State law encourages community member representation on school governance councils or in school improvement planning efforts.
A Framework for Delaware's ESSA Plan
The Delaware ESSA framework document states that LEAs are required to submit a plan to the Delaware Department of Education that outlines their proposed uses of federal ESSA funds and is developed in consultation with stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, families, and communities.
Delaware Administrative Code 14-203 Approval of School Improvement Grants
3.1 A school that has an approved shared decision making transition plan as specified in 14 Del.C. § 806., may apply for a school improvement implementation grant. To apply for a grant, the principal of the eligible school should submit a letter of request to the Office of the Secretary of Education, Delaware Department of Education, 401 Federal Street, Suite 2, Dover, DE 19901-3639. Requests shall include the following information:
3.1.1 Evidence that the local board of education has adopted the school's transition plan; and
3.1.2 The school improvement plan containing the following components:
18.104.22.168 Comprehensive school improvement goals tied to state and local academic performance Standard and strategies to achieve these and other goals identified by the school, including staff development and parental involvement;
22.214.171.124 A description of the rationale for the proposed governance structure, stating how and why the governance process should improve decision making and support continuous improvement in teaching and student learning;
126.96.36.199 Evidence of review by the broader school community with agreement that the school improvement plan is consistent with the school district plan and evidence that the local board of education has formally adopted the school's improvement plan;
188.8.131.52 A proposed budget that explains the use of resources allocated to the school to support strategies for achieving the school improvement goals;
184.108.40.206 The structural changes or procedures for providing the necessary time and skill-building to support shared decision making and continuous improvement in teaching and student learning;
220.127.116.11 The assessment and evaluation process that the school will use to measure its progress toward achieving its stated goals;
18.104.22.168 A proposed timeline for phasing in the school improvement plan; and
22.214.171.124 A proposed budget for the use of the school improvement grant.
Delaware Code 14-801 Definitions.
As used in this chapter,
(1) "School community" shall mean a community comprised of the stakeholders responsible for providing and structuring a child's education; specifically, the board of education at the district level, certified and noncertified school employees, parents, community members and, as appropriate, students.
(2) "Shared decision-making" shall mean an inclusive, representative decision-making process in which members of the school community at the school and district levels participate as equals. Shared decision-making may occur at all levels of a school system.
(3) "Structured conversations and activities" shall mean ongoing opportunities for representatives of the entire school community, as defined herein, to collectively and collaboratively explore and become knowledgeable about the processes, systems and governance structures commonly associated with shared decision-making; to identify the skills, knowledge and attitudes which promote successful shared decision-making; to review the research related to the successes and shortcomings of shared decision-making in educational settings; and to determine the readiness and commitment of the various groups within the school community to proceed with shared decision-making as a means to achieve the goal of improved teaching and student learning and improved school safety and discipline. The use of professional facilitators to conduct such conversations is advisable and the Department of Education and local districts shall collaborate with other educational stakeholder groups to make such facilitators available at reasonable costs to districts and schools for such purposes.
Delaware Code 14-802 Shared decision-making at the school district level.
(a) Each board of education shall initiate with other representatives of the school community initial structured conversations and activities concerning the utilization of shared decision-making by April 1, 1998, using such funds as are appropriated for this specific purpose in the annual appropriations act and as specified under § 807(a) of this title.
(b) The local board of education shall facilitate the selection of a district shared decision-making advisory committee ("District Advisory Committee") through an inclusive process that reflects the diversity within the school community.
Representatives of employee groups recognized under Chapter 40 of this title shall be selected by the relevant exclusive representative in a manner of the exclusive representative's choosing. Employees not organized under Chapter 40 of this title shall select their representatives from the membership of their employee groups. For student (where appropriate), parent and community groups, the local board of education shall coordinate the selection of representatives with organizations for each of these groups where they exist.
(c) The structured conversations and activities of the District Advisory Committee shall result in a Report and Recommendation to the local board, through a decision-making process it developed to produce as much agreement as practicable, that:
- (1) They wish to pursue shared decision-making further by developing a district transition plan to implement shared decision-making as a means of pursuing school improvement in the district, identifying the process they recommend for establishing a district transition plan, and determining the composition and roles and responsibilities of the "District Transition Team" to develop the district transition plan; or
- (2) They recommend that the district not explore shared decision-making further.
Delaware Code 14-803 District transition plans and grants.
(a) After the local board has endorsed the district transition planning process pursuant to § 802(e) of this title, the board shall initiate the district transition plan by applying for a transition planning grant as authorized in the annual state appropriations act or through the Department of Education’s allocation of federal funds.
