Vermont law empowers school boards to "determine the educational policies of the school district" and also provides that school boards "may approve or disapprove rules and regulations proposed by the principal or superintendent for the conduct and management of the public schools in the district." 16 V.S.A. 563(1).
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) provides a definition for the word "policy" which is helpful when attempting to separate the legislative responsibility of the board from the executive responsibilities of professional administrators. The NSBA defines policy this way:
"When we speak about School Board policy we speak about ideas with the power to set directions for the school system to bring about prudent action by the administration, the staff, and the board itself. A soundly constructed policy will...tell the administration enough so that it can get working on the task in accordance with the board's wishes..."
Another definition is that a policy approved by the board describes what should be done while implementation procedures designed and carried out by administrators describe how things will be done.
Board policy will usually be a fairly broad statement of intent. It should leave the administrative details to the people most qualified to carry out the board's intent: the school administration. As you look over the VSBA policies, you will see some that are more detailed in terms of procedure than others. The policies on student discipline, for example, list specific procedures to be followed in certain discipline cases. When policies are so specific, it is usually because the law requires or encourages specificity.
VSBA Policy Manual
The purpose of this manual is to present model policies for use during the policy development process. As you work with particular policies, you may want to tailor their provisions to your own local situation. We have tried to provide legal references where possible so that you can check the controlling statutes as you develop your own policy language. The references and footnotes in the model policies should not be published with the policies when they are adopted by the board. As model policies are revised, we note the revision dates on the links to each policy.
Our model policies closely adhere to the policy/procedure distinction, and frequently require that administrative rules or procedures to accompanying specific policies be developed by administrators. In those cases, this is a step that must not be overlooked.
Although our model policies have been reviewed for legal compliance, VSBA model policies do not constitute legal advice. As part of the policy review and adoption process, you should consult with your school district legal counsel to resolve any questions on the legal implications of specific policy provisions.
Developing and maintaining a policy manual is time-consuming work. It requires vigilance on the part of both administrators and board members. Policy manuals that have too many policies can grow out-of-date very quickly. In an effort to help identify areas where boards should pay attention to policy, the VSBA has categorized its policy manual into three distinct categories:
Required Policies The VSBA lists policies as “required” when a state or federal law or regulation states, or a regulatory agency advises, that a school district must have a policy governing its activities in a certain area.
A school board policy governing the subject will lend predictability and consistency to a board operational practice; or
A school board policy governing the subject will enable the board to give direction to administrators in areas where the law may be unclear, or where operational parameters should be established. These policies will indicate the objectives that the board wishes to achieve in a particular area, assign responsibility for developing strategies to achieve those objectives and establish accountability systems to determine whether the board’s objectives are being met.
Policies to Consider The VSBA lists policies as “policies to consider” when experience has shown that school board direction in a certain area is expected by the community or is desired by boards or school district administrators.
Model Policy Manual Update December 4, 2012
The policy section of our website has been updated. We have prepared this 10 minute video discussing the changes that were made and giving navagation instruction.
The below video may be seen in a full page layout. VSBA presented a webinar on April 10, 2012 focused on the Essential Work of Vermont School boards. The entire webinar may be viewed at webinar. This topic was discussesd in the below clip.