Do you have a child in elementary, middle or high school? If so, you’re a member of the school’s PAC, whether you know it or not.
“Often times, you’ll hear parents go, ‘Oh, I’m not on PAC,’” said Audrey Smith, president of the Victoria Confederation of PACs. “Well, they are, they just don’t engage at PAC meetings.”
Having a child in the local school system is the only requirement to join a PAC, short for Parent Advisory Council. Every school has a PAC, which works to connect parents with teachers, the board of education and other groups that have a stake in the local school system.
“The PAC is an advisory group to the rest of the education partners at the school, advising them on all things to do with our children: Educational, social, structural,” said Smith. “Parents advocate for the best things for their kids at the school level.”
Smith said the issues that PACs can discuss are limitless, including such matters as class composition, nutrition, lunch times, after school sports and school clubs. Everything is on the table and PACs allow parents to influence how their children experience different things at their schools.
“The opinions of parents are full spectrum on anything you can think of educationally,” she said. “Individual parents will have their ideas, different groups of parents will have their opinions and philosophies. All of that comes together at the PAC, and then the parents will debate and discuss and perhaps survey their school community to determine how they will proceed.
“If there are parents who have an expertise in something, they’ll usually come through the PAC and get other likeminded parents aware of what’s happening and they can get behind it.”
When a PAC wants to make a change to their school, that’s where the VCPAC comes in. The VCPAC – the district PAC for Greater Victoria – represents local PACs at the district level and primarily advises the school board on “any matter relating to education in the school district.”
“We’re not a political group, although we do interact with political groups like the board of education,” said Smith, adding that the group is made up of nine executive members who are elected annually.
She noted that school PACs can go straight to the district themselves if they’d like, referencing one school that successfully lobbied for a temporary change of learning environment while construction took place at the school.
“One school was having asbestos issues when they were having seismic upgrades and they didn’t like the way it was done at that time, so they came up with a petition to get the government to make a ruling across the province that when construction or seismic upgrades are being done that the kids not be present,” she said.
“That came out of parents being active and vocal about how they wanted things done for their kids.”
Smith said the role of PACs isn’t just beneficial for parents, noting the schools appreciate the input from parents and the ability to gauge them on different issues.
“The more parents that know what’s happening at the school, the more students participate,” she said. “It’s the PAC’s job to get the parents engaged to know what’s going on at the school.”
With the start of the next school year just around the corner, Smith said many schools have open houses prior to the first day of school, which can be a great opportunity to communicate with the school’s PAC if the group is present.
“Parents are the experts for their kids,” said Smith, “[and] being involved and staying involved is really important for the success of their kids.”
For more information about VCPAC or your school’s PAC, visit vcpac.ca.