Policy of the Toronto District School Board

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Number C.01                         Parent, Community and Student Involvement

Adoption Date: November 25, 1998

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This policy reaffirms the important work that schools and their communities across the TDSB have done to build a proud and successful history of parent, community and student involvement in their schools. While this report focuses on structures and forums for school community participation, it acknowledges that this history of involvement includes a vast range of informal school community activities as well. The Toronto District School Board recognizes the importance of all forms of participation and collaboration in fostering positive environments for learning. All these forms of participation need to be reflected in the Board's commitment to the involvement of parents, community and students in the education system.


The Toronto District School Board believes that education is a shared responsibility among parents, the community, students, staff and the Board, and that by working together, we all contribute to the improvement of our schools and to the achievement of our students. All parents and members of our diverse community have a valuable contribution to make to our schools, and we will make every effort to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the building of an effective school system. The Board encourages and supports the involvement of parents, communities and students with their classrooms, their schools and with the school system as a whole.

Parents, the community and students have the right to information about our policies and programs. They should be consulted on matters affecting the education of all students, and should have the opportunity to contribute to decision making at the school, ward and system levels. The Toronto District School Board will provide, within our means, the resources necessary to support an effective partnership among parents, the community, students, staff and the Board.

* The term "parent" includes guardians and caregivers legally recognized as acting in place of a parent.

Administrative Procedure
School Councils
Ward Forums
System-wide Forums
Staff Support
Annual Review
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C

  1. School Councils
    The participation of parents at the school level is the cornerstone of the Board's approach to building school community involvemen t. School councils are seen as an important mechanism for involving all the members of the local school community in the affairs of the school which impact the education of the students. School councils will play both an advisory role and an advocacy role for the benefit of the students. It is important that school councils function in an open and inclusive way and that they actively promote the participation of all members of the school community. In this policy and procedure, all parents of students enrolled in the school have a right to participate as members of the school council, and the school council Executive may not limit this participation. The school principal is expected to take a proactive role in bringing to the council those areas of school decisionmaking which would benefit from the advice of parents, community representatives, students and staff. The school council model described in this Policy is designed to be flexible and adaptable so that each school community can develop a structure that suits its own needs while conforming to the guiding principles for School Councils

    Guiding Principles for School Councils
    1. Each school shall establish and maintain a school council made up of elected parents, staff and students (senior elementary and secondary), and appointed community members, and a general membership, which includes all parents of children enrolled in the school.
    2. The Chair or Co-chair shall be a parent of a student enrolled in the school and parents shall form a majority of the school council membership.
    3. The school council shall play an advisory role to the principal, staff, senior administration and the Board, and an advocacy role in representing the interests of the students and the local school community.
    4. The school council shall not be mandated nor expected to perform managerial or administrative responsibilities that belong to the principal or to other school administrators.
    5. The school council and its activities shall be conducted in a democratic manner, be accessible to its member groups, and shall reflect the diversity of the school community.
    6. The school council shall ensure opportunities for participation and input by all parents in the school, students, staff and other members of the school community.
    7. The principal shall be responsible for facilitating the formation of the school council and for supporting its overall operation.
    8. Each school council shall have the flexibility to develop a structure that meets its own needs and circumstances as determined by the school community.
    9. The existence of a school council shall not preclude the right of other individuals or groups, e.g. a parent, a co-existing parent group in the school or a family-of-schools group, to have their own separate communication and access to the school administration, to the trustee and to the Board, on any matter they deem necessary.
    10. School councils shall operate under the guidelines contained in Appendix A.

  2. Ward Forums
    Ward forums will provide an ongoing opportunity for communication between the local school councils and the trustee, on the needs and issues affecting local school communities. Because of the size of the wards in the TDSB, most trustees will not be able to meet regularly with their school councils. Due to the diversity of communities and the size of wards in the TDSB, a variety of ward forum models need to be considered for implementation: some forums will choose to be formally structured councils; others will prefer to be organized around trustee-convened town hall style meetings. It is expected that representatives of school councils and other participants in the ward forums will share information discussed at the ward forum meetings with their constituent groups.

    Guiding Principles for Ward Forums

    1. Ward forums shall be established for communication and consultation on educational policies, programs and services, and for discussion of the needs and issues of concern to parents, communities, students, staff, trustees and the Board.
    2. Ward forums shall be structured according to one of the following models:
      1. A single ward council with a parent-trustee steering committee and membership made up of parents elected or delegated by each local school council and with the opportunity for representation from students, staff and other parents and community members-at-large.
      2. Family-of-schools councils within the ward each with a parent-trustee planning committee and membership made up of parents elected or delegated by the local school councils and with the opportunity for participation by students, staff and other parents and community members-at-large.
      3. A schedule of ward or families-of-school meetings convened by the trustee, in consultation with a parent agenda-setting committee where possible, to which parents of local school councils are invited, and with the opportunity for participation by students, staff and other parents and community members-at-large.
      4. An adaptation of the above models to accommodate particular circumstances in the ward such as combined family-of-schools meetings and special town hall-style meetings
    3. The model adopted by each ward shall be (a) subject to final approval at an open meeting of the school council representatives and other members of the school community in the ward, and (b) subject to change at any time, after an appropriate review, consultation and approval process by the parties concerned.
    4. Ward forums shall operate under the guidelines contained in Appendix B.

