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Monday, November 1, 2010

PTO and Shared Decision Making

Question: I have heard about Shared Decision Making teams at BP. Can you tell me more about the purpose and why they are formed? I understand both parents and teachers are involved. I don't know what they do or if they are funded through budget or another means. Also, how does Shared Decision Making differ from the purpose of a school Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and how are teachers and parents selected to be part of a Shared Decision Making team? What kinds of decisions are made?

Answer: Shared Decision Making teams became a state mandate in 1994 to ensure that school decisions are made community-wide. According to state education regulations, every school district that receives state funds must have a decision-making structure that includes parents, and Shared Decision Making teams are funded from the district's general budget.

There are a few very clear differences between PTOs and Shared Decision Making teams. In general, I think of Shared Decision Making teams as looking from the school out into the community, and PTOs are looking from the community into the school. Here are more specifics:
  • A PTO is technically an outside organization separate from the school district.
  • There is no state mandate that a school has to have a PTO, even though they're wonderful support organizations.
  • PTOs are parent-driven groups, while Shared Decision Making teams are school-driven. O
  • One of the main purposes of PTOs is to raise money; Shared Decision Making teams cannot raise money.
As for the selection of Shared Decision Making team members, parents and teachers are solicited based on criteria in the district's formal Shared Decision Making plan. There are two parent members on each of the four Shared Decision Making teams in Broadalbin-Perth. Two of the most important requirements for parent members is that they be able to commit to attend all meetings and that they agree to represent all students from every grade in the school.

Shared Decision Making teams make decisions that have to do with a variety of topics, including enhanced education and co-curricular programs, communications, school climate, and short- and long-term district planning.
- answered by Stephen Tomlinson, District Superintendent

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