Major school decisions are made by students and staff voting on proposals: one person, one vote. Some decisions must be made by the staff because of law, education policies of New York State and the city school district, and the spirit and philosophy of the school.
The decision-making process was developed by the school community in 1976 in order to ensure a more effective process that involved the maximum number of students in decision making.
The process is designed to help students in:
- Defining problems and needs
- Presenting their view of problems and/or proposed solutions
- Refining rough draft proposals
- Coming to a clear understanding of what finally is proposed
- Voting in an informed and reasoned manner.
For this process to work effectively all of the school community must be available at the same time. All extended classes must be in their rooms during the time allotted for the decision-making process, Friday mornings from 9:00 to 12:00. Proposals may not be distributed after 10:00 a.m.
I. IDENTIFICATION OF NEED OR PROBLEM
When an individual or group identifies an issue to be addressed (e.g., use of drugs or alcohol during school time, control of student-raised money, improving the decision-making process), the problem should be presented to his or her extended class during the Friday morning group session. After the group has clearly defined the problem or has developed a proposal to meet these needs, it can present its concerns to the school body.
II. COMMUNICATING WITH THE SCHOOL BODY
The group sends representatives to each extended class: to point out the needs or problem requiring attention and to get the feelings of the other groups about the concern, or to present to them a draft proposal for reaction and/or amendment, if necessary.
III. REFINING OF FINAL PROPOSAL
The group’s representatives then return to their own group to report the concerns or feelings of the rest of the school body. This combined information can then be used to write the final proposal to be presented to the school body for decision. The final draft of the proposal should be checked with the program administrator to see if it has dealt completely with the issue and that it has been drafted in the appropriate form.
IV. PRESENTATION OF FINAL PROPOSAL FOR A VOTE
Copies of final drafts of proposals are to be sent to other extended classes for final discussion and vote. (The original copy of the proposal must be sent to the office for filing.) It is suggested that the representatives of the presenting group go with the proposal in order to explain or answer questions.
V. TALLYING OF THE VOTE
All extended classes report their vote to the school office where the tally will be made. Decisions are made on the basis of the grand total of the individual votes. This process can take as little as one day. However, complex problems or proposals may take longer.
VI. OTHER OPTIONS FOR IDENTIFYING PROBLEMS AND EXPLAINING PROPOSALS
Since all groups meet at the same time for the same purpose, it is possible for:
- People from two or more extended classes to form a problem-solving group to identify a problem or write a proposal.
- Two or more groups to meet together, when both agree to, to share concerns and feelings.
- A group to request a whole school meeting, which will be held if and when all groups agree to it. No extended class or problem-solving group has the right to demand of other groups that they stop doing what they are doing in order to listen to those who call the meeting. They may ask the other groups to come together to identify a concern or explain a proposal.
From the 1988-89 student handbook of School Without Walls, 480 Broadway, Rochester, NY 14607. (Tel: 716-546-6732 716-546-6732 .)