  3. System-wide Forums
    1. Community Liaison Groups
      System-wide groups that form around special interests will desire access to the Board in order to have input into the development of specific Board policies and practices. Recognition as a Community Liaison Group would give such groups an opportunity to work with the Board on matters of interest to the group and to the school system.

      1. Community Liaison Groups shall be established to permit system-wide community groups to work with the Board in contributing to the development of educational policies and practices of interest to those groups and to the Board.
      2. Criteria and a procedure shall be developed for the recognition of system-wide community groups as Community Liaison Groups of the TDSB. The procedure shall require a written request from the group stating its objectives, how it wishes to work with the Board, its represented constituencies, and the name, address and telephone number of its chairperson(s) and other appropriate representatives.
      3. A list of all recognized Community Liaison Groups shall be maintained for the purpose of communication and involvement and this list shall be reviewed and updated annually.

    2. Parent-Community Network
      The formation of a Parent-Community Network supports the recommendation for a city-wide parent group that was approved by the Board in February 1998. It is recognized that parents and community members who participate in local school councils and in ward forums across this large school system, need to come together periodically, to share information, to discuss issues, and to share what they have learned with their own local groups. This exchange of information, ideas and experiences across the system helps to connect lo cal school communities and promotes a shared understanding of issues affecting all students and schools. The Parent-Community Network will invite participation from each ward forum in order to ensure system-wide involvement, and will be open to participation by any local, or system-wide parent or community group who wishes to participate. The Parent-Community Network is not a committee of the Board, and the Board is not required to refer matters to the Network for input, unless it so chooses.

      1. The Board shall support the formation of a system-wide Parent-Community Network made up of parents designated by each ward forum and other system-wide parent-community groups whose purpose is to provide an ongoing forum for parents and community members across the system to share information and to network on issues of concern to them.
      2. The Parent-Community Network shall operate under the guidelines contained in Appendix C.

    3. Public Consultation Forums
      The Board will occasionally need to hold special system-wide consultations with parents, communities and with other stakeholders, as part of the process of promoting community input into the development of major policies. Under this policy, Public Consultation Forums may take a variety of forms: a mixture of local school council and ward forum discussions; system-wide meetings or conferences; town hall meetings, public hearings; focus groups, work teams, task forces, written submissions or any combination of these.

      1. The Board shall convene system-wide Public Consultation Forums, when necessary, in order to promote system-wide community discussion and response to major policy directions under consideration.
      2. When necessary, the Board shall invite parent, community and student representatives from the appropriate groups across the system to participate in the planning and resourcing of system-wide Public Consultation Forums.

  4. Staff Support
    Principals, school superintendents and other supervisory staff who will assume overall responsibility for the operation of the structures outlined in this policy will require the support of field staff to assist them in co-ordinating the work of setting up and maintaining these structures, and in providing front-line advice and assistance to the schools, students, parents and communities involved. Similarly, trustees will count on the availability of staff support to ensure that ward forums are representative, inclusive and managed effectively.

    The Board shall ensure the allocation of school-community staff and other appropriate resources to help parents, community members, students, principals, supervisory officers, and trustees to develop and sustain the school-community structures, forums and procedures outlined in this policy, and these shall be allocated on an equitable basis across the Toronto District School Board.

  5. Annual Review
    In order to facilitate ongoing system support for the involvement of parents, community and students, there should be an opportunity to review periodically, the progress made in the implementation of the structures, forums and procedures for such involvement. This review will allow the Board to assess what changes are required, and what further supports are needed in order to maintain and enhance parent, community and student involvement in the Board.

    The Director of Education shall prepare an annual progress report on the implementation of the policy and procedures for parent, community and student involvement in the Toronto District School Board, and this report will include recommendations for change, if necessary.

Appendix A

Operating Guidelines for School Councils

Notes: (a) It is understood that the implementation of school councils is subject to the policies and by-laws of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the appropriate legislation of the Province of Ontario. (b) It is further understood that these guidelines describe ideal goals to be achieved. The inability of any school council to meet all of these guidelines does not invalidate the group.

  1. Naming the School Council

    Where possible, each school should incorporate the title "School Council" in the name of its school-community group.

