Want to make a difference in school policy? Vote on key initiatives and proposals by the school principal? Divulge into worksheets of data representing student achievement? My recommendation: join the School Community Council (SCC).

For the past two years, I have served as a student member and currently as chairman of the SCC at Kaiser High School. It’s a panel of elected and appointed members in every Hawaii public school that meets monthly to provide input on important school level decisions and policies.

Created by the Hawaii State Legislature in 2004 under Act 51, the SCC serves as a backbone to foster empowerment at the school level, increase involvement among different stakeholders in every school, and ensure accountability of student achievement.

Kaiser High School sign and buildings

Kaiser High School has an active School Community Council program.

Civl Beat

Members of the SCC consist of various stakeholders including principals, teachers, school staff, parents, students, and community members. Everyone has an equally important voice in representing their stakeholder group. This is reflected as every stakeholder group have the same number of members in the SCC. Unlike other parent organizations, the Council is not a fundraising organization and does not have the power to appropriate funds to specific programs.

However, it provides a forum for open discussions and problem solving. Although this may sound like a powerless organization, the structure of the SCC is valuable as it doesn’t allow for any potential personal motives and political implications from all of its members.

I have been pleased to work with all the other adult members who all been open to hearing the perspective of students. There has never been a time that I felt reluctant to express my views or felt being ignored.

In fact, many SCCs, including Kaiser’s, allocate an agenda item for a student report at every meeting. Instead of simply being a statistic through test scores and a a student survey, my input along with my fellow peers is well heard at the SCC that not only looks through these statistics, but also divulge for the input of the student members.

An important aspect of the Council is that every member does not solely represent his or her own constituency. Rather, every member is encouraged to share a united perspective to facilitate the school’s vision. For example, my SCC, along with principal Justin Mew, have identified a vision to promote academic achievement through investing in rigorous programs such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) Career Technical Education (CTE) that offers courses aimed at college and career preparation. In addition, Kaiser’s SCC identified a priority to ensure the success of these programs through funding teacher training and support staff positions.

All of these initiatives and priorities culminate into the Academic Financial Plan, a detailed plan which every principal outlines the school’s budget and academic policies for the following year. Every school may have their own distinct priorities and vision of their campus. However, it is ultimately the SCC of every campus to culminate such ideas on paper with the principal in the Academic Financial Plan.

In addition to facilitating discussions, the Council is also recognized by the Hawaii DOE as a channel to provide input on key school level decisions. School principals are required from their SCC when asking for exemptions from the DOE on a number of policies such as the bell schedule.

Early this school year, Principal Mew asked for an exemption to allow a couple early release days for Kaiser High School and Niu Valley Middle School teachers to hold joint faculty meetings. As chairman, I was tasked to facilitate a discussion and approval from my fellow members for Principal Mew to proceed with his proposal. After Kaiser’s SCC unanimously approved the proposal, I wrote a joint letter with Principal Mew to signify support from the SCC for the early release days. As a result, the early release days were granted by the Complex Area Superintendent and Superintendent Matayoshi.

In a way, the SCC places accountability on the principal to ensure important decisions are vetted by the school community. In addition, SCC members are also tasked by Complex Area Superintendents to sit on the interview panel for school principals. This further provides input from school communities when being affected by important decisions such as hiring school principals and approving school level policies.

It is never too late to join the process to make your voices heard. I recommend that anyone interested in becoming members of their School Community Council to sit in their meetings as they are all open to the public. Active participation can always make change in any community, and the SCC is a great forum to facilitate positive change.

Kaiser High School will hold an SCC meeting Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 5 p.m. in the school’s office conference room.

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About the Author

  • Kendrick Chang
    Kendrick Chang is a senior at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and grew up in East Oahu. At GWU, he is a political communication major in the School of Media and Public Affairs and president of the Hawaii Club. He is also a youth advisor for the Livable Hawaii Kai Hui and a member of the Save Ka Iwi Coalition and the Hawaii Kai Lions Club.