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  • Primary School Boards

    Purposes and Responsibilities of the Board 
    Board Membership 
    Operation of the Board 
    Business of the Board 

    Introduction

    Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Melbourne 

    Canon 803 of the Code of Canon Law states that:

    A Catholic school is understood to be one which is under the control of the competent ecclesiastical authority…No school, even if it is in fact Catholic, may bear the title 'catholic school' except by the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority. 

    The 'competent authority' in the Archdiocese of Melbourne is the Archbishop of Melbourne who, as chief pastor and teacher, is responsible for Catholic schools within his jurisdiction. The Archbishop has an obligation to watch over and inspect Catholic schools situated in his territory, even those established or directed by members of religious institutes.

    The establishment of boards in Catholic parish primary schools in Victoria 

    The establishment of school boards coincided with the changes brought about by Vatican II for the laity to take a more active role in the Church and the expansion of the Catholic education sector in the late 1960s and 1970s.

    The Archbishop of Melbourne supports the establishment of boards for parish primary schools which encourage partnership and participation of school, parish and the wider community in the life of the school and parish.

    While the provision of a school environment that supports the Catholic ethos is largely the responsibility of the parish priest, principal and school staff, boards play a significant role in supporting the spiritual and educational welfare of students.

    Advisory in Nature 

    Boards in parish primary schools are an advisory body governed by its constitution.

    Sample Constitution:

    Parish primary school boards 

    The majority of Catholic parish primary schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne have established boards or an equivalent body.

    The preferred title of a board of a parish primary school is a Parish Education Board (PEB). This name visibly makes and strengthens the links between the parish priest, principal, parents, school staff and parishioners in the provision of Catholic education in the parish community.

    The parish priest, upon consideration of local circumstances is responsible for making any decision about the establishment of a board or its arrangements.

     The relationship between the parish and the parish primary school in the provision of Catholic education is crucial to the faith development and learning outcomes of students, the enlivening of parish life and the development of community. It is important that schools and boards:

    • recognise, develop and maintain fruitful relationships within the parish
    • recognise the role of the school in the overall mission of the parish
    • recognise the contribution of parish to school
    • understand relationship of school to parish
    • play an active role in the life of the parish, including the education of all within the parish.

    What are the Catholic schools about? 

    Catholic schools are

    • partners with parents in the education of their children
    • partners with the Church in faith education
    • community providers of a public service
    • available to families across Victoria, in city and remote areas
    • committed to the achievement of the public goals of excellence and equity
    • significant service providers delivering a cost-effective service to the community.

    Catholic schools

    • practise and celebrate Christian values
    • offer an outstanding education as schools of first choice for Catholic parents
    • provide religious education and opportunities for faith development in communities where prayer and sacramental celebrations are integral
    • are welcoming communities and promote quality interpersonal relationships
    • are inclusive and safe and foster a strong sense of wellbeing
    • educate students for engagement in civic and public life, involving community service and issues of social justice
    • provide high quality academic, social and vocational education
    • build environments focused on achievement, challenge, creativity and enjoyment
    • include highly qualified and caring teachers committed to the ethos of Catholic education
    • are accountable for the proper expenditure of government funds and parent fees
    • are accountable to parents and governments for student learning.

    See also 

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    Purposes and Responsibilities of the Board

    Broadly, the key functions of the Parish Education Board (PEB) may include:

    • providing advice on education matters relating to whole of parish including the school

                 or

    • providing advice on education matters relating to the school (common titles for these boards are School Board, School Advisory Board/Council).

    Boards established by the parish priest to act as an advisory body for the school focus on matters concerning the development of the school and the education and welfare of the students.

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    Board Membership

    Serving on the board of a Catholic school is a form of Church lay ministry. It is a response to the call to support the local Catholic parish and school communities in a particular way. It is also a means for members of the community to share their skills and talents for the common good.

    A well functioning board provides a rich source of wisdom and insight as well as a means of strengthening community links and potential for partnerships.

    Composition of the board 

    Through representation on the board, each board member assumes a leadership role in the school and parish. Each member must be committed to the ethos of the school as articulated in its mission and vision statements.

    The size and composition of the board is determined by the board constitution and should directly reflect the needs of the school and parish community. It is important that the composition of the board represents the breadth of involvement in the school and parish communities.

    The board should be composed of those who appreciate value and share the educational mission and ethos of the Catholic Church.

    Those interested in becoming a member of the board should seek advice from the school principal or parish priest on the process for appointment to the board. The process (e.g. nomination and election, by appointment) is determined by the parish priest in conjunction with the school principal.

    Qualities and skills of a board member 

    Each Catholic school is different, but all schools share the mission of the Church in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. The board should be composed of people who appreciate, value and share the educational mission and ethos of the Catholic Church.

    When seeking board members it is important to reflect on the qualities and skills of benefit to the board in carrying out its functions.

    The following is a suggested list of key qualities and skills for members of boards.

    • Commitment to Catholic education in the parish and school
    • Commitment to the vision and mission of the parish and school
    • An understanding of the role of parish priest, principal and board members
    • Willingness to ask questions and seek clarification
    • Ability to think strategically
    • Willingness to support the contributions of other board members
    • Capacity to listen in an active and meaningful way
    • Willingness to work co-operatively with others
    • Commitment to maintaining confidentiality at all times.

    Ongoing board formation 

    • A characteristic of an effective and high performing board is that it is engaged in ongoing board formation activities and programs.
    • Board formation is essentially about board members participating in programs and activities that will enhance their skills as a board member and provide further knowledge about the operations of the board.

