Committees: A Great Opportunity to Have Your Voice Heard


Note: Some areas of the country also use the term “school committee” to refer to their elected school boards. Although running for school board is obviously an effective way to have your voice heard, we are not talking about that in this resource.

Many parents are eager to be involved in crafting the policies and determining the priorities that impact students. While some parents are regular classroom volunteers or help in the school cafeteria, others want a seat at the decision-making table. Joining a committee or task force is an excellent way to be engaged and to help shape your individual school or the whole district’s future. 

In many districts, a school committee will establish and review educational goals and policies. 

There are over 11,000 school districts across the country.  It can feel like there are nearly as many terms and names for “school committees” as there are school districts! We at Parents Defending Education want to give you a few tips and suggestions as you navigate the different school committees in your home district. 

If you are interested in joining a committee in your district, you will need to look into the process to figure out which committees are available and the criteria for joining. In some districts, the school board receives applications and selects members. In other districts, the school board members can directly place participants on a committee. For some smaller districts, you can join a committee by reaching out to the superintendent, assistant or expressing your interest to the principal.  Interested parents should reach out to their district leadership to determine available opportunities.

What Does it Take?

Many committees are looking for relevant expertise, skills and experience tied to the topic and purpose of the committee. Parents have a front row seat to what is really happening in the school. Don’t discount that as “relevant experience.” Many committees have lots of representation from within the school system – teachers, counselors, PTA leaders, union members – but are lacking in parents and community members who bring diversity of viewpoint to the table. Our schools need to hear from ALL stakeholders and that includes parents who may or may not share the same views as the current school board chair or superintendent. Parents bring a unique and invaluable perspective to the conversation. 

What are Some Examples of Types & Names of Committees?

Districts have different names for different types of committees. Interested parents should ask for a list of committees in their district. Below are some popular school committees:

  • Advanced Academic Programs Advisory Committee
  • Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities (ACSD)
  • FPAC – Facilities Planning Advisory Council
  • Human Resources Advisory Committee
  • Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee (MSAOC)
  • School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC)
  • Title I Parent Advisory Committee
  • Family Life/Education Committee
  • Secondary Grading Committee
  • Student Rights and Responsibilities Committee
  • Health and Wellness Committee
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee
  • School Improvement Team (SIT)

Board Standing Committees (or subcommittees) – made up of various school board members. You must be a school board member to be on this committee.

School Committee – is a group of elected or nominated members responsible for managing and overseeing the activities of a school, and to provide it with community support. (Reminder: we are not talking about the “school committees” in New England that are synonymous with school boards—the committees we are talking about also exist in districts with elected school committees so the terminology can get a bit confusing.)

Citizen Advisory Committees – The School Board also appoints members to numerous citizen advisory committees to increase community input on specific issues. Citizen advisory committees include citizens from the magisterial districts and one appointed Board member liaison. Each Board member appoints a citizen to the committee. 

These are just some examples and all of this varies widely from state to state, county to county and district to district. Reach out to your district to find out what opportunities exist to join a committee in your district and see if any seem like a fit for you or someone you know. 

If you’ve made it onto one of the committees in your district, let us know! It might be one we’ve never heard of that we can add to our list.