The Connecticut General Assembly has a fondness for mandating the establishment of committees in public education. In recent years, school districts have been directed to create committees to address bullying, school security and safety, and school improvement. This year, proposed legislation regarding chronic absenteeism (a bill that was not passed by the legislature in regular session) threatened to add yet another committee for schools to convene to tackle the problem of absenteeism. Even the infamous “chocolate milk” bill – that was vetoed by the Governor—includes a minor revision to the law regarding the membership of professional development committees.
Just how many committees have been legislatively created? Here is a sampling:
Safe school climate committee
The principal of each school shall establish a committee or designate an existing committee in the school to “develop and foster” a safe school climate and address issues related to bullying. The committee must include at least one parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the school. The committee’s duties are many; for example, it reviews reports of bullying, identifies patterns of bullying, collects, evaluates and reports information relating to disturbing behavior to the school security and safety committee, amends bullying policies, and makes recommendations. Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-222k.
School security and safety committee
Each school must have this committee to assists in the development and administration of the school security and safety plan. The membership must include “a local police officer, a local first responder, a teacher and an administrator employed at the school, a mental health professional . . . a parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the school, and any other person the board of education deems necessary. Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-222m.
Professional development and evaluation committee
Boards of education must have professional development and evaluation committees that include certified employees (including representatives selected by the union) and other school personnel deemed appropriate. This committee is charged with developing the teacher evaluation and support program for the school district. Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-220a.
Schools that have been selected by the Commissioner of Education to participate in the Commissioner’s network of schools to improve academic achievement must form a committee to conduct an operations and instructional audit and develop, monitor and implement a turnaround plan. By law, the committee must include two members appointed by the board of education (an administrator and a parent or guardian), three appointed by the teachers’ union (two teachers employed by the board and one parent) and the Commissioner or Commissioner’s designee. The Superintendent of Schools or Superintendent’s designee is a non-voting, ex officio member who serves as chairperson. Conn. Gen Stat. §10-223h.
Indoor air quality committee
Boards may create such committees to increase awareness of environmental issues — such as air quality, water quality and radon — that may affect the health of individuals within school facilities. Although the creation of an indoor air quality committee is voluntary, if one is, in fact, formed, the membership must include “at least one administrator, one maintenance staff member, one teacher, one school health staff member, one parent of a student and two members-at-large from the school district.” Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-231f.
Cooperative arrangement committees
Two or more boards may by written agreement, establish cooperative arrangements to provide school accommodations (such as transportation), services, programs, activities, special education, or health care services, and the arrangement may include the creation of committees to supervise such programs. Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-158a.
Boards of education “may establish a school district safety committee to increase staff and student awareness of safety and health issues and to review the adequacy of emergency response procedures at each school. Parents and high school students shall be included in the membership of such committees.” Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-220f. Arguably, safety committees have essentially been superseded by the school security and safety committees required by a separate law.