School Advisory Councils – Frequently Asked Questions
What are the duties of SAC by law? 1001.452 (replacing 229.58) Title XLVIII District And School Advisory Councils.-
- (1)(a) “The school advisory council shall be the sole body responsible for final decisionmaking at the school relating to implementation of the provisions of ss. 1001.42(16) and 1008.345.(2) DUTIES.–Each advisory council shall perform such functions as are prescribed by regulations of the district school board; however, no advisory council shall have any of the powers and duties now reserved by law to the district school board. Each school advisory council shall assist in the preparation and evaluation of the school improvement plan required pursuant to s. 1001.42(16). With technical assistance from the Department of Education, each school advisory council shall assist in the preparation of the school’s annual budget and plan as required by s. 1008.385(1).
- What does state statutes say about SAC and the school’s budget?1001.452 (replacing 229.58) District and school advisory councils. 2) Duties…..With technical assistance from the Department of Education, each school advisory council shall assist in the preparation of the school’s annual budget and plan as required by s. 1008.385(1).
- Our SAC does not have minutes, the meeting dates are not published for the public to attend. Is this allowed?No. 1001.452 (replacing 229.58) District and school advisory councils. (1)(d) Each school advisory council shall adopt bylaws establishing procedures for:1. Requiring a quorum to be present before a vote may be taken by the school advisory council. A majority of the membership of the council constitutes a quorum.2. Requiring at least 3-days’ advance notice in writing to all members of the advisory council of any matter that is scheduled to come before the council for a vote.3. Scheduling meetings when parents, students, teachers, business persons, and members of the community can attend.4. Replacing any member who has two unexcused consecutive absences from a school advisory council meeting that is noticed according to the procedures in the bylaws.5. Recording minutes of meetings.
Every SAC must have minutes to the meetings, have meetings open to the public and publicized. SACs are governed by the Sunshine Law which requires minutes, open meetings and publicizing the meetings. There are consequences to the law (fines). “Sunshine Law” (the actual words of the law) – state statute: Title XIX, Chapter 286 – Keeping all SAC meetings open to the public, no closed-door decisions.
- Are SAC members trained? Who is responsible for the training?The School Board is must have policies that address SAC training. The law states: ss 1001.42 (17) (a) Adopt policies that clearly encourage and enhance maximum decisionmaking appropriate to the school site. Such policies must include guidelines for schools in the adoption and purchase of district and school site instructional materials and technology, staff training, school advisory council member training, student support services, budgeting, and the allocation of staff resources.
- What is defined as unexcused in the statement “two unexcused consecutive absences”?Answer – “to be defined by the SAC committee and placed in SAC bylaws,” is the answer from Mary Jane Tappen, DOE. This question relates to ss. 1001.452 (1)(d)(4).The statute refers to the instruction for SACs to contain language in their bylaws addressing 2 unexcused consecutive absences.
- How long must records be kept?DOE recommends that 5 years of records be kept. Records include (but not limited to) SIP, SAC membership, minutes…
- What do I do if my SAC is not working?First, talk to the principal. (do not discuss items coming to vote at a SAC meeting – Sunshine Law) Then the district. The state, DOE may be of assistance, but usually these matters are “local decisionmaking.” You may want to invite a school board member. Ask for SAC training for the school SAC. Ask for clarification with the district attorney. Ask FL-SAC news list ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FL-SAC/ ) , a member may have the perfect advice (been there, done that!)
- Our Bylaws Committee has discovered discrepancies in our documents. Our Bylaws and state statutes conflict. Which takes precedence?Most of the time you follow the highest order of priority. Federal and state statutes and laws come first, then district policy, then articles of incorporation (if applicable) followed by bylaws.
- Our district advocates the use of consensus when SAC must make a decision. What is consensus?Some SACs use voting extensively and some SACs have been using consensus for years. Both are forms of decisionmaking. A city council or school board would be crippled if they used consensus. It takes time. A lot of time. Consensus essentially asks this: “can we LIVE with the decision – we may not agree totally with it but can we LIVE with it”. The dictionary defines consensus as “general agreement”. Consensus definitely is not voting. SAC is instructed through law to be the final “decision-maker” in SIP and SI funds. We assist with school budgets. Decison-making can be by consensus or vote. A good site for consensus information: http://coreroi.com/consensus.htm . Consensus does not use secret ballots, votes or codes, nor does it use abstentions, it can be recorded via video tape or audio tape, it is noted in minutes, and the meeting already ‘in the sunshine’ if public notice is given.DOE SAC training the trainer ADVOCATES, RECOMMENDS & TRAINS Trainers how to achieve consensus if possible. Consensus has been a staple of training for years – the districts have been trained to train SACs to use consensus.Furthermore, it seems in searching the attorney general site that consensus seems to be viewed as informal whereas voting is formal.I think it is notable that when questioned, Butterworth did not say that the council was illegal to use consensus because it was a government body.
School Advisory Council Do’s
- Consist of teachers, students, parents and education support personnel (elected by their peers) and other citizens representative of the ethnic, racial and economic community served by school. (A list of members may be sent to the school board on an annual basis for approval)
- Assists the principal in the school’s annual budget….”With technical assistance from the Department of Education, each school advisory council shall assist in the preparation of the school’s annual budget and plan as required by s. 1008.385(1). A portion of funds provided in the annual General Appropriations Act for use by school advisory councils must be used for implementing the school improvement plan.
