CHAPTER 457

FORMERLY

HOUSE BILL NO. 604

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO SHARED DECISION-MAKING AND SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

WHEREAS, the Education Improvement Commission recommended that school communities be held more accountable for enhancing the academic outcomes of students; and

WHEREAS, the Education Improvement Commission concluded that increasing the authority of school communities -- the board of education at the district level, certified and non-certified school employees, parents, community members and, as appropriate, students -- to make key decisions concerning instructional strategy, personnel, budget, student performance, staff development, school climate and organization is critical to achieving the State's goal of educational improvement; and

WHEREAS, the Education Improvement Commission noted that shared decision-making, within organizational structures custom-designed by individual schools and school districts, is a method for increasing the authority of school communities; and

WHEREAS, the Education Improvement Commission connects increased local board and school-level authority with increased accountability by stakeholder groups for continuous improvement in teaching and student learning; and

WHEREAS, the Education Improvement Commission strongly endorsed the voluntary transition to local shared decision-making for this purpose; and

WHEREAS, the Education Improvement Commission recognized that school communities must have or develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary to effectively and efficiently exercise such authority; and

WHEREAS, the Education Improvement Commission suggested that changes to the processes, systems and governance structures used by individual schools and school districts must occur through an evolutionary course which allows school communities a reasonable time Period to acquire these new skills, knowledge and attitudes while recognizing that principals and teachers are skilled professionals who have a high degree of training and knowledge; and

WHEREAS, the Education Improvement Commission recognized that the role of the State is to act as a catalyst to promote shared decision-making in individual schools and school districts by developing incentives, through its policies and school finance system, and to encourage schools and school districts to experiment voluntarily with the transition to shared decision-making as a means to achieve the goal of continued improvement of teaching and student learning; and

WHEREAS, the General Assembly finds that allowing school-level communities to make key decisions that affect the academic performance of their schools' students and the safety and climate of their schools is critical to educational improvement; and

WHEREAS, the General Assembly finds that local boards should be encouraged to empower shared-decisionmaking committees and that the State should provide incentives for the creation of such committees; and

WHEREAS, the General Assembly finds that shared-decisionmaking committees should focus on and have authority over issues directly related to academic performance and school discipline and safety; and

WHEREAS, the General Assembly finds the State and local boards should increase the authority of shared-decisionmaking committees to decide how their schools' reasonable share of resources for classroom materials, school-based staff and staff development should be spent.

NOW, THEREFORE:

BE IT ENACTED by the General Assembly of the State of Delaware:

Section 1. Amend Title 14 of the Delaware Code by adding a new Chapter 8 to read as follows:

"Chapter 8. School Shared Decision-making.

§ 801. Definitions.

As used in this chapter,

(a) '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 non-certified school employees, parents, community members and, as appropriate, students.

(b) '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.

(c) 'Structured conversations and activities' shall mean on-going 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 Public Instruction 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.

§ 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 chapter.

(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.

(c) Each representative of a stakeholder group who participates in the structured conversations and activities of the District Advisory Committee pursuant to subsection (b) shall sign the Report and Recommendation pursuant to subsection (c). Each such representative shall also indicate that they have made a good faith effort to communicate with their stakeholder group so as to ensure that the views of the membership of their stakeholder group were reflected in the Report and Recommendation.

(e)- If the school community agrees to pursue shared decision-making further, the school board shall, after due consideration of the Report and Recommendation of the District Advisory Committee, officially vote to endorse the concept of shared decision-making; the process for establishing a district transition plan; and the composition of the District Transition Team (whose membership shall be selected in accordance with the procedures set forth in § 802(b)); and the roles and responsibilities delegated to the District Transition Team. If the Board has concerns with a recommendation by the District Advisory Committee, it shall remand that recommendation to the District Advisory Committee for its proposed resolution of the concerns. The resolution shall be presented to and endorsed by the Board before the Board applies for a district transition planning grant.

(f) The Department of Public Instruction shall provide local school boards with assistance, guidance and strategies to initiate and plan the implementation of these structured conversations and activities.

§ 803. District transition plans and grants.

(a) After the local board has endorsed the district transition planning process pursuant to § 802(e), 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 State Board's allocation of federal funds.

