Of the five core missions of Upper Arlington Community
School, DEMOCRACY has always been our highest priority.
The history of UAC has been built upon this principle from
the beginning of the school’s conception.
In 2003 the Community School began in the Upper Arlington
School District when the high school formed teacher groups
called action teams designed by instructors with the goal of developing strategies that could improve our school. One of
the action teams was devoted to the study and promotion of
progressive education techniques. This group became the
genesis of what was to become the Community High School.
The work of this group established the idea that democratic
decision-making would be the foundation of all school
The next year sought to connect teacher reform efforts with
student energies by the creation of the Transitions Program. This was a group of teachers and students that met in a class that had the goal of planning the Community High School.
The class studied progressive educational philosophy and used their findings to form the core principles upon which the
Community High School would be constructed. This
interaction was the first step for Community School
democracy. The voting method used was a consensus model
requiring 100% participation and agreement to enact ideas.
This model worked well for the smaller Transitions class but came under pressure the following year when the Community
School opened in 2006.
The initial year of Community School established the
principle of common law. The precedent of previous
decisions would be the starting point for each new generation of the Community School. From there, each generation could
amend governing rules as the new class saw fit in order to
evolve and adapt to the growing needs of the community. The
democratic body took the form of a town meeting to facilitate this development. It became clear early on that the 100%
consensus was difficult, if not impossible, to meet with the larger group size, so the Community School turned to
parliamentary procedures to formulate the governing rules
within town meeting.
As part of the school's continued study of educational
philosophy, OSU professor Michael Glassman provided
instruction to the class on John Dewey and participatory
democracy. Dewey’s focus on student-centered curriculum
was a natural fit to the ideals of the Community School.
Students were challenged to study Dewey’s philosophies and come up with ways it could be applied to our school in order to improve it. Students especially liked Dewey’s belief that it was not necessarily the end of the process that rendered
learning; rather it is the method of analyzing what happened to draw out lessons for improvement. About halfway through
2006, Town Meeting adopted amendments to enact
participatory democracy methods over the parliamentary
procedures that had been used earlier in the year.
Adoption of participatory democracy principles meant that any member of the community could affect change in the school if they came up with a well-researched proposal and were able to gain majority support for their plan. The school enacted a
two-day process. Day one was for open discussion called the
Forum. This open discussion was lead by a Community
School teacher with the purpose of establishing the legislative agenda for Town Meeting. The second day was for Town
Meeting where motions would be voted upon officially.
In Town Meetings, students developed a voting system that
allowed competing proposals to explain and refine their ideas for the class. Class members would then physically move and
sit with the member they supported giving immediate visual
feedback regarding support during three rounds of discussion. If no proposal was passed, the community would continue to
function under the previous rules. The first threshold
established required 75% support to enact school change, but this proportion proved to be too high to enact legislation. A later threshold of 51% proved to be better able to enact
Current Town Meeting rules were adopted March 27, 2008.
This amendment produced a hybrid of the parliamentary rules
and participatory democracy rules previously used in UA
Community Town Meetings. Legislative change would be
submitted in writing to the community via an email to the
chair prior to Forum. These proposals would be discussed,
possibly amended, and then voted upon by the school. Any
proposal receiving at least ! support of the membership then goes on for a vote the next day in Town Meeting.
During Town Meeting the Chair will read the motion to the
community following which the community gets a chance to
ask clarification questions of the motion. Questions are
limited to 1 per community member during this round. Next
the Chair will call for a vote during which each member is
required to vote yea, nay, or abstain. If the motion receives 51% of the vote it passes.
Current rules and procedures are not set in concrete. The
democratic process in Community School remains open to
future change to allow our school to continue to grow and
evolve. It is a flexible process that can truly represent
democratic ideas of the members in the school. An example
of such a change is the Emergency Town Meeting provision.
Occasionally a very important issue will arise that requires immediate attention. This type of meeting may be called for
by any member of UAC requiring an explanation for the
meeting followed by a vote for or against. If 75% of UAC
votes in favor, an Emergency Town Meeting must be held
within 72 hours of the vote in order to deal with the situation. Hopefully you can see how all members of UAC have equal
voice in the governing of our school. You have real power to make our school better so!"ake your voice count!