(b) The Department of Education with the approval of the State Board of Education shall adopt guidelines for the approval of district transition grants, based upon the recommendations of a State Board advisory committee comprised of representatives of the school community, and shall promulgate such guidelines by January 1, 1997, so that districts may consider them during their activities pursuant to § 802 of this title and this section. The guidelines shall require, but not be limited to specifying, that the district demonstrate that the district has:
(1) Conducted structured conversations and activities to make the transition to shared decision-making as evidenced by local board action and the Report and Recommendation of the District Advisory Committee signed by representatives of school community as specified in § 802(d) of this title;
(2) Established a District Transition Team;
(3) Established a working procedure for the District Transition Team to reach decisions and resolve conflicts;
(4) Validated significant support from members of the school community;
(5) Established plans for communicating the results of the district transition plan to the broader school community for information and critical review;
(6) Specified within its district transition plan its policy for supporting such activities from its local budget, including the school improvement planning process set forth in § 806 of this title, and specifically identified funds to be made available to school committees for their use, such as funds for professional development and classroom materials; and
(7) Described how the various stakeholder groups will formally express their opinion regarding the district transition plan prior to its adoption by the local board of education.
(c) The Department of Education shall provide local school boards and District Transition Teams with assistance, guidance and strategies to initiate, develop and formally adopt their district transition plans.
(d) The local board of education, following public review and comments, shall be responsible for the final form and formal adoption of the district transition plan.
(e) A local board’s decision not to adopt a District Transition Plan for shared-decision-making shall not limit the authority of a school principal who demonstrates significant faculty support to submit a waiver request to the local board pursuant to a provision of this title or to develop a school improvement plan; provided, however, that this subsection shall not deprive the local board of its authority to disapprove a waiver request or a school improvement plan pursuant to its authority under § 1049 of this title.
Delaware Code 14-804. Shared decision-making at the school level.
(a) Any school in a school district which has adopted a district transition plan as specified in § 803(d) of this title shall establish a school-level shared decision-making advisory committee (“School Advisory Committee”). Such school may also submit a written request to the Department of Education, via its local board of education, in order to receive funds to conduct structured conversations and activities among the school community to decide whether or not to apply to the Department of Education for a school-level shared decision-making transition grant as specified in § 807(d) of this title and as provided for in the annual appropriations act.
(b) The principal shall facilitate the selection of representatives on the School Advisory Committee through an inclusive process as established in the District Transition Plan that has the goal of ensuring a fair selection process for the representatives of constituencies within the school community such as parents, community members, teachers, administrators, other employees and students (where appropriate) which reflects the diversity within the school community. Such process shall ensure that the members of the various constituencies select their respective representatives.
(c) The structured conversations and activities, as defined in this title, shall result in a decision, accompanied by an explanatory report and recommendation, by the School Advisory Committee, through a process it developed to produce as much agreement as practicable, that:
(1) They wish to pursue share decision-making further by developing a school transition plan to implement shared decision-making for educational improvement in the school; or
(2) They choose not to explore shared decision-making further.
(d) If the School Advisory Committee decides to proceed with shared decision-making, the structured conversations and activities shall result in the development of a process to establish a school transition plan, to determine the composition of the “School Transition Team” and to develop the roles and responsibilities delegated to the School Transition Team. The School Transition Team representatives shall be selected through the same process established by subsection (b) of this section for their respective constituency groups. The decision as to these issues shall be reflected in the Report and Recommendation pursuant to subsection (c) of this section or in a supplemental Report and Recommendation, signed in accordance with subsection (e) of this section.
(e) Each representative of a stakeholder group who participates in the structured conversation and activities of the School Advisory Committee pursuant to subsection (b) of this section shall sign the Report and Recommendation pursuant to subsection (c) of this section and any supplemental Report and Recommendation pursuant to subsection (d) of this section. Each such representative shall also indicate that the representative has made a good faith effort to communicate with the representative’s stakeholder group so as to ensure that the views of the membership of the representative’s stakeholder group were reflected in the Report and Recommendation.
(f) The Department of Education and the relevant local district administration shall provide schools with assistance, guidance and strategies to initiate and plan the implementation of these structured conversations and activities.
Delaware Code 14-808. Review of district and school plans.
District transition plans and school improvement plans shall be reviewed and evaluated at least every 3 years or more frequently upon a schedule specified within the school’s or district’s plan to measure continuous progress in achieving the goals specified in the plan. Such review and evaluation shall include the school community. The results of such review and evaluation will be reported in the annual school district and school profiles as specified in this title.
Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan
In the ESSA state plan, the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) emphasizes the importance of community engagement for successful school improvement efforts, and requires that schools under improvement must engage community stakeholders in a meaningful way to conduct a needs assessment and develop an improvement plan. The ESSA state plan also states that the DDOE will support and work with LEAs in their family and community engagement efforts.