(b) 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 I, 1997 so that districts may consider them during their activities pursuant to §§ 802 and 803 of this chapter. 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);

(1) Established a District Transition Team;

(2) Established a working procedure for the District Transition Team to reach decisions and resolve conflicts;

(3) 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;

(5) 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 chapter, and specifically identified funds to he made available to school committees for their use, such as funds for professional development and classroom materials; and

(6) 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 Public Instruction 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 hoard'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, drat 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.

§ 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 chapter shall establish a school-level shared decision-making advisory committee ("School Advisory Committee"). Such school may also submit a written request to the State Board 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 State Board of Education for a school-level shared decision-making transition grant as specified in § 807(d) of this chapter and as provided for in the annual appropriations act.

(b) The principal shall Meditate 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) 'lite structured conversations and activities, as defined in this chapter, shall result in a decision, accompanied by an explanatory report and recommendation, by the School Advisory Committee that, 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 he selected through the same process established by 4 804(h) for their respective constituency groups. The decision as to these issues shall he reflected in the Report and Recommendation pursuant to § 804(c) or in a supplemental Report and Recommendation, signed in accordance with § 804(e).

(e) Each representative of a stakeholder group who participates in the structured conversation and activities of the School Advisory Committee pursuant to subsection (b) shall sign the Report and Recommendation pursuant to § 804(e) and any supplemental Report and Recommendation pursuant to § 804(d) Each such representative shall also indicate that she has made a good faith effort to communicate with her stakeholder group so as to ensure that the views of the membership of her stakeholder group were reflected in the Report and Recommendation. - the Department of Public Instruction and the relevant local district administration shall provide schools %%Mt assistance, guidance and strategies to initiate and plan the implementation of these structured conversations and activities.

§ 805. School transition plans and grants.

(a) A school community which chooses to begin transition to shared decision-making, as defined herein. may apply to the State Board of Education via the local hoard of education for a school transition grant I he State shall provide funding for such grants as authorized in 5 807(d) and (e)

(b) The State Board of Education shall adopt guidelines for the approval of school transition grants. based upon the recommendations of an advisory committee comprised of representatives of the school community, and promulgate such guidelines by January 1, 1997 The guidelines shall require. but not be limited to specifying, that the school demonstrates that the school has:

(1) conducted structured conversations and activities and has agreed to make the transition to shared decision-making as evidenced by the Report and Recommendation signed by representatives of the School Advisory Committee as specified in 4 8)14 let-Ic).

(2) Established a School Transition Team.

(3) Established a working procedure for the School Transition Team to reach decisions and resolve conflicts.

(4) Validated significant support from members of the school community:

(5) Committed to develop a school improvement plan including comprehensive school improvement goals tied to state and local academic performance standards and strategies to achieve these goals and including staff development for building the necessary capacities and skills to successfully implement shared decision-making and improve parental involvement:

(6) Established plans for communicating the results of the school improvement plan to the broader school community for information and critical review and

(7) Described how the various stakeholder groups will formally express then opinion regarding the school transition plan prior to its adoption by the local board of education

(c) The Department of Public Instruction and the relevant local district administration shall provide school transition teams with assistance, guidance and strategies to initiate. Develop and formally adopt their transition plans.

(d) The local board of education, following public review and comments, shall adopt the school transition plan unless evidence demonstrates that the school's transition plan is inconsistent with specific provisions of the adopted district transition plan and such disapproval shall extend only to such inconsistent provisions of the school transition plan.

§ 806. School improvement plans.

(a) A school, which has an approved shared decision-making transition plan as specified in § 805, may apply to the State Board of Education for a school improvement implementation grant. Such grants shall be awarded at the beginning of the fiscal year. A school with an approved application shall be eligible for such grant for the following three years as provided in the annual appropriations act. Subsequent applications may be made only after the review and evaluation of the school improvement plan required by § 808 of this chapter is completed and the results of such are included in the school's application. The State Board of Education shall adopt guidelines for the approval of school improvements grants to be awarded beginning fiscal year 1999, based upon the recommendations of an advisory committee comprised of representatives of the school community, and promulgate such guidelines by January 1, 1998. The guidelines shall require that the school demonstrate that its school improvement plan has the following components:

(1) Comprehensive school improvement goals tied to state and local academic performance standards and strategies to achieve these and other goals identified by the school, including staff development and parental involvement;

(2) 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;

(2) 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;

(2) A proposed budget that explains the use of resources allocated to the school to support strategies for achieving the school improvement goals;

(3) 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;

(4) The assessment and evaluation process that the school will use to measure its progress toward achieving its stated goals;

(5) A proposed timeline for phasing-in its school improvement plan; and

(6) A proposed budget for the use of the school improvement grant.

