How is a SAC different than HSA?
The FACE Office will distinguish between SACs and HSAs based on our new SAC Criteria, which include 1) ongoing meetings, 2) the correct council composition, and 3) strategic conversations. Beyond these formal criteria, there are a few fundamental differences between SACs and HSAs:
First, SACs must include all stakeholders: the school principal, parents/family members, school staff, community members, and students (for middle and high schools only). HSAs are often parent-only groups; staff members can attend HSA meetings, but only parents can become HSA members and vote at meetings. Also, all HSA members must pay dues to the Home and School Council.
Second, SAC meetings must be focused around policies and issues. Strategic conversations require examining school data and brainstorming solutions to issues affecting student achievement and school improvement. By contrast, HSAs have historically been fundraising and event planning bodies.
Third, SACs cannot fundraise in the way that HSAs can. If a SAC chooses to fundraise, it must be done through the school’s student activity fund because SACs are overseen by the School District of Philadelphia. HSAs are not overseen by the School District of Philadelphia; the Home and School Council (which is the governing body of all HSAs in the city) has an office space in the School District of Philadelphia central office (440 N. Broad), but the District itself does not manage HSAs. The Home and School Council is a registered non-profit organization and as such it can fundraise.
How do I become a member of the SAC?
All interested people should fill out a SAC Application Form online at www.philasd.org/sac. When an applicant submits an application, a copy of their application will be sent to the applicant, the school principal, and the FACE Office.
How much power do SACs have to make decisions?
School Advisory Councils are advisory bodies, meaning that they have the power to look at, review, provide input on, and inform revisions/the creation of school programs, plans, and policies, such as the school budget and the comprehensive school plan.
In Philadelphia, SACs are all about collaboration and consensus decision-making. The views of all SAC members are to be taken seriously by the school administration before the school moves forward with creating new programs, plans, or policies.
Who has the ultimate decision-making authority?
As the leader of the school, the school principal has the ultimate decision-making authority. However, the purpose of the SAC is to bring together diverse perspectives and expertise so that all stakeholders in the school community can collaborate to make the school better. As such, the school principal is expected to listen to and take seriously the perspectives and input of other SAC members.
SACs are not information-sharing sessions where the principal simply reads school policies and updates to parents; rather, the SAC is intended to be a real decision-making body where all members have a voice, discussions are robust, and all views are heard before a decision is made.