Policy Council Roles & Responsibilities


O.O.I. Head Start Policy Council

Overview & Roles and Responsibilities

What is the Policy Council?
  • Federal Grant awarded for Head Start program to local Community Action Agency…must have governance bodies in place.
  • Board of Directors agrees to abide by Head Start Performance Standards.
  • Head Start Performance Standards require that every Head Start Grantee have a Policy Council.
Who Serves on the Policy Council?

Two types of members:

  • Parents/Guardians of currently enrolled children (At least 51% of PC membership must be parents of currently enrolled children.)
  • Community Representatives
Alternate Members
  • If a representative is unable to attend a meeting, their alternate attends the meeting to vote in the representative’s place.
  • Alternate members can only vote if the Policy Council representative is not present.
  • Alternate members should attend all of the Policy Council meetings so they are up to date on information and can make informed decisions when voting.
Term Limits
  • You can only be a member of Policy Council for three (3) one-year terms in a lifetime.
  •  Head Start staff, or their immediate family members, cannot become Policy Council members.
What is the Role of the Policy Council?

The Policy Council is responsible for making decisions that guide and direct the local Head Start program. The Policy Council along with the Board of Directors work together to govern the Head Start program.

Some decisions you will be involved in are:

  1. Funding Applications
  2. Policies & Procedures of the Head Start Program
  3. Hiring/termination of Head Start Staff


  • The Policy Council sets policy for the program but does not interfere in the day-to-day operations of the Head Start program.
  •  Your Head Start program is part of a Community Action Agency. Policy Council does not have authority to interfere in any other program that the agency operates.
Information You Need To Do Your Job As A Policy Council Member (H.S. Body of Knowledge):
  • Policy Council By-Laws
  • Head Start Performance Standards/H.S. Act
  • Program Governance Plan
  • OOI Head Start Parent Handbook
  • Conflict Resolution (Impasse) & Grievance Policy
  • OOI Head Start Mission/Vision Statements
  • Summary of OOI Head Start Budget
  • Organizational Chart of Ozark Opportunities, Inc. Head Start program
  • Minutes from last year’s Policy Council meetings
  • List of meeting dates/contact information.

 As you begin your year of service, you may begin to feel overwhelmed by the HUGE amount of information you will be given. You do not need to memorize or know all of the information in these documents!

However, you will need to know how to look for information and answers in each of the documents.

How Policy Council And The Board Of Directors Work Together:
  • Shared governance is more than the Board and Policy Council each approving all of the policies and actions the program is going to take.
  • Policy Council and the Board must work together to fulfill the mission of the Head Start program.
  • Typically OOI appoints a Board member to sit on the Policy Council, and the Policy Council appoints a Liaison to sit on the OOI Board. (This helps facilitate communications between the two groups.)

 It is a good idea for the Policy Council chairperson to regularly meet and correspond with the Board chairperson and Head Start Director as a way to achieve good communications and shared governance.

Shared Information:

Each Head Start program must ensure the sharing of accurate and regular information for the use by the Board and Policy Council including:

  • Monthly financial statements, including credit card statements.
  • Monthly Program Information Summaries (component updates)
  • Program Enrollment Reports; including Attendance reports.
  • Monthly reports of meals and snacks provided through the USDA food program.
  • The Financial Audit (yearly).
  • The annual Self-Assessment.
  • The annual Community Needs Assessment
  • Program Information Reports and other ACF/Region 6 correspondence.

Policy Council should act first and approve items to be submitted to the Board for their action when available.

  • Policy Council sets policy for the program but does not interfere with the day-to-day operations. The Head Start staff makes decisions about the day-to-day operations but does not make policy.
  • If a staff member approaches you with a concern you must instruct them to follow established program policies and procedures to deal with their concerns.
  • A quorum means that you have the number of Policy Council members present at a meeting to be able to legally conduct business.
  • You can find the quorum for your Policy Council in your By-Laws.
  • Currently OOI Head Start Policy Council By-Laws define quorum as nine voting members.
Setting The Agenda:

All Policy Council meetings must have an agenda which includes:

  • Call the meeting to order
  • Approve minutes of last meeting
  • Committee Reports
  • New Business/Old business
  • This may include Program Coordinator reports
  • Closed Session (if necessary)
  • Adjourn the meeting

The Policy Council Chairperson has the authority to set the meeting Agenda. The agenda should be worked on in conjunction with the Head Start staff since they frequently have information about issues that require Policy Council’s attention.

The Policy Council Chairperson may appoint a staff member to type and distribute the agenda. The Policy Council Chairperson should also ask Policy Council members, Board, and Head Start staff for information and issues that need to be considered and put them on the agenda when appropriate.

Helpful Hints:
  • Policy Council meetings should not be consumed by the work that cannot be accomplished at the meeting. The work should occur at the Committee Level.
  • Policy Council meetings should be for decisions. Use the committees to investigate and explore issues and then report to the Policy Council with a recommendation for approval of disapproval based upon the committee’s work.
Emergency Meetings:
  • There will be times when there is an important matter that needs the approval or disapproval of the Policy Council and cannot with until the next regular Policy Council meeting.
  • It is recommended that you allow the Executive Committee to make decisions in these cases on behalf of the entire Policy Council (and can be ratified at the next full Council meeting.)
Meeting Minutes:
  • The Policy Council Secretary will be responsible for taking notes at the meeting and approving minutes prior to distribution (Head Start staff may be asked to type the minutes for the secretary). Minutes must be accurate.
  • Every Policy Council member should make sure that they read the minutes before the next meeting.
  • Once the Policy Council reviews and approves the minutes the Secretary (or other officer) will sign and date them.
  • The Head Start program keeps the original copy with any amendments in a permanent file.
  • Copies of the minutes are shared with the Board of Directors and the parents/guardians in the Head Start program.

