A homeschool group leader emailed me recently asking about how to address frustrations with what classes to offer in their co-op. Their group has one "class coordinator" who currently makes these decisions on her own. The program director will also have input sometimes in order to choose classes that benefit her own family/children. This situation is causing frustration to members who feel the group as a whole is not being considered. Here's my response!
First off, if the group is run by all volunteers, then naturally, the ones willing to put the work in reap the natural benefit of being able to structure the program to something that is a good fit for their own family. If parents complain about the program not being what they're looking for, but they're not willing to help, then I don't really feel bad for them. :) Sorry not sorry!
That said, ideally, as a CO-OP where everyone is helping in various ways, it IS important to make an effort to consider all the members when choosing classes...not just the leadership. Having one person that picks all the classes is not wise and is what is contributing to the frustration of the members in your group who don't feel heard. The Class Coordinator could be the leader of a "Class Committee" that meets to choose classes as a group. They are not a part of the formal board, but a board member should oversee the committee to help keep an eye on it and keep it in line with the mission and vision of the program. This committee could and should have a procedure in place for the process of choosing classes. It could be written down and be very detailed to help avoid future conflict. These procedures could include:
Taking a poll of the students and parents for what classes they'd like to see
Considering who is willing to teach and WHAT they are willing to teach. Teachers naturally have more of a say in what classes are offered.
Evaluating what classes should be offered using that poll and the committee's own ideas and research
Agree (or vote if needed) as a committee on what classes will be offered
Having a committee of 3-5 people that do this eliminates the "power" being all in one person's hands and it can prevent one or two people from dominating the process. The director could make suggestions or possibly even BE on the class committee, but it should be decided as a TEAM and the director should not dominate or intimidate.
In my own experience, I have a strong personality and there have been times where I want to be sure the board is able to make an honest decision--not one pressured by me and not one where they vote a certain way just to avoid conflict or hard feelings with me. When I feel this might be the case, I ask the board to do an anonymous vote where everyone uses the same paper and color of pen so they can write/cast their vote anonymously and we don't have to know who voted yay or nay. This helps eliminate the chance that someone will vote a certain way just to avoid an uncomfortable situation. We've voted on sticky notes with purple crayons before because that was the only thing we could find enough of the same one thing! :) Perhaps a system like this could also help in allowing classes to be chosen in a less biased way. Hopefully putting some new processes in place will help as your group moves forward!