Policy is the board’s most important tool for sustaining the principles of effective board governance. It is through policy that the board gives direction and sets parameters for the operation of the district.
- Policy fosters stability and continuity. While board members turnover due to elections and administrators leave and/or retire, policy serves as a constant and endures the change in leadership. A current and accurate policy manual permits smooth transition. Policy ensures a fair, consistent, and uniform treatment of students, parents, community members, and employees.
- Policy communicates the board’s goals, objectives, priorities, and acceptable practice by all. Policy as an effective public relations tool conveys the board’s basic philosophy and position on specific issues relative to the district’s goals, objectives, priorities, and authority.
- Policy and regulations clarify board-superintendent relations. The board extends authority to the superintendent. Through this authority, he/she can meet the expectations as defined through board policy.
- Policy facilitates the process of evaluating board and administrative practices. Policies establish direction, assign authority, and establish control to ensure accountability.
Policy helps to ensure that the board functions appropriately and legally. Policy defines the board’s authority and responsibilities as defined by state and federal rules and regulations. Under state statute and accreditation rules, boards are required to govern through policy. It is through policy that we carry out the state’s mission to promote quality education as described in NEB. REV. STAT. § 79-701. In order that the board fulfills this assigned duty and function as defined by the Nebraska Legislature, the board must implement and carryout a framework established through board policy complying with state and federal law. School board policies are official and legally binding only when approved in an official meeting of the board and as documented in the minutes.
Policy provides guidelines for action by the administration, staff, and the board. A well-written policy will define what, why, and who is responsible for carrying out the defined direction. The absence of policy leaves interpretation open to the administration and the board, subjecting both parties to criticism for inconsistencies in judgment and failure to meet state and/or federal rules and regulations, which may ultimately subject the district to unnecessary law suits, penalties, etc.
Developing policy before situations arise allows the board to debate and determine the merit of an issue without the pressure of personal application, heightened emotions, and time constraints. Failure to review, update, and define policy following a board adopted process subjects the administration/board to violation of their authority and responsibilities.
The superintendent and the board must impose a policy review process to ensure quality board policies, and provide support to administration in their day-to-day duties and responsibilities. Outdated and conflicting policies can create legal difficulties for the administration.
Policy should be continuously revised to ensure appropriate and timely updates. Superintendent and boards should review their policy manuals continually. In order to be aware of the various problems or issues that must be addressed through policy, consider various methods of keeping current on the issues. Remain current with relevant publications; attend activities where you can learn from the information presented and interaction with colleagues, including using the Association as a knowledgeable resource for timely and pertinent information.