In 2004, the Hawaii State Legislature took significant steps to ensure that school community members would have greater influence in public education. The “Reinventing Education Act of 2004 (Act 51 as amended by Act 221, Session Laws of Hawaii 2004)” created Schools Community Councils (SCC) to support school improvement and the academic achievement of students through increased community involvement in the school.
HRS Section 302A-1124 mandates the Board of Education and Department of Education to establish a school community council system for Hawaii’s schools. The law improves the way the state’s single school system is organized, particularly by allowing for more educational decision making at the school level and thereby increasing the involvement of those directly affected by the decisions. A matrix of Act 51/221 requirements summarizes the requirements specified in the state statute.
The Hawaii State Board of Education adopted the following policies to implement School Community Councils in all Hawaii public schools:
- Policy 500.19, School Community Councils establishes school community councils in all public schools.
- Policy 500.20, School Community Council Waivers and Exceptions establishes procedures for schools to request waivers from specific Board policies or rules and/or exceptions to specific provisions of labor agreements.
- Policy 2413, Student Instructional Hours and School Year Requirements Policy and Waiver Process specifies procedures for schools to request waivers from the policy on student instructional hours and school year requirements pursuant to HRS 302A-251.
School Community Councils were established to provide a mechanism whereby key stakeholders can have a substantially increased voice in the affairs of their local schools. The “spirit” and intent of Act 51 was to:
- Strengthen the ties between school and community;
- Provide a voice for all major stakeholder groups;
- Create opportunities for collaboration and partnership in the educational system; and
- Focus on a shared goal of improving student achievement and system’s accountability.
As the “trustees or facilitators of the school’s vision and mission,” the School Community Council:
- Acts as a caretaker of the school;
- Functions in an advisory role;
- Practices good stewardship and acts as a whole, taking responsibility for communicating with all role groups and for the benefit of all children rather than as individuals representing a role group and specific agendas;
- Approaches issues from a unified perspective;
- Garners community support for major initiatives;
- Focuses decisions based upon what is best for ALL students; and
- Contributes to the share goal of improving student achievement.
The policies developed by the Hawaii State Board of Education and Hawaii State Department of Education to implement School Community Councils are based on three common-sense principles:
- Individuals closest to the students should be more involved in making significant decisions affecting the instructional program of the school.
- A school plan to improve student academic achievement receives more support when people understand and help create that plan.
- When families participate in a variety of ways in their children’s education, including decision-making, their children and the school are more successful.