(b) Without limiting the local" board's authority to determine district policy pursuant to § 1049 or to disapprove plans to the extent they are inconsistent with the district transition plan, each school committee may propose in its school improvement plan, policies or suggestions relating to subjects, including but not limited to: curricular, instructional and assessment strategies to be used at the school; assignment of staff within the school; assignments of students to classes; the school's calendar; staff development; classroom materials; parental involvement; the need For extra learning time for students through longer days and years and Saturday sessions; the needs of at-risk students; discipline and school climate; teacher orientation and mentoring; and proposed waivers of regulations and district policies.

§ 807. District and school grunts supporting shared decision-making.

(a) The amount of appropriations to fund the grants specified in this chapter shalt be as determined by the annual appropriations act. The State Board may allocate available federal funds to fund the grants specified in this chapter. School districts and schools shall not be required to provide a local match to these funds but shall be required in the process established by § 803 of this chapter to consider and incorporate in their district transition plan the appropriate level of local budget support for such purposes.

(b) Each school district shall be entitled to receive a grant to conduct structured conversations and activities and to design a shared decision-making transition plan. This grant may be used over a period set forth in the annual appropriations act. Upon written request to the State Board of Education on or before April 1, 1998, a district may use and be awarded up to one third of its grant to conduct its required structured conversations and activities.

(c) Districts meeting the requirements for approval of a transition grant as specified by §§ 803(a), (b) of this chapter and the guidelines developed by the State Board of Education for such grants may be awarded the balance of their grants for development of a district transition plan, provided that no such funding shall be available for award after June 30, 1998 and that any application for such funding shall be made to the State Board on or before May 1, 1998.

(d) Each school in a district which has adopted a district transition plan for shared decision-making, as specified in § 803(d) of this chapter, shall be entitled to receive a grant to conduct structured conversations and activities and to develop a school transition plan which incorporates shared decision-making. The amount of such grants shall be established in the annual appropriations act or by allocation of available federal funds. Such grants shall be made available starting July 1, 1997 and shall not be available for award after June 30, 2000. Any application for such a grant shall be made on or before May I, 2000. The grants awarded may be used over a period set forth in such act or determined by the State Board in the case of federal funds. The local boards of such schools shall not reduce the funds otherwise allocated to such schools as a result of such grants or otherwise use such grants to supplant local board expenditures. A school may use and be awarded up to one third of its grant to conduct structured conversations and activities,

(e) Schools meeting the requirements for approval of a transition grant as specified by §§ 805(a), (b) of this chapter and the guidelines developed by the State Board of Education for such grants may, if they comply with the deadline set forth in § 807(d), be awarded the balance of their grants for development of the school's transition plan.

(a) Upon the adoption of its school transition plan by the local board of education and upon its subsequent approval every three years pursuant to § 808 of this chapter, a school shall be eligible to be awarded annually a school improvement grant to implement its school improvement plan through the application process set forth in § 806(a) of this chapter. The amount and duration of such grants shall be established by the annual appropriations act. The local boards of such schools shall not reduce the funds otherwise allocated to such schools as a result of such grants or otherwise use such grants to supplant local board expenditures.

(f) School committees for school discipline and climate, formed pursuant to chapter 16 of this title, shall be authorized to continue w receive incentive grants, provided in chapter 16 of this title and authorized in the annual state appropriation:: act, until such time as a school transition plan, as defined in § 806 of this chapter, specifies an alternative governance structure to assume the authority and responsibilities specified in chapter 16 of this title. Such school improvement plan shall be presented to the state board of education as evidence upon application for such incentive grants.

§ 808. Review of district and school plans.

District transition plans and school improvement plans shall be reviewed and evaluated at least every three 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."

Approved July 9, 1996