A policy to establish local councils in Provo School District schools, coupled with an updated decisionmaking policy, is on track to become part of school life here.

The idea for the councils, made up of teachers and other school employees, parents, students and people from the community, comes from the 1996 Utah Strategic Planning Act but is only encouraged, Assistant Superintendent Patti Harrington said. The issue was brought up during a recent Provo Board of Education meeting but won't be acted on for at least a month.Under the plan, each school would have a council whose members would be appointed by each school's principal. The policy would encourage parents to become involved in the school their children attend and would also encourage employers to cooperate so the parents may become involved, Harrington said.

Utah law requires each school to develop an annual plan on student achievement that is tied to a five- to 10-year plan.

Some decisions are best left to the schools, while others start at the district level and move down, Harrington said.

"Decisions are best made by those closest to the decision," she said.

A school dress code, for example, will likely start with the school councils and work upward to district administration, which may then develop a district-wide policy.

"We're toying with that," she said.

Right now the district has no dress code, although some schools do. Whether students should be allowed to wear hats in school, for example, is one issue that has principals wanting a district-wide policy, Harrington said. At Farrer Junior High School, hats aren't permitted, but at Timpview High School, where many of the Farrer students eventually attend, hats are allowed. That leads to some conflicts, she said.

If such a policy is developed it will likely start with parents at the council level, she said.

Provo principals have more power to make decisions to run their schools than in any district in the state and possibly the nation, Harrington said. All schools in Provo are "site based," which means that many decisions on how schools are run are made at the school level rather than the district level, she said. The board of education delegates authority to run the schools to the district superintendent, who in turn passes that authority on to each school principal.

"Other (Utah) schools are amazed at how much discretionary power we have in our schools," she said, "and Utah is a site-based state."

Local principals have the discretion to choose vendors who provide supplies, equipment and services, where graduation is held and whether the school is a traditional or year-round calendar. Only two out of six elementary schools are on a traditional calendar.

The proposed policy also states that the school district recognizes the Provo City Parent Teacher Association as the official parent organization in the district. The PTA president would become a member of the school council. But officials said the wording may have to be changed because not all schools have a PTA.

Westridge Elementary School in Provo's Grandview area, for example, voted last month to drop out of the PTA and form a new movement called a Parent Teacher Organization, which has no state or national ties.

The proposed policy covers nearly 30 topics detailing how each entity - the school or the district - should respond. The policy it replaces wasn't as specific and some topics weren't included, Harrington said.

When the present policy was drafted some 12 years ago, Utah didn't have Centennial schools, modified Centennial schools or 21st Century schools, which are required under state mandate to have councils.

"If the community feels strongly one way or another on an issue, the principals are given a lot of latitude as opposed to district mandating," she said. "Now we'll have a policy behind the flexibility."