Introduction to Procedures
According to 1995 guidance issued by the Massachusetts Department of Education, the school committee serves “as the publicly elected or appointed equivalent of a board of directors of a corporation, which in this case is a school system. The school committee has oversight of and responsibility for the school system, sets the direction in which the system must go, and establishes criteria to determine if its goals and policies are being met. The superintendent serves as the school committee’s chief executive officer and educational advisor. The superintendent is the educational leader for the school system and provides administrative leadership for all school staff in operational matters and in proposing and implementing policy changes. Day-to-day operation of the school system is the responsibility of the superintendent, together with school principals and other administrative staff members.”
Written policies are the chief means by which the School Committee governs the school district, and written regulations and procedures are one of the means by which the committee’s policies are implemented. The superintendent will be responsible for specifying required actions and designing the detailed arrangements under which the school system will be operated in accordance with School Committee policy.
The following National School Board Association definitions provide a distinction between policies and regulations/procedures:
Policies are principles adopted by the School Committee to chart a course of action. They are broad enough to indicate a line of action to be taken by the administration in meeting a variety of day-to-day problems while being narrow enough to give the administration clear guidance.
Regulations and procedures are detailed directions developed by the administration to put policy into practice.
These definitions reflect the separate roles of governance and administration, but policies and regulations/procedures are closely related. Policies and regulations/procedures can be difficult to separate unambiguously. For example:
- State and Federal law require School Committees to make or officially approve some detailed regulations and procedures in certain areas.
- A School Committee signs contracts and agreements that may contain and interweave policies, regulations, and procedural details.
- As long as the administration operates within the guidelines of policy adopted by the School Committee, it may issue regulations and procedures without prior committee approval, unless the law requires committee action.
See below for an explanation of the relationship between policy, procedure and operational guidelines (such as manuals, protocols, handbooks, practice, forms, etc.)
Purpose: Establish broad values and statements to inform direction and actions for district.
Body: Approved by School Committee(s).
Frequency: Updated rarely. Reviewed as necessary or as required by School Committee.
Authorization: Serves as primary source of authority for district; in response to or as complement to state and federal laws and regulations.
Example: Policy on use of district facilities (buildings by public): Value statement that establishes ability for school buildings to be used by public and in what circumstances.
Purpose: To inform general direction for operational activities; a balance between generality and specificity.
Body: Central Office
Frequency: Updated infrequently, reviewed occasionally
Authorization: School Committee policy, state and federal laws and regulations
Example: Procedures for use of district facilities: Who is responsible for oversight and coordination? What are factors and requirements for renting/using school buildings?
Guidelines, Instructions, Protocols, Directions, Practice, Process, Manuals, Handbooks
Purpose: Specific information to guide operations
Body: Principals, Directors, others in District needing to codify or document operations
Frequency: Frequently. Review every 1-3 years.
Authorization: District Procedures, state and federal laws and regulations, best practices
Example: Forms for requesting use of building, fee schedule for rental of buildings and payment instructions, rules and responsibilities for entities renting a building, requirements for insurance documentation by renters.