    Professional learning and support for boards 

    With respect to the operation of boards, Catholic Education Melbourne acts as an agent of the Archbishop in facilitating the formation and ongoing support of boards.

    Catholic Education Melbourne conducts board formation through a program of professional learning activities for board members that are provided centrally and on a regional basis.

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    Operation of the Board

    An effective board:

    • is clear about its roles and responsibilities
    • has an effective working relationship between the board and the parish priest
    • is committed to ensuring that the parish and school work in partnership
    • pays attention to maintaining relevant and up-to-date documentation and processes.

    The board executive is a standing committee of the board and its members may include the parish priest, the principal, the board chair, and one other board member. Through their leadership, the board executive provides support to the principal and the board.

    The board executive has an important role in ensuring that the board is both proactive and focused in supporting the mission, vision and school improvement plan. The board executive is also responsible for modelling professional, collaborative and positive working relationships.

    The principal, as leader and manager of the school, is the executive officer of the board. The role of the executive officer is to:

    • play a key role in developing the overall goals and priorities of the board
    • play a key role in developing the agenda for meetings
    • ensure follow-up of actions arising from board meetings
    • act as the chief education advisor to the board
    • participate as a member of the board executive.

    Board meetings 

    The frequency of board meetings should be set out in the board constitution and should be reviewed on an annual basis.  It is common practice for boards to meet six to eight times during the year with the annual general meeting being one of these scheduled meetings.  Apart from the AGM, ordinary board meetings are not public meetings.

    Boards may call extraordinary meetings if required.

    The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the board can take place at any time during the year but normally takes place in the final term of the school year.  The parish and school communities should receive adequate notice of this meeting and of any intention to hold elections for any board positions that become vacant.

    The agenda for the AGM normally includes:

    • presentation of the board’s annual report by the chair This report may also form part of the requisite School Annual Report published on the school website and the VRQA State Register.
    • provision for questions from those present
    • election of prospective board members.

    Committees and working parties 

    To share and support the work of the board, the board may consider establishing committees Board committees and working parties are an effective means to make better use of board members’ expertise, by allowing those with particular knowledge, interests and skills to concentrate on those areas.  Board committees also create opportunities for leadership and succession planning.

    From time to time the board may also wish to establish a committee or working party for a specific purpose, or to undertake a particular task.  These committees may have the option of co-opting additional members to assist with their deliberations.  Board committees/working parties are directly responsible to the board.

    Board Documentation 

    As a minimum, each board should maintain four key documents:

    Constitution 

    The board constitution describes the role and function of the board, its membership and accountabilities.  This document, developed by the board, must be ratified by the parish priest. Once ratified, it provides a sense of status, purpose and direction for the board.

    The constitution is the first point of reference for the board to clarify its purpose. It is important that the document clearly describes the roles of the parish priest, principal and office bearers in relation to the operation of the board.

    It is the responsibility of the board executive to ensure that the board is operating within the constitution.

    Handbook 

    The board handbook is a manual of information, policies, processes and protocols for the smooth and efficient running of the board.  It provides more specific details of the rules described in the board constitution.

    • The board constitution 
    • The board handbook 
    • Minutes of board meetings 
    • Board correspondence file.

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    Business of the Board

    Each member of the board has an opportunity to make a unique contribution to the board and its contributions to the parish and school.  As a group, the board can provide valued contributions to the learning outcomes of the children and to the mission of Catholic education. 

     How can the board make valued contributions?

    • Align board goals and activities to the School Improvement Plan.
    • Undertake an annual board evaluation and review process.
    • Promote the school in the community – be an ambassador for the school.
    • Assist with the ongoing development of the school website and marketing plan.
    • Record and celebrate the history and achievements of the parish and school e.g. a commemorative book, a celebratory event.

    Build relationships with other boards e.g. networks and clusters and attend professional development programs.

    Goal setting 

    A plan setting out the general directions and goals of the board for the next 12 months is an important document for the board to develop if it is to be proactive and effective in its support of the parish, school and principal. The development of such a plan is best facilitated by the principal, so that it can be aligned with the strategic or school improvement plan

    Support for Catholic ethos 

    This is the most critical responsibility of the board. Working in conjunction with the parish priest and principal, the board is responsible for seeing that the school is faithful to its charter as a Catholic school.

    While the board is not involved in the day-to-day operation of the school, it exercises an overall role in

    • ensuring that the requirements of the Archdiocese in the area of religious education are honoured
    • the characteristics of the school as a Catholic school are pursued with diligence.

    Policy development and review 

    Policy making is a shared process and responsibility. Depending on the policy area, policy development in the parish primary school is usually undertaken by representatives from any or all of the following groups:

    • School leadership team
    • School staff
    • Board
    • Parents and parent groups
    • Students (if appropriate).

    The process of policy development and review varies according to the nature and context of the area or issue being considered but the responsibility for oversight of these processes rests with the school principal.

    The board has a role in assisting the policy development and review process. Members of the board may be represented on a group or committee that has responsibility for developing or reviewing a policy or the board as a whole may provide this input and advice.

    Developing community 

    Recent educational research indicates that:

    • Successful schools are those where a true partnership exists between the main stakeholders
    • Excellent schools are ones in which there is a strong connection with the parent community 
    • Parental interest in a child’s schooling is the most important influence on a child’s progress at school.

    The board is an important link between the school, family and the broader community. A major objective of the board should be to foster community participation and in particular, to encourage the engagement of parents in the learning of their children and in the activities of the school and parish. The board achieves this objective by working in collaboration with parish, school and community groups.

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