Generally, the role of a school board is to set policy, and the role of the administration is to execute it. Here is the basic distinction as set forth by the New Jersey School Boards Association:

"Policies are principles adopted by the board to chart a course of action. They tell what is wanted and may include also why and how much. They are broad enough to indicate a line of action to be taken by the administration in meeting a number of day after problems; they need to be narrow enough to give the administration clear guidance. Rules are the detailed directions developed by the administration to put policy into practice. They tell how, by whom, where, and when things are to be done."

These definitions are serviceable most of the time. They reflect sound theory of governance and administration. But the real world does not always conform. Often the state and federal governments confuse the distinction and require school boards to make detailed rules; and many regulations are established by law or by the State Department of Education.

Additionally, the public may demand that the Board itself, not the administrator, 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":

  1. All edicts of the State (even though regulations) are considered mandated Board policy.

  2. Where the Board has written regulations, in particularly sensitive areas, and has incorporated them into policy, the entire statement is presented as policy.

  3. Where the Board has adopted rules and regulations concerning its own procedures (as how it conducts meetings), these statements concerning operations of the Committee appear as policy.

As long as the administration operates within the guidelines of a general policy adopted by the Board, it may change administrative regulations without prior approval of the Board - unless the Board has specifically asked that a particular regulation be given prior Board approval, however, only the Board may adopt new policies or revise old ones.