Generally, the role of a School Board is to set policy and the role of the administration is to execute it. The basic distinction as set forth by the National School Boards Association is as follows:
- Policies are principles adopted by a School Board to chart a course of action. They tell what is to be done and may also include why and how much. They are broad enough to indicate a line of action to be taken by the administration in dealing with day-to-day activities. They are narrow enough to give the administration clear guidance. Policies are binding.
- Regulations are the detailed directions developed to put policy into practice. They are the administrative procedures. Superintendents may promulgate regulations without prior School Board approval unless board action is required by law or unless the board has specifically asked that certain types of regulations be given prior board approval. The Board shall be kept informed of all regulations issued by the administration. Regulations are binding
- The administration develops guidelines unless board action is required by law or unless the Board has specifically asked that certain types of guidelines be given prior Board approval. Guidelines are not binding; they are discretionary.
These distinctions are serviceable most of the time. They reflect sound theory of government and administration. But the real world does not always conform. For example, often the state and federal governments require School Boards to make detailed rules; and many regulations are established by law or by the Virginia Board of Education. Additionally, the public may demand that a School Board itself, not the administration, establish the specific rules and procedures in certain sensitive areas. Thus, the separation of policies and administrative regulations in this manual follows several rules of thumb in addition to "basic theory" as follows:
1. All edicts of the Virginia Board of Education are considered mandated Board policy;
2. When the School Board has written regulations required by law or in particularly sensitive areas and has incorporated them in policy, the entire statement is to be considered Board policy; and
3. When the School Board has adopted rules (bylaws) concerning its own operations, (for example, how to conduct meetings), these statements concerning operations of the Board appear as Board policy.
As long as the administration operates within the guidelines of policy adopted by a School Board, it may issue regulations without prior Board approval unless board action is required by law or unless the Board has specifically asked that certain types of regulations be given prior Board approval. The Board, of course, is kept informed of all school system regulations issued by the administration, and all are subject to Board review. Also, in the absence of policy thought necessary, it is the superintendent's responsibility to recommend policy to the School Board.