- Assist in the preparation and evaluation of the School Improvement Plan. (SIP). The plan is designed to achieve the state education goals and student performance standards. The plan must also address issues relative to budget, training, instructional materials, technology, staffing, student support services, and other matters of resource allocation as determined by school board policy.
- Approves of the expenditure of school improvement funds. [see state statutes] ( lottery enhancement funds)
- Performs functions as prescribed by regulations of the school board.
- Advertises the final draft of the school improvement plan and conducts a public meeting for community suggestions for modifications and serves as an advocate in the community and the school for implementation and assists in public relations efforts related to the plan.
- Supports school improvement implementation
- Collects and analyzes information about the community and the school and receives public input regarding needs (Needs Assessment) of the school. SACs provides ongoing review of the progress being made toward implementation of the school improvement plan. SACs evaluates success by monitoring short-term and long-term outcomes.
- Adhere to the “Sunshine Law”
- SAC members attend meetings
- SAC & the school’s staff jointly decided on how to spend A+ recognition money (“determined by the school’s staff and school advisory council…”)
- The whole point of school improvement is data-driven decision making. The process is SUPPOSED to be fairly simple and straight forward: The SAC reviews relevant data (which is much more than test scores), identifies problem areas, develops improvement strategies, monitors their implementation, and then starts the whole process over when the next round of data is available. IT IS NOT THAT COMPLICATED OR ADVERSARIAL!!
- Have any of the powers and duties reserved by law for the school board or its staff.
- Have any state mandates other than those prescribed by the accountability legislation.
SAC and School Improvement
- Does our school need a school improvement plan (SIP)?Yes!Title IV 24.121 Allocation of revenues & expenditure of funds for public education.–(5.d) “No funds shall be released for any purpose from the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund to any school district in which one or more schools do not have an approved school improvement plan pursuant to s. 1001.42(16) or do not comply with school advisory council membership composition requirements pursuant to” s1001.452 (replacing 229.58(1)).
- What needs to be in a SIP (School Improvement Plan)?Title XLVIII – 1001.42(16)(a) “Each plan shall also address issues relative to budget, training, instructional materials, technology, staffing, student support services, specific school safety and discipline strategies, and other matters of resource allocation, as determined by district school board policy, and shall be based on an analysis of student achievement and other school performance data.” and….(General Appropriations Act) Section 1 – Education Enhancement “Lottery” Trust
- Does the SIP need to contain performance indicators which are measurable?Yes. General Appropriations Act –
” The improvement plan shall include performance indicators which are measurable.”
- How do we start writing a SIP (school improvement plan)?You start by gathering data. Test scores, FCAT scores, grades, absentee records, discipline data, NCLB SPAR (No Child Left Behind School Public Accountability Report) School Advisory Reports, SPAR reports (see definitions web page for the meaning of these terms) are all examples of data you may include and you may use other forms of data. This is a school based decision that your SAC may decide upon. The SAC comes up with a needs assessment. Once a needs assessment is made, direction on how to address those needs is your school improvement plan.You start by gathering data. Test scores, FCAT scores, grades, absentee records, discipline data, School Advisory Reports, SPAR reports (see definitions web page for the meaning of these terms) are all examples of data you may include and you may use other forms of data. This is a school based decision that your SAC may decide upon. The SAC comes up with a needs assessment. Once a needs assessment is made, direction on how to address those needs is your school improvement plan.
- Who approves of the SIP?1001.452 (replacing 229.58) Title XLVIII District And School Advisory Councils.-(1)(a) “The school advisory council shall be the sole body responsible for final decisionmaking at the school relating to implementation of the provisions of ss. 1001.42(16) and 1008.345.1001.42 (16)(b) “Approval process.–Develop a process for approval of a school improvement plan presented by an individual school and its advisory council..”
- SAC voted to have a two-year plan. Does that mean we do not vote on it again next year?1001.42 (16)(a) requires school boards to “Annually approve and require implementation of a new, amended, or continuation school improvement plan for each school in the district,…””Because student performance and budgets change annually, your board may approve continuation plans in June and expect amended plans by August, September, or some other fixed date to ensure that the school always has an active plan in place that moves students forward. Some districts have five-year plans or three-year plans with annual “updates”. Long range planning certainly makes sense to me personally when we are talking about student performance; and using the most current data would mean that some activities might need modification on an annual (or sooner) basis. Check your local policies for exact directions on this.” —Andrea Willett, DOE, Office of School Improvement
- Where can I find new ideas or review on various educational strategies?Fantastic Page! – DOE links – Assessment, Block Scheduling, Charter Schools, Class Size, Cooperative Learning, Data Analysis, Education
- What does the law say about waivers and local decision-making?1001.42 Powers and Duties of the School Board:(17.a.) “Adopt policies that clearly encourage and enhance maximum decisionmaking appropriate to the school site. Such policies must include guidelines for schools in the adoption and purchase of district and school site instructional materials and technology, staff training, school advisory council member training, student support services, budgeting, and the allocation of staff resources.”(17b.) “Adopt waiver process policies to enable all schools to exercise maximum flexibility and notify advisory councils of processes to waive school district and state policies.”