  2. Membership of the Elected and Appointed Executive

    The membership of the Executive shall be as follows:

    1. Parents of students in the school (majority)
    2. Teaching staff
    3. Support staff/education workers
    4. Secondary or senior elementary students (optional at elementary level)
    5. The school principal
    6. Community representative(s)

    Notes: (a) The term "parent" includes guardians or any caregiver legally recognized as acting in the place of a parent. (b) A community representative may be any member, not necessarily a parent of a child enrolled in the school, who is appointed to represent a community group, program, agency or business working with or connected to the school, or any individual resident of the community who is actively supportive of the school. (c) The school council should define its elected and appointed officers as its school council's Executive, while designating all parents of children enrolled in the school as members of the school council. (d) The school council may appoint subcommittees drawn from the general membership, and may appoint representatives of those committees to the council's Executive.

  3. Term of Office
    One or two years (local option)

  4. Election and Appointment of Officers
    1. Parent representatives shall be elected by parents of students currently enrolled in the school
    2. Teaching staff representatives shall be elected by teaching staff
    3. Support staff/education workers representatives shall be elected by support staff/education workers
    4. Student representatives shall be elected by students
    5. The school principal shall be designated by the Board
    6. Community representatives shall be appointed by the school council

    Notes: (a) A school council election is defined as any process of selection based on nominations or volunteering to serve, which takes place at a meeting advertised to the school community (or to the staff or student group where applicable). This process only involves the casting of votes or ballots when there are two or more candidates agreeing to stand for the same position. Eligible nominees or volunteers who stand unopposed for school council positions are said to be "acclaimed" to those positions. The fact that all the parents and community members of the school council Executive are acclaimed, does not make the process invalid as long as this occurs at a meeting advertised to the school community. (b) Where the community member is appointed as a representative of their community group (program, agency or business), the group itself is invited to choose that member. (c) The chair or co-chairs must be parents of children currently enrolled in the school and shall not be members of the school's teaching, administrative or support staff.

  5. Time of election
    Elections shall be held in May-June or September-October.

    Note: A May-June election has the advantage of allowing the council to begin its activities early in September, including selection of representatives for the ward forum. However, if May-June is selected, then an opportunity to actively participate should be extended to new members of the school community in September-October.

  6. Meetings
    The school council shall hold a minimum of four (4) general meetings per year and they shall be open to all members of the school community. Notices of meetings, or a schedule of meeting dates, should be distributed to all parents and posted on the school's bulletin board.

  7. Communications
    1. The school council shall inform the school community annually of:
      1. The names of elected and appointed members (phone numbers are a local option);
      2. The dates of all general or special meetings of the school council (if the year's schedule has been established);
      3. The mandate and operating procedures of the council;
      4. A report summarizing the work of the school council including major decisions or achievements.
    2. The school council shall inform the school community on an ongoing basis of:
      1. Notices, agenda items and minutes of meetings (posted on school bulletin board);
      2. Any change in meeting dates;
      3. Decisions or recommendations of the school council, and of the TDSB where relevant;
      4. Dates of relevant TDSB meetings and ward forum meetings.

    Note: Where necessary, school council communications should be translated by the school into the primary languages of the local school community.

  8. Functions
    The school council will provide advice to the school principal, and where appropriate, to the local trustee and to the Board, on such matters as:
    1. Equity issues affecting students and parents such as school and curriculum activities reflecting the diversity of the community
    2. School-community communication strategies
    3. School planning committees, e.g. safety, budget, curriculum
    4. Participation in the ward community forums
    5. School building and renovation plans
    6. Extra-curricular activities
    7. Selection of principals and vice-principals
    8. School-community relations reviews
    9. School staffing process
    10. Development, implementation and review of Board policies
    11. Curriculum and program goals and priorities
    12. Student achievement results and follow-up plans of the school and the Board
    13. Methods of reporting to parents and the community
    14. School budget priorities
    15. School-based services and community partnerships (child care, social, health, recreation, nutrition)
    16. Local code of student behaviour
    17. School safety and security issues
    18. Local school-year calendar
    19. Other items as determined by the school, the community, or the Board

    Note: The school council is not required to address all of the items on the above list, but has the discretion to select those which it considers as priorities at any given time. Some items may be mandated for school council input by the Board. Consult the local trustee, or school superintendent of the Board's Administrative Services Office, for a current list of mandated items.

