means of unselfish service with no intent to “play politics” in any sense of the word, or to benefit personally from committee activities.
- A school committee member in his/her relations with the school administration should:
- Endeavor to establish sound, clearly-defined policies with which to direct and support administration.
- Recognize and support the administrative chain of command and refuse to act on complaints as an individual outside theadministration.
- Act only on the recommendations of the chief administrator in all matters of employment or dismissal of school personnel.
- Give the chief administrator full responsibility for discharging his/her professional duties and hold him/her responsible for acceptable results.
- Refer all complaints to the administrative staff for solution and only discuss them at committee meetings if such solutions fail.
- A school committee member in his/her relations with fellow committee members should:
- Recognize that action at official meetings is binding and that he/she alone cannot bind the committee outside such meetings.
- Realize that statements or promises should not be made regarding how he/she will vote on matters that will come before the committee.
- Uphold the intent of executive sessions and respect the privileged communication that exists in executive sessions.
- Not withhold pertinent information on school matters or personnel problems, either from members of his/her own committee or from members of other committees who may be seeking help and information on school problems.
- Make decisions only after all facts on a question have been presented and discussed.
The Massachusetts Association of School Committees was founded in 1947 for the following purposes:
- To provide closer cooperation among all of the school committees of the several cities and towns in the Commonwealth.
- To study the problems of organization, administration and operation of the public schools and to work for the adoption of the best methods, practices, and procedures in public school administration.
- To encourage the enactment of legislation deemed beneficial to the public schools, school children, and all of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
- To sponsor, develop, and encourage all projects, programs, and matters deemed necessary or desirable to promote better public education in the Commonwealth.
- To communicate the aims, functions, and needs of the schools to the public.