How often and when should the P&F meet?
Most P&Fs meet monthly but this is for each Association to decide. The parent community should be consulted in deciding how often and when to meet. The aim is to choose a time that allows maximum involvement of parents. It must be a time convenient for the principal and also enable parish clergy to attend if they wish.
Matters of disagreement
Matters of disagreement or potential conflict between a/some parents and teachers or parents and the principal should not be raised at the Parents & Friends meeting. Such issues are more likely to be resolved by direct consultation between the parties involved.
After exhausting all such opportunities at the school level and if the conflict still remains unresolved, the parents concerned should contact their Diocesan Education Office or Congregational Leaders in the instance of a Religious Institute School.
What happens with P&F funds?
The P&F Association is separately constituted and therefore is responsible for its own decisions. In all its actions, whether they are regarding the expenditure of money or other decisions, the P&F Association acts at all times for the benefit of the school and school community.
While decisions remain the responsibility of the P&F Association, it is the task of the P&F Executive, along with the school principal and the parish priest (if it is a parish school) who are ex officio members, to work towards shared decisions.
The P&F can choose to spend money, unless it is raised for a specific purpose which has been agreed upon by school community on any need the school experiences. It has been traditional for the P&F Association to assist with areas where the school has been short. However, there is no rule which prevents expenditure on capital, cleaners, special teachers, professional development of teachers and parents, learning programs for children, camps, sports, public speaking, social, cultural - the list goes on. The way the funds are used is entirely up to you school community.
It is important, however, that in whichever way the money is spent the decision is made by the P&F Association at a meeting and in some instances, the P&F Association may seek the opinion of all its members, the school community.
To ensure that proper accountability can be established it is important that correct procedures be followed.
Because the school P&F Association operates under the umbrella of the school's corporate protection, it also follows that all purchases and all employment are in the name of the school.
The following procedure will help when P&F funds are being donated to the school for the purchase of goods
Consultation between the Principal and the P&F chairperson might provide a list of items which the school requires
This list is best provided before the P&F develops its budget
Any requests are costed and taken to a P&F meeting for discussion and a decision
If the P&F agrees to donate an amount then a payment is made to the school
The school should provide the P&F with a receipt for their donation and often provides copies of invoices for goods purchased by the school with the money donated by the P&F.
Any items of large expenditure or of a sensitive nature should be notified to the whole school community for their input.
What matters should be on the P&F agenda?
P&F Associations exist for the welfare of the students at the school, therefore any general matters which impinge on them in any way is a matter for the agenda.
The curriculum of a school, for instance, is the total learning experience of its students which include, in a Catholic school, matters such as religious knowledge, skills, attitudes and values both spiritual and secular. Such items are a concern to parents and may be on the agenda.
A school community through its Parents & Friends Association may undertake to assist another school, catechists working in state schools, or any other parish, church or welfare benefit so long as the decision reflects the agreement of parents in the school. On such matters a Parents & Friends Association should understand that they are representing the school parent community, and may need to canvass the wider parent body for their point of view.
What role does the parish priest or the principal have in these decisions in a parish school?
The parish priest is given under Canon Law responsibility for the affairs of the parish as entrusted to him by the diocesan bishop. In each parish there is to be a finance committee to help the parish priest in the administration of the goods of the parish.
Whilst the practice differs from parish to parish, in most circumstances the affairs of the school are left to the principal and the school community.
The Parents & Friends constitution signed and agreed to by the respective diocesan bishops allows for the Parents & Friends Association to manage its own financial affairs. However, common sense requires that the priest, principal and Parents & Friends Association collaborate to achieve the best decisions for the students attending the school.
Where decisions pertain to parish, the parish priest is finally responsible. Where matters of education are in question the school principal should be recognised as the professional leader in the school where he or she has responsibility.
There were many important messages emanating from the second Vatican Council; amongst those was the reality that we are all part of the Church and therefore have a responsibility to it. The importance of collaboration and sharing our wisdom is the direction for a peaceful future.
Who do the P&F represent?
Our model constitution is clearly an expression of the wishes of the Queensland Bishops where it states that all parents/carers with their children in Catholic schools should have a voice to the highest authority in Catholic education through their Parents & Friends Association.
The school Parents & Friends Association executive is elected to represent the general interests of the whole school community. That is a major task and responsibility and requires close collaboration with the school principal to ensure that the voice of parents is heard and understood.
The model constitution states:
The membership of the Association shall consist of:
· the parent/s and or carer/s of each child enrolled at the school who shall be called ordinary members;
· the Parish Priest, and Principal or their nominees who shall be called ex-officio members;
· the friends of the school.
We must also remember that it is not the responsibility of the P&F Executive to ‘take on’ the personal issues of parents. In these issues each parent must represent themselves. The P&F executive members may decide to assist these parents by directing them to school policy and procedures for dealing with grievances or by attending mediation meeting with these parents if that is agreed to by all parties.