Purposes and Responsibilities of the Board Board Membership Operation of the Board Business of the Board
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.
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:
What are the Catholic schools about?
Catholic schools are
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Purposes and Responsibilities of the Board
Broadly, the key functions of the Parish Education Board (PEB) may include:
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.
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.
Ongoing board formation
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.
Operation of the Board
An effective board:
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:
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:
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.
As a minimum, each board should maintain four key documents:
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.
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.
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?
Build relationships with other boards e.g. networks and clusters and attend professional development programs.
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
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:
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.
Recent educational research indicates that:
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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