Parents Welcome at Taylorsville School Community CouncilsOct 14, 2015 11:59AM ● By Stephanie Lauritzen
By Stephanie Lauritzen
Taylorsville - In 2000, the Utah Legislature passed a law requiring every public school to establish a school community council. School community councils allow parents, teachers and administrators to work together in making decisions regarding school governance, including how to best utilize Utah’s School Land Trust Funds.
Taylorsville principal Garett Muse and Bennion Jr. High math and CTE teacher Whitney Afoa believe school community councils benefit the community, creating an environment where parents and school employees can exchange knowledge and expertise in order to better students’ learning experiences. Because the School Land Trust provides a significant amount of money to schools, maintaining community involvement in how to spend the funds is important.“Community councils allow parents to come into schools and have a role in school improvement; we meet and talk about how the school is doing and what we can do better,” Principal Muse said.
In addition to budget and school finance issues, school administrators use the monthly council meetings to present relevant data to community members, including graduation rates, SAGE scores and G.P.A. averages. Meetings might also include reports on ongoing school programs, like anti-bullying initiatives or college preparation seminars.
Principal Muse believes it is important to allow teachers and parents to meet with administrators and vote on whether or not to adopt new measures. “Instead of having a principal or school administration make all of the decisions, meeting together with parents and teachers allows people to say, ‘Wait a minute, let’s talk about this’ before the school makes any significant changes,” he said.
The community council begins each school year with a school improvement plan, where the council works together to create the best programs for their individual school. Decisions are based on personalized community and educator feedback.
“We want parents to take information back to the community and bring their own feedback to the meetings as well. As a principal, this helps me explain to parents why certain measures are happening. I can always explain that any action we take at Taylorsville is the result of discussions made by the community and other parents, not just one principal sitting alone in the dark,” Muse said.
Principal Muse encourages parents to consider joining their school community councils, including the council for Taylorsville High School, where declarations of intent were due Sept. 9. Muse is quick to point out that all parents are welcome to apply to join the council.
“As long as we have enough space, and the teachers feel comfortable. We are willing, for instance, to allow four parents to join even if there are only three vacancies. We are thrilled to have parents come and bring their expertise and concerns to our meetings,” he said.
In the past, both the Taylorsville High and Bennion Junior High Community Councils voted to approve significant changes to the school, including boundary changes, adding extending learning time to student schedules and creating a master schedule to help parents and students plan for the academic year, revealing the critical role community councils play in school governance.
Bennion Junior High School teacher Whitney Afoa serves on the community council for her school, and likewise believes the council meetings play an important role in benefitting students and the community. She says teachers play a vital role in the decision making process.
“As teachers, we see what happens in the school itself and can answer questions based on what we observe. For instance, do the labs we recently voted to install really help students, or do we need to consider a different solution?” she said.
Afoa also notes that the Land Trust money provided by the state gives the community councils opportunities to make large-scale decisions that benefit students directly.
“With this money, we can consider investing in a new computer lab, or expanding programs to include tutoring before and after school. Sometimes we use the money to create extra classes in core subjects. We try and use the funding in ways that benefit most of the kids at our school,” she said.
Like Principal Muse, Afoa believes parental involvement is important in ensuring the community council’s success.
“I wish more parents got involved, could see what was going on in the school, and therefore be able to give more of an input,” Afoa said.
A schedule for community council meetings at both Taylorsville High School and Bennion Junior High are available on the school websites, where interested community members can also access meeting minutes and agendas. All members of the public are welcome to attend meetings.