Your Head Start program has a written policy for reimbursing Policy Council members for reasonable expenses incurred in fulfilling their duties.

Reasonable expenses include:

  • Travel
  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • Childcare expenses
  • Transportation/mileage expenses
Volunteer Time and In-Kind Donations:
  • The Head Start program is required by Head Start Performance Standards to obtain contributions of services and materials each year. (1301.2)
  • This is usually referred to as “in-kind” or “nonfederal” contributions. Volunteer Time is a significant source of meeting that requirement.
  • As a Policy Council member, any time you are doing official Head Start business your time can be counted toward the in-kind contribution.
Conflict of Interest:
  • Policy Council members “shall not have a Conflict of Interest with the Head Start agency; and shall not receive compensation for serving on the Policy Council or for providing services to the Head Start agency.” (Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act.)
  • Head Start will not accept bids or proposals from members of any Policy Council member’s immediate family.
  • We ask you to sign a Conflict of Interest Statement for our records to show to Head Start officials.
Code of Conduct & Confidentiality Statement:
  • You will be asked to sign the agency’s Code of Conduct. This code will describe behavior that is and is not acceptable for Policy Council members.
  •  Due to the sensitive nature of some of the information you will be exposed to as a Policy Council member, you will be asked to sign a Confidentiality Statement.
Funding Application:
  • The Policy Council must be involved in the development and planning of the Head Start program’s funding application. [Head Start Performance Std. 1304.50(d)(1)(I)]
  •  You will be trained and given specific information regarding the budget and the short-and long-term strategic plans for the program throughout the year in order to make informed decisions about the funding application.
Program Planning:
  • Policy Council will have an active role in program planning. You will be invited to participate in reviewing and revision the program’s vision and mission statements and developing short- and long-range strategic plans.
  •  You should also actively seek information and recommendations from your local Parent Meetings in your local Head Start centers for future program goals.
E.R.S.E.A. - Enrollment, Recruitment, Selection, And Attendance Policies:
  • You will be involved in developing ERSEA- recruitment, selection, and enrollment policies for the Ozark Opportunities, Inc. Head Start program. (Head Start Performance Standards section 1305.)
  • Head Start cannot have policies that directly or indirectly discriminate based upon race, color, creed, religion, national origin, age, gender, or disability.
  • The program does not ask about a disability until such time as the child’s enrollment has been guaranteed or unless the family voluntarily provides the information.
  • The Policy Council actively participates in the annual self-assessment of the Head Start program. [Head Start Performance Standards 1304.50(d)(1)(viii)
  • Every Head Start program must conduct an annual review of the program to determine if the program is complying with the Head Start Performance Standards. This is called “self-assessment.” This review is conducted by the program with the staff, Board of Directors, Policy Council, parents, and community participation.
Human Resources:
  • The Policy Council actively participates in the annual self-assessment of the Head Start program. [Head Start Performance Standards 1304.50(d)(1)(viii)
  • Every Head Start program must conduct an annual review of the program to determine if the program is complying with the Head Start Performance Standards. This is called “self-assessment.” This review is conducted by the program with the staff, Board of Directors, Policy Council, parents, and community participation.
  • Policy Council should make sure that positions are openly advertised so qualified parents will have the opportunity to make application.
  • OOI Head Start program posts open positions on the Parent Boards in the centers to inform parents of employment opportunities.

  • Policy Council members work with the parents to help parents understand the employment process.

  • Policy Council does not directly hire or fire staff.

Planning Activities for Parents/Gaurdians:
  • Policy Council members should ask for suggestions from the Parent Committees to determine what parents/guardians would like to do.
  • Policy Council must ensure that funds that are set aside in the program budget for parent/guardian activities are used for that purpose. You should participate in developing the budget for parent/guardian activity funds and be aware of the amount of money available in the grant for parent activities.
Recruiting Volunteer Services:
  • Policy Council must assist in recruiting volunteer services from parents/guardians, community residents and community organizations. [Head Start Performance Standards 1304.50(d)(2)(iv)]
  •  Parents/guardians who are not available during the day can be very useful to the program for other activities. You can talk to the Director, Program Manager, or Coordinators for additional ideas.
Additional Reviews:
  • During a follow-up visit (or visit by Region 6 staff), the Review Team members may want to observe a Policy Council business meeting and/or meet with the Policy Council members for an interview.
  • Policy Council members should be able to explain how the Board of Directors and the Policy Council work together in shared governance of the program (see your PDM Policies & Procedures.)
  • The reviewers may also want to know how local Parent Committees work. They will look for evidence of good communications between the Parent Committees at the Parent Meetings and the Policy Council.
Federal Reviews:
  • The Head Start Act requires that each Head Start Grantee receive a full Federal “Triennial” Review at least once every three years.
  •  We had a review in the 2013-14 program year; our next will be in 2016-17.