Board-Superintendent Responsibilities

One of the most important jobs of a school board is to employ a superintendent and to hold the superintendent responsible for managing the schools in accordance with federal law, state law and the school board’s policies.
In order for a school district to operate efficiently and effectively, it is essential that board members and the superintendent understand their respective roles. The superintendent should not assume the functions and responsibilities of the board. Similarly, the board or its individual members should not attempt to function as the superintendent.

In contrast to the laws of some states, Colorado statutes do not define the duties and responsibilities of the superintendent. They do, however, spell out a board of education’s authority to employ a superintendent of schools to administer the affairs of the district. [C.R.S. § 22-32-110(1)(g).] As a result, a board must set forth the superintendent’s duties and responsibilities in board policy and/or the superintendent’s contract.

In many cases, strained relationships between a board and the superintendent are caused by misunderstandings or disregard for the responsibilities each is expected to assume. Board members are encouraged to discuss these problems with the superintendent and arrive at understandings before problems arise. A board should assist the superintendent by ensuring that none of its members violates the understandings of a working relationship. If the superintendent is infringing upon the functions of the board, a prompt reminder from the board is in order.

In this chapter, we will cover responsibilities and expectations in the board-superintendent relationship, hiring and evaluating superintendents and terminating superintendents.

Board and Superintendent Responsibilities

Two basic responsibilities of the superintendent are to serve as principal adviser to the board on all matters having to do with the district, and education in general, and to serve as the executive administrator of the district, charged with the responsibility of seeing that the policies and directives of the board are implemented.

The board serves as a representative of the community in providing direction for district programs and ensuring that the school system operates efficiently and effectively. In fulfilling this responsibility, the board concerns itself primarily with adopting policy, planning school services and evaluating the quality and effectiveness of district services.

Here are partial lists to help explain roles and responsibilities:


  • Ensures educational programs are designed to achieve desired end results for students
  • Accredits the district’s schools
  • Is a legislative body: adopts policy and regulations pertinent to the affairs of the district
  • Recognizes the superintendent as the professional leader of the staff and adviser to the board
  • Establishes written policies for the administration of the schools; considers policy recommendations from the superintendent, staff and community; revises policies as necessary
  • Adopts policies governing financial transactions; receives and reviews periodic reports relating to the financial status and transactions of the district
  • Adopts policies that ensure proper operation and adequate maintenance of transportation services and adequate maintenance of the buildings and grounds of the district
  • Adopts policies relative to employment of personnel; appoints instructional personnel upon recommendation of the superintendent
  • Prohibits its members from assuming responsibilities of the full board or assuming responsibilities of administration
  • Authorizes the superintendent to prepare a budget for board consideration; considers the proposal and makes revisions that appear to be necessary; holds public hearings; adopts a budget and an appropriation resolution; authorizes