Roles and Responsibilities of School Boards and Superintendents

“What is the role of the board and what is the role of the superintendent in the operation of the school district?” This is a question often asked and misunderstood by board members and superintendents. The longstanding statement that the board sets policy and the superintendent administers that policy would seem to indicate a clear dividing line between the respective roles. That distinction, however, is not always clear nor is it one upon which everyone involved agrees.

Board members are usually “doers”; they operate businesses, they run homes, they buy supplies. “Doers” often find it hard to look at the big picture and make decisions so that other people can “do” the job. Many times, they are tempted to get in and “do” the job themselves. Conflicts arise when the board and the superintendent have not defined their specific roles within the district. Because the needs of a district vary and leadership and management styles vary, the real need in each district is for the board and superintendent to decide the scope of work for each and establish proper policies and procedures that will lead to the performance of those duties.

As board members make decisions and find themselves involved in the business of the district, they should ask themselves: “Am I providing leadership to the superintendent and staff, and establishing policy for the district or have I stepped into the role of administrator?”

Superintendents should ask themselves: “Am I providing leadership to the board, in pointing out areas where policy is needed, or am I veering into administrative matters? Worse yet, am I forcing the board to make administrative decisions?”

Role and Responsibility Areas

Keeping roles clear and communication open is the key to good board and superintendent relationships. The table below is a summary for the responsibilities of the board and superintendent.

Role and Responsibility Area School Board Superintendent
1.     Future Planning and Growth Approves and monitors progress Executes and identifies needs
2.     Policy Adopts Policies Recommends, creates procedures, and implements
3.     Meetings In charge of Serves as a resource
4.     Budget/Finance Adopts and monitors Prepares, administers, monitors, details
5.     Student Achievement Establishes criteria, approves, and monitors Recommends, oversees staffs’ efforts
6.     Personnel Establishes criteria, approves, or rejects Interviews, recommends, hires, directs, evaluates, promotes, trains
7.     Community Relations Creates a positive image for district Creates a positive image for district, directs communications



    1. Approves a planning process to include stakeholders in developing a strategic plan.
    2. Approves goals for student achievement.
    3. Monitors progress on strategic plan.
    4. Participates in educational conferences, workshops, training, and professional organizations.
    5. Requires professional leadership from the superintendent.



    1. Recommends goals for student achievement.
    2. Provides educational leadership to the board, staff, students, and community.
    3. Identifies needs of the district and reports them to the board.
    4. Keeps the board aware of statewide and national educational developments and changes.
    5. Continually upgrades their professional knowledge and qualifications through membership and participation in professional associations, conferences, and workshops.

    1. Establishes policies for the governance of the school district.
    2. Clarifies for the superintendent the intent of the board regarding board policy.
    3. Reviews, evaluates, and adopts board policies on an ongoing basis.
    4. Authorizes the superintendent with those powers and duties in accordance with board policy and state and federal laws.

    1. As the chief executive officer of the board, the superintendent is responsible for implementing board policies and directives.
    2. Acts as advisor to the board on areas needing policy development or revision.
    3. Drafts written policy and provides the board with necessary data and information for policy adoption.
    4. Maintains a current, up-to-date manual of adopted policies.
    5. Develops rules and procedures necessary to implement the board’s policies.
    6. Identifies policy areas that the board should revise, rewrite, or repeal as needs of the district or laws and rules change.
    7. Coordinates and manages the operation of the schools.

    1. All duties delegated to the board are performed at a public board meeting.
    2. The board refrains from misuse of the executive session provisions as defined in Open Meeting Law.
    3. The board establishes the operational guidelines or practices for meetings (norms and protocols).
    4. The board chair, in consultation with the superintendent, develops the meeting agenda.
    5. The board identifies, for the superintendent, the information needed for decision making.
    6. Board members receive their agenda materials in adequate time for study before scheduled board meetings.
    7. Sets policy or protocols for public input or comment.

    1. Serves as an advisor to the board during meetings.
    2. Assures compliance with all legal requirements relative to the posting of notices and maintenance of meeting records.
    3. Identifies areas of business which the board should address at meetings.
    4. Prior to meetings, provides board members with sufficient information for decision making.
    5. Implements board decisions and instructions developed at meetings.
    6. Assures that board meetings, including executive sessions, meet the requirements of the law.

    1. Establishes priorities for the financial management of the district.
    2. Provides the superintendent with the board’s priorities in the development of the budget.
    3. Explores with the district auditor the internal controls of the district.
    4. Reviews the budget on a monthly basis and makes adjustments as needed.
    5. Reviews and approves the monthly bills.
    6. Prioritizes construction and/or building renovation needs of the district.

    1. Prepares a detailed budget based on the board’s priorities and parameters.
    2. Presents a budget to the board and/or budget committee for consideration and approval.
    3. Administers the budget assuring that the expenditures of district funds are within the legal requirements of the budget.
    4. Acts as a resource to the board within the framework of the district audits.

    1. Establishes educational philosophy, goals, and objectives for the instructional program of the district.
    2. Adopts policies for provision of student services including admission, attendance, activities, rights & responsibilities, discipline, and welfare.
    3. Adopts and/or revises standards and instructional programs as necessary or as recommended by the superintendent.
    4. Regularly reviews student achievement data.
    5. Reports to the community the status of education in the district.
    6. Identifies and adopts graduation requirements.
    7. Approves curricular materials.
    8. Periodically requests reports from professional staff related to assessments and instructional programs.

    1. Provides leadership to the board and staff in the ongoing development, implementation, supervision, and evaluation of the instructional program.
    2. Recommends and implements policies and rules to maintain adequate services and control of students.
    3. Recommends appropriate graduation standards and methods to measure student attainment.
    4. Present data regularly to board concerning student achievement and progress towards academic goals.
    5. Assigns staff to instructional areas and informs the board.
    6. Recommends and implements policy on selection of curricular materials.
    7. Provides for the direction and supervision of student activities.
    8. Regularly schedules presentations and reports by staff on various segments of assessments and instructional programs as requested by the board.

    1. Establishes job description of superintendent.
    2. Supervises and conducts annual evaluation of superintendent.
    3. Employs certified and classified staff members based on the recommendation of the superintendent.
    4. Promotes good working relations with staff through the district’s chain of command.
    5. Adopts policy on evaluation of personnel.
    6. Receives and acts on personnel recommendations from the superintendent.

    1. Recommends to the board the employment or dismissal of all certificated and classified staff.
    2. Establishes job descriptions for all positions.
    3. Responsible for the supervision and management of all employees of the district.
    4. Serves as the board’s liaison with staff.
    5. Fosters good working relationships with staff members.
    6. Develops a systematic plan for evaluating the performance of all district personnel based on policy.
    7. Delegates authority to staff members, as appropriate.
    8. Conducts evaluations of staff under their supervision.

    1. Represents public education serving as a liaison between the school district and the community.
    2. Maintains an awareness of community values, concerns, and interests.
    3. Actively participates in programs that build good community relations.
    4. Appoints advisory committees when necessary and outlines their responsibilities.
    5. Appoints the board’s spokesperson(s) to deal with the news media.
    6. Channels complaints or grievances through the established channels (chain of command).

    1. Informs and clarifies school programs and activities to the community.
    2. Serves as the board’s liaison with appointed advisory committees.
    3. Establishes a working relationship with the news media.
    4. Makes recommendations to the board for resolution of complaints that cannot be resolved at the administrative level.
    5. Indicates the district’s spokesperson to deal with the news media.
Ramona PowersRoles and Responsibilities of School Boards and Superintendents