Navigating Policy Manuals

Board policy development in a modern, forward-looking school district is a dynamic, ongoing process. New problems, issues and needs give rise to the continuing obligation to develop additional policies or to revise existing policies. Here’s assistance in navigating the manuals.


Ellen Baker – Policy Assistant, Basic Policy Services Liaison
573-445-9920, ext. 312

The manuals are organized according to MSBA’s modified coding system of the National School Boards Association (NSBA). The system provides an efficient means of coding, filing and locating policies, regulations, administrative procedures and other related forms.

Twelve major classifications, each represented by letter code, are utilized in the MSBA Classification System.

A — Foundations and Basic Commitments
B — School Board Governance and Operations
C — General School Administration
D — Fiscal Management
E — Support Services
F — Facilities Development
G — Personnel
H — Negotiations
I — Instructional Program
J — Students
K — School-Community Relations
L — Education Agency Relations

Subsequent policies under each classification heading are coded in logical alphabetical sequence. For example, policy CB is used for a general policy statement regarding the school superintendent. Policy CBA relates to the more specific topic of qualifications and duties of the superintendent. Policy CBA, therefore, is a “sub” code of CB, and CB is the “superior” code of CBA.

There are three ways to find a policy in the manual:

A master index is in the front of each policy manual. A policy can be found by referring to this master document. Beside each title will be a breakdown of what is currently available in the areas of policy, regulation, procedure and form.

Consider where the policy would be filed among one of the 12 major classifications. Turn to that section index and glance down the listing until you find the title that most closely fits the topic you are seeking. Use the file code letters given for that title to locate the policy that will appear in alphabetical order by file code within that particular section.

Turn to the Code Finder Index at the end of the policy manual. The Code Finder Index aids in locating materials by topic or keyword. Look up the desired subject as with any index, find the file code, and use the file code to locate the policy in the manual. The Code Finder Index lists hundreds of terms, but no index of useful size could include every possibility. If the topic you are seeking is not included, look up a synonym or a more general or specific term appropriate to your subject.

What if you can find the topic and file code but there is no policy in the district’s manual? This probably means that the school district has no written policy in that particular area. All codes actually used in the manual appear in the master index and the section indexes. The Code Finder Index, however, contains codes that may not be in the current manual, but may be inserted at a later date. A brief statement related to the policy area you are seeking may be incorporated in a “superior” policy that covers the area generally. This “superior” policy will be coded under a more general term. To find it, move up the classification system. For example, a policy statement that relates to all meetings of the board of education might be filed under “Board Meetings” (BD) rather than “Regular Board Meetings” (BDA).

Various signs and symbols are used in connection with the classification system as follows:

-R Regulation
This symbol following a file code indicates that the material is a regulation, not a board policy. A regulation is a step-by-step process that contains legal material necessitating Board adoption.

-AP Administrative Procedure
This symbol following a code identifies material containing detailed directions developed by the administration to put a policy into practice. An administrative procedure will tell how, by whom, where and when tasks are to be accomplished.

-AF Administrative Form
This symbol following a file code indicates a form that complements Board policy and is used by the administration to collect or disseminate information or provide reference documents.

Cross Refs
Certain policies relate to others. Cross references are provided following many policy statements to refer the reader to related information in another section.

Appropriate policies, administrative procedures and administrative forms include Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) reference codes that indicate the document fully or partially satisfies one or more components of the MSIP Standards and Indicators Manual, Report Writing Form or District Response Form.

Legal Refs
Pertinent legal references direct the reader to the state or federal law or case law on which the document is based. Additionally, documents that are required by law are labeled “critical” at the top, while those recommended based on best practices are labeled “basic.” It is important to note that additional laws or court decisions might also be applicable to a particular document.

All MSBA reference copies include a statement on reasons for the proposed changes.

Routing Box
Reference copies contain routing suggestions to help the district get documents to the staff members who need them.

About Board Policies and Administrative Procedures
Generally, the role of a board of education is to set policy and the role of the administration is to execute it. The basic definitions of policies and procedures, as defined by the Missouri School Boards’ Association, are as follows:

Policies are values or principles adopted by the board that establish the framework for what is to be done. Policies provide general guidance for the district and are based on the philosophy of the school district. Policies include topics subject to direct board governance as well as those concerning the board’s own operation. The policy manual should include district goals as established by the board of education. Some policies are included in the manual because of laws or regulations that require them. Others are included at the discretion of the Board in order to provide for consistent operation of the district and to meet the educational needs of students.

Procedures put policy into practice. They tell how, by whom, where and when things are to be done. Procedures often reflect legal and regulatory requirements that do not require Board approval. The superintendent has discretion to develop and change many procedures provided they fall within the framework of adopted policy. However, there are some procedures that may not be changed at the discretion of the superintendent due to legal requirements.

These definitions reflect sound theory of governance and administration.

As long as the administration operates within the guidelines of a policy adopted by the board, it may change administrative procedures without prior approval of the board — unless the board has specifically asked for Board approval. However, only the board may adopt new policies or revise current policies.

Board of education policies, regulations, administrative procedures and administrative forms must be read and interpreted in the light of the federal and state laws and Missouri State Board of Education / Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education regulations. Wherever inconsistencies of interpretation arise, the federal and state laws and regulations shall prevail.