One of the major roles and responsibilities of your school board is to adopt local policies.
School board policy development can be as simple as adopting changes to a single policy or as complex as dozens of stakeholders and a cascade of changes affecting multiple policies and requiring updates to numerous district documents. You can make the process more efficient and reduce the complexity by developing expertise in how crafting school board policy works.
So where do you begin?
First, your time is valuable, and there’s never enough of it. Successful boards delegate. Your administrative staff should gather information, research, and draft the policy recommendations. As a board member, you should review recommendations and make the decisions.
Use these guidelines to get a handle on the fundamentals of an effective policy development and maintenance process for when your district initiates policy changes, often referred to as Local District Updates (LDUs).
1. Collect and develop preliminary proposals
Texas Education Code 11.201 specifically charges the superintendent with “preparing recommendations for policies to be adopted by the board of trustees and overseeing the implementation of adopted policies.” However, proposals for new school district policy or a school district policy that should be changed or updated can also be generated through discussions with:
- School board members
- Other district staff
- Students and parents
- Community members
In developing the proposal, attempt to anticipate issues that are likely to be of concern in the district. All proposals should be submitted to your district’s policy coordinator.
2. Ensure your district has designated a knowledgeable policy coordinator
Depending on the size of your administrative staff, your superintendent may appoint someone to coordinate policy development and maintenance. Commonly referred to as the district’s policy contact, this person is in charge of the development and maintenance of the district’s policy manual and also serves as the point of contact between your district and TASB Policy Service. In many districts, the superintendent serves as the district’s policy contact. TASB can provide training to policy contacts as needed.
3. Have staff prepare a draft policy
Your policy contact will likely work directly with TASB Policy Service staff on the policy draft. You and your district’s policy contact can contact TASB at any time with questions about policy or for assistance in the policy development process. TASB Policy Service Consultants can:
- Answer policy questions and provide school policy example practices from across the state
- Create drafts of local policies for board consideration
- Provide expert feedback on your district’s current or draft policies
- Identify areas of concern
- Point out inconsistencies or redundancies with other policies in the school board policy manual
- Help the district determine the appropriate place to code new policy provisions
- Determine if a conversation with TASB Legal Services would be beneficial
- Identify what information, if any, is better suited to administrative regulations
Learn the differences between school board policies and regulations.
4. Seek community input as appropriate
For complex issues or issues that are important to the community, inviting the community to weigh in can help inform the board’s policy decisions. By seeking community input—particularly from groups with a special interest in a proposed policy change—in advance, your district demonstrates its willingness to work with the community on issues of importance.
Some districts establish a policy committee where community members can offer their opinions, perspectives, and suggestions. A policy committee can help to mitigate potential conflict and result in a more satisfying proposal.
The committee can gather and study information concerning specific policy proposals, and can include:
- The district’s policy contact
- Board members (be sure to check with legal counsel about Open Meetings Act implications)
- Involved community members
The committee usually has no decision-making authority, but it weighs the alternatives and makes recommendations to the board. In some cases, this committee might submit multiple alternatives for the board to consider.
5. Review policy for board adoption
At this stage, your board will review any supporting documentation and the policy recommendations.
Related information and supporting documentation might include things like:
- Administrative procedures
- Articles, white papers, and reports
- Court rulings
- A fiscal analysis
- Other materials with a bearing on the proposed policy
If you have questions or want changes to the recommendation, you can request that staff provide the additional information needed for the board to make a decision or revisions to the policy recommendation.
After board adoption, each new policy should be circulated throughout the district to everyone it might affect. Your district’s policy contact should also inform TASB Policy Service of the decision, so that the policy can be posted on your district’s online board policy manual, Policy On Line.
6. Conduct regular policy maintenance
You should establish a routine of ongoing and annual policy maintenance, and your district should also periodically undergo a comprehensive policy audit to:
- Ensure board policies accurately reflect current district practice
- Resolve internal inconsistencies that develop over time
- Train administrators and the board on policy issues
TASB offers several resources to facilitate both ongoing policy review process and annual maintenance to keep your district’s policy manual current. Whether you need a sample policy, need to make a change to an existing policy, or just want to talk about an issue facing your school district, our policy consultants can help.
Policy consultants are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 800.580.7529 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Policy Development Resources for School Boards
TASB has policy resources to help you and your board better serve students, parents, administrators, teachers, and district staff in the Policy Service Resource Library: