Community Forum on School Governance Councils and SPMTs

Shelia and Fay

L to R: Shelia Brantley and Dr. Fay E. Brown

A community forum about the new School Governance Council (SGC) legislation (Public Act 10-111) was held at Cooperative Arts High School in New Haven on November 29, 2010. SGCs are mandated in schools that are among 5% of the state’s lowest performing, and that failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in math and reading at the whole school level.

Judy Carson, Ph.D. of the Connecticut State Department of Education reviewed the requirements and role of SGCs. Fay E. Brown, Ph.D., an Associate Research Scientist at the Yale Child Study Center and the School Development Program's Director of Child and Adolescent Development, and Shelia Brantley, M.A., a Teacher on Special Assignment who serves as the District Comer Facilitator for the New Haven Public Schools, presented an overview of the School Planning and Management Team (SPMT). Brown and Brantley work together to support the ten schools in New Haven that are engaged in a renewal of the Comer Process.

The SPMT, one of three structures that comprise the framework of the Comer Process, develops a Comprehensive School Plan, sets academic, social, amd community relations goals, and coordinates all school activities, including staff and parent development programs. The SPMT creates critical dialogue around teaching and learning and monitors progress to identify needed adjustments to the school plan, as well as opportunities to support the plan. Members of the team include an administrator, teachers, support staff, parents, and students when appropriate. 

The School Governance Councils will enable parents, school staff, students (where appropriate), and community leaders to work together to improve student achievement. SGCs will serve in an advisory capacity and are charged with assisting the school administration in making programmatic and operational changes to improve student achievement. The law requires seven parents, five teachers, and two community representatives be elected to serve on the SGC.

Dr. Brown and Ms. Brantley described the similarities and differences between School Planning and Management Teams and School Governance Councils. For example, SPMT members are volunteers, and most SGC members are elected. Another way that SPMTs and SGCs differ is in their composition. “Parents, an administrator, teachers from each grade level or discipline, paraprofessionals, community members, a custodian, security guard, and the union rep provide a large array of participation because the piece that drives this team is the collaboration across constituencies,” said Brantley.

Another key difference is in how decisions are made. School Governance Councils will make their decisions by voting. In the Comer Process decisions are made by consensus. “Let’s come to an agreement about what we believe as a group is in the best interest of our kids. That’s the heart of the Comer model. What is it that we believe as stakeholders is in the best interest of all the kids in the school,” said Dr. Brown.

“Most schools in New Haven have functioning SPMTs,” said Brantley. “They may be called a Cross-Constituency Team. The function of the team is what’s important so that there’s communication and an understanding of what’s going on in the school by all groups.” Dr. Brown described the kinds of questions that that SPMTs pose: “What programs are we bringing into the school? Are these programs going to get the outcomes for our students that we want for them?”

For more information:

Renewal of the SDP model in the New Haven Public Schools, click here.

The School Planning and Management Team and the SPMT subcommittees, click here.

To download a copy of the PowerPoint, "Two Structures of School Governance: SPMT and SGC," by Shelia Brantley, M.A. and Fay E. Brown, Ph.D., click here.

To download a copy of the PowerPoint, "School Governance Councils: Overview of the Legislation’s Purpose and Requirements," presented by Dr. Judy Carson, click here.

To watch the video of the community forum, click here. (Brown and Brantley presentation begins at 16:12.)

“Parents to Help ‘Govern’ Failing Schools,” by Melissa Bailey, New Haven Independent, November 30, 2010

The Connecticut State Department of Education has a page on their website dedicated to School Governance Councils (SGCs) that includes the authorizing state legislation (Section 21(g) of Public Act 10-111), the purpose and requirements, frequently asked questions, and more.