By Bill Hineser
These days the community is having many conversations about what the school board and its members have done and what they haven’t done. But not much information has been shared about what Colorado school board members are supposed to do. Our state’s constitution and laws (Colorado Revised Statutes) outline the duties and responsibilities of the local board of education.
The board of education is the policy-making body of the school district. The board is responsible for education planning and evaluation (i.e., curriculum review and goals), staffing and appraisal, school facilities, financial resources, and communication. The board also acts as a court of appeal for staff members, students, and the public on issues involving policies established by the board and how they are implemented.
The board of education has “control of instruction” in its district’s public schools. Notably, neither the General Assembly (state legislature) nor State Board of Education has the power to prescribe which textbooks are to be used in the public schools. Each board thus retains local educational control. It is the board’s duty to determine the educational programs to be carried on in the schools and to prescribe the textbooks and other curricular materials for any course of instruction.
Adoption of content standards and a plan for their implementation is part of the board’s legal job description.
The board of education must adopt written bylaws. The board employs all personnel required to carry out the educational program of the district and determines their salaries. All financial records must be available to the public; nothing can be hidden. The board, within limits prescribed in state law, determines the length of the school year and the school day, and must maintain a public calendar with adequate notice for all changes.
The board of education may not delegate the power to hire teachers and other personnel, as this responsibility has been exclusively conferred by the General Assembly. The duty cannot be completely shifted to the superintendent. The law mandates the board’s involvement in this area.
It is the duty of the board to adopt policies to accredit the neighborhood and option schools it directly oversees, as well as the public charter schools it authorizes.
The board of education must undertake a community-based process to develop a blueprint for the education system in the community, and to determine the skills students will need to be successful after graduation. Each graduate should be ready for college or career.
The board of education also owns the responsibility to provide books and supplies for indigent and homeless children, as well as a path for their education.
The district is also subject to all federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services.
Though not generally known, the board of education is required to adopt a dress code policy for teachers and other school employees. The board also has a duty to ensure and protect the right of schools and students to display the flag of the United States on an individual’s personal clothing and personal property, or property under their control.
As supervisor of the superintendent of schools, the board is accountable to monitor and oversee its chief employee’s implementation of its policies and goals. Boards can determine the hiring and firing of any employee of the district. However, this approach is not always expedient. Certain positions are supervised by the superintendent and other key employees.
Private executive sessions of the board can only be held for very specific and limited reasons. Board meetings are held in public, in compliance with the state’s Open Meetings Law. The board must be open and responsive to the public, and the public in turn must allow them to perform their duties.
To assist in making decisions in areas sensitive to the public, the board also is authorized to create various committees. Included among them are the Technology and Data Privacy Committee, the Financial Oversight Committee, and the Capital Oversight Committee.
Just like the board’s business meetings, these committee meetings are open to the public and must be advertised so that the community is aware and can attend. Further, minutes must always be kept in order to provide the community with as much information as possible.
The listing here has touched on some of the board of education’s main duties, but it is not exhaustive. There are quite a few other duties that have not been discussed. These can be found by reading state statutes.