School Advisory Councils
SACs – have a defined position within our public education system; that is, according to legislation, to ‘assist a regional centre to ensure that the regional centre’s public schools and related services are meeting the needs of the communities and regions they serve’.
The SAC Handbook (available online: https://www.ednet.ns.ca/docs/sachandbook.pdf) provides more detail: ‘SACs advise their principal and RCE on policies, curriculum and programs, school practices, student support services, parent-school communication….’ The Handbook also makes it clear what SACs cannot do. They have NO role in ‘advising on personnel matters, such as supervision or discipline of staff or the principal; carrying out the responsibilities of staff, each of whom have professional and legal obligations; or carrying out the day-to-day operations of the school.’
SACs are advisory bodies under legislation, which makes them different from other volunteer groups, such as Home & School associations or parent-teacher organizations, that may also serve school communities.
The composition and responsibilities of the SACs are outlined in written agreements with their Regional Centres for Education and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. The conduct of SACs are guided by their bylaws. SAC meetings are meant to be ‘respectful and equitable’, and all meetings are open to members of the public.
SACs are provided with annual funding of $5,000, plus one dollar per student in the school. There are three spending categories for this funding: to support a school improvement plan; to support policy development and implementation; or to cover SAC operational expenses (only 20 per cent of the funding can be used in this way). The governance model provided below illustrates where SACs fall into the system.
Given that SACs are one of the few bodies left for parents and guardians, community members, students, and staff to have a role in decisions that impact student learning, it seems timely to do a quick check-up on a few of the key points. (These are questions each of us can ask about our own school communities.)
– Does my school have an SAC?- Who are the current members of the SAC? Where do I find this information?- Are the SAC bylaws widely circulated amongst the school community?
– Does the SAC have regular meetings?
– How does the SAC communicate their work to their school community?
– What action or activity do I know of that our SAC has performed at my school?
– Does the SAC have regular contact with their RCE? (As stated in the Handbook, ‘Each RCE has a staff person who is responsible for supporting SACs’)
– Does the SAC complete an annual report? If so, has the RCE or the Department provided any feedback on their report?
Again, SACs are supposed to be an integral part of Nova Scotia’s public schools and I think all of us are obligated to make that a reality.