  9. Responsibilities of Members
    1. The Chair or Co-chairs:
      1. Calls and chairs school council meetings
      2. Prepares agendas in consultation with the principal and other members
      3. Ensures that minutes of council meetings are recorded and maintained
      4. Communicates with the principal on matters relating to the business of the council
      5. Ensures regular two-way communication between the council executive and the rest of the school community
      6. Ensures democratic procedures for decision making and for the overall conduct of the business of the council
      7. Liaises with senior staff members and trustees, as required and takes information back to the local council for discussion and action, where necessary
      8. Represents or speaks on behalf of the council on committees or forums beyond the school, except where that responsibility is delegated to other council members
      9. Ensures that the operation of the council is consistent with the guiding principles for school councils as established by the Board
      10. Encourages maximum involvement of the entire council
      11. Ensures representation of the council on the ward forum

    2. The School Principal:
      1. Helps to establish the school council and assists in its operation
      2. Assists the chair or co-chairs in their responsibilities
      3. Supports and promotes the council's activities within the school and community
      4. Provides such information about the school, its programs and the Board as is required to facilitate the business of the council
      5. Actively seeks the advice of the council in areas affecting the education of the students
      6. Acts as a resource to the council on laws, regulations, board policies, and collective agreements
      7. Encourages the participation of all members reflecting the diversity of the school community
      8. Helps the school council communicate effectively with the school community
      9. Ensures that copies of minutes of school council meetings and reports of the council are kept at the school and are accessible to members of the school community
      10. Arranges for the provision of available school resources to support the operation of the council, e.g. access to typing, fax machine, photocopier, school mail box, filing cabinet, storage and meeting space
      11. Maintains the authority, responsibility and obligations of the principalship as mandated by Board policy, and by the appropriate legislation and regulations of the Province of Ontario

    3. All School Council Executive Members:
      1. Participate in council meetings and in information and training programs, where offered
      2. Act as a link between the school council executive and the school community by consulting and reporting back, where appropriate
      3. Encourage others within the school community to participate in the activities of the council
      4. Follow the operating rules or guidelines as agreed upon by the council, including the guidelines for resolving differences of opinion
      5. Communicate as effectively as possible with the various communities in the school and work towards removing any barriers to the participation of all members of the school community

    Appendix B

    Operating Guidelines for Ward Forums
    1. Operating Procedures
      1. Where practical, the ward forum should consider using the geographic name of the ward to facilitate identification.
      2. The selection process for parent and community members from the local school takes place at a meeting of the school council to which all parents are invited; a selection process in May or June is recommended.
      3. Ward and family-of-schools meetings are open to any parent of a local school who wishes to attend.
      4. The ward forum actively promotes equity and diversity of participation in its activities, such diversity includes elementary and secondary school representation and participation by ethnocultural communities within the ward.
      5. The ward or family-of-schools council elects or appoints a parent chairperson(s) and a steering or planning committee.
      6. Parents form a majority of the steering or planning committee for the ward or family-of-schools council.
      7. A minimum of four (4) meetings per year are held.
      8. Written notice of meetings with an agenda is sent to the school council at least ten days in advance or within a reasonable time frame to facilitate participation.
      9. Written record (minutes or notes and reports) is kept and made available to local school councils and other interested parties.
      10. Where necessary, important communications should be translated into the major languages of the ward.

    2. Roles and Responsibilities
      1. Parent, community, student and staff representatives have input into the agenda-setting process through the steering or planning committee, or through direct communication with the trustee.
      2. Parent and community representatives should assume responsibility for reporting back to the school council on matters discussed at the ward forum.
      3. The parent chairperson and the steering or planning committee must be given the staff support necessary to ensure that they can discharge their responsibilities effectively.
      4. The trustee is an ex officio member of the steering or planning committee and may participate in the planning and agenda-setting process.
      5. The trustee attends meetings of the ward forum and assumes responsibility for reporting to the forum on relevant matters under consideration by the Board and for communicating the views of the participants back to the Board, where necessary.
      6. The superintendent contributes to the planning and agenda-setting process where necessary and attends the ward or family-of-schools meetings where required in order to provide information and guidance; the superintendent is also available to arrange resources to support the operation of the ward forum and to facilitate communication between the ward forum and local principals.
      7. School community liaison staff attends meetings of the ward forum and assume responsibility for assisting the trustee, parent chairperson and steering or planning committee to establish and maintain the ward forum for facilitating its activities and working with local school councils to promote local parent and community participation in its meetings.

    Appendix C

    Operating Guidelines for Parent-Community Network
    1. Each Ward Forum delegates parent representation to the Parent-Community Network.
    2. Each Board Advisory Committee and Community Liaison Group is invited to send representation.
    3. The Board may appoint a trustee liaison and an alternate to the Parent-Community Network.
    4. Staff will be assigned to support the Parent-Community Network.
    5. The Parent-Community Network establishes a parent Chair or Co-Chairs and an agenda-setting committee.
    6. The Network establishes a schedule of meetings as necessary (minimum of one per term); the schedule is publicized in advance to ward forums, Board Advisory Committees and Community Liaison Groups.
    7. The meetings of the Parent-Community Network are open to all members of the community.
    8. Minutes of the meetings are distributed to members, trustees, senior staff, and to interested parties, on request.
    9. Representatives from Ward Forums and other groups are expected to take back information to their groups where appropriate.

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