From the President Term 1, 2018

How can P&Cs plan for the future? Council President Kirsty McGovern-Hooley considers this in her first column in our regular magazine.

Thank you to the members of Council for their trust and support in electing me to the role of President. I offer a warm welcome to our council representatives, P&C members, and the new and ongoing members of our executive committee for 2018. It is gratifying to work with such a strong team of engaged people who are passionate about public education, who are unafraid to share their insights and ideas.

I would like to pay tribute to John Haydon, and acknowledge the intelligent, steady and considered leadership he has provided the Council for the last three years. His diligence, dedication and strong, passionate support of public education is inspiring. The executive is very grateful he is staying on as Vice-President.   I have some big shoes to fill! 

Last year, the “P&C” ran a disco for my school.  It was mad, exhausting and stressful, but we didn’t do it alone. Everyone (teachers, parents, students and even ex-students) helped with setup, running the event, and the clean-up. Towards the end of the night, I walked into the hall to see a massive conga line of several hundred students and parents sashaying their way around the hall, laughing and dancing and having fun. What struck me later, when we were reporting the ticket sales, was how we always measure our fundraising efforts in dollars, when really we should be measuring our success in “social capital”. Too often, the “value” of the P&C to a school is measured on its fundraising capability. Fundraising is certainly important, and provides practical and logistical support to a school, however the real value of P&Cs lies in how it builds the school’s connection with its local community, and how it brings our families together to enjoy our kids being kids.

There are some substantial challenges ahead for P&Cs. The world is changing fast, and our public education is at the forefront of this change.  Minister Berry’s initiative “The Future of Education” is engaging the community on a broad range of topics about the future of education. This has inspired our Council Executive to consider the “Future of the P&C”. 

Our members range from P&Cs which run six- and seven-figure business operations, with multiple sub-committees, to P&Cs who struggle to form a committee and find enough volunteers to meet their constitutional obligations.  Operationally, P&Cs function with very different levels of technical and administrative capability.  We have P&Cs who livestream the principal’s and president’s reports during meetings on Facebook, and those who provide paper reports and letters. We have P&Cs who have a qualified accountant managing their financial reporting, and others that manage with an excel spreadsheet. Many operate using cheques as the main payment method. The point is, a one-size model does not fit everyone’s purpose.

In planning for our future we need to consider the role of a P&C in a school. Are we a business? Are we a service provider? Are we a source of revenue? Are we an advisory body? Are we a check and balance? And what is the appropriate governance model to meet this purpose and community expectations? 

This year, consider how we can engage with the “C” in the P&C - our citizens. When forming your committees, approach and invite grandparents and neighbours, or members of local groups such as neighbourhood watch, community association, men’s shed, senior’s group, special interest group or multicultural group to join your P&C as an ordinary member or office bearer. P&C committees will benefit from the different perspectives and ideas that citizen members can bring. Form connections with local community groups to plan events, organise fundraising initiatives and work constructively together on community issues such as traffic, parking and community land use.

Wishing you well for 2018. 

This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 1, 2018.