Let Your Policy Be Your Guide

By Norm Wooten, AASB Executive Director

Board Policy is such a critical component of every school board and one that every new and veteran board member must be cognizant of at all times.

Every district has signed onto board standards and strives to adhere to the principles contained in them. One of the elements is STRUCTURE. Structure is defined as:

“The board creates a structure that supports the vision.”

That support certainly includes the creation of and adherence to a set of “rules that define the parameters set up to control the actions of the board, staff, students, and community. The district operates within the structured policies.

Each school district is required to create and adopt policy through a statutory requirement in AS 14.14.100 Bylaws and Administrative Rules

  • (a) The school board policies relating to management and control of the district shall be expressed in written bylaws formally adopted at regular school board meetings.
  • (b) Administrative rules that do not embody school district policy need not be adopted as bylaws; however, the rules must be in written form and readily available to all school personnel.

Wikipedia definition of policy:

Policy is a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. A policy is a statement of intent and is implemented as a procedure or protocol. Policies are generally adopted by a governance body within an organization.”

Collins English Dictionary:

“A policy is a set of ideas or plans that are used as a basis for making decisions, especially in politics, economics, or business.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about policy is that there is a clear connection between Policy and Governance.

  • The Board’s purpose is to be accountable to the public and show that the school district works in the best interest of its students;
  • Boards define their role through Board Bylaws and delegate through Policy;
  • Policy makes clear the Board’s direction and intention.

The Board creates and adopts its policies through a public process that is inclusive to the entire community. Any changes to policy utilizes the same public process. The process is embedded in transparency. They are in written form and are readily available to the public, normally on the district website. In addition to providing a set of guidelines for the district, policies have clear purposes that cannot be overlooked:

  • Providing direction;
  • Complying with laws;
  • Creating stability;
  • Defining responsibilities and ensuring accountability;
  • Information;
  • Protecting the district in the event of a legal challenge;
  • Provides a framework for the day-to-day operation of the district;
  • Keeps decision-making situation-based rather than person-based;
  • Helps keep the Board focused on governance.

As school boards operate and comply with their policies, here are some questions to consider:

  • Does your Board think in terms of policy?
  • Do you regularly schedule policies for review?
  • Do you look to policy before making decisions?
  • Do you understand what policy has to do with governance?

When you have a question , I encourage you to make it a practice to consult your policy first.

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