How Business Gets Done
Running any business is a lot of work, and our school is no exception. Decisions must be made - everything from how much we should budget for new carpeting, to whether or not a visitor from one of our sister schools will be allowed on campus. But who makes these decisions, and how do they arrive at the conclusions that will determine the future of Alpine Valley School? The answer is: School Meeting.
All staff and currently enrolled students are School Meeting Members, the individuals that make up School Meeting. Once a week all School Meeting Members gather in the Theater for the weekly School Meeting, where items such as those listed above are presented, debated, and ultimately decided. School Meeting is not mandatory, anyone may decide to attend or not based on their own interest in the business of the meeting (which is published in advance in the form of an agenda).
School Meetings are presided over by a School Meeting Chair, who runs the meeting and maintains order throughout. The School Meeting Secretary is also present and, in addition to publishing the agenda, records decisions made at each meeting which are then made available for review. Both of these roles are filled by students more often than not; in particular, the role of School Meeting Chair has not been held by a staff member since the school's founding.
The meeting itself is run using Robert's Rules of Order, a system that many new students are not familiar with. However, after enough exposure to School Meeting and Judicial Committee, most new School Meeting Members get the hang of it pretty quickly. Using parliamentary procedure helps keep the meeting focused on the business at hand, and allows each School Meeting Member to make their voice heard.
In a typical School Meeting the business of the day might include:
- A review of the previous week's JC Report, to ensure that each case was handled fairly and that any sentences issued were appropriate. (This is on the agenda every week)
- Handling an appeal of a sentence from someone charged by Judicial Committee that objected to the sentence they were given. (In this case, the School Meeting would hear arguments from the individual and the Judicial Committee and determine an appropriate sentence.)
- Hearing a motion to modify law SMM 10-6 to allow the playing of loud music in the Main Room. (Motions like this require two hearings in School Meeting before they are voted on.)
- Voting on staff contracts for the coming school year. (All School Meeting Members are involved in the hiring and firing of staff, as well as hammering out the specifics of each contract).
Students as young as five can participate freely in debating and voting on any School Meeting business, which many feel is an empowering experience. Similarly, students have submitted many motions to School Meeting over the years, changing aspects of life at school they didn't enjoy. These motions don't always pass (sometimes we have laws for a reason) but sometimes they do and the school as a whole is better off for it. In any case, every School Meeting Member is empowered to speak their mind and enact change, which is a powerful lesson.
Want to learn more? Listen to the AVS Podcast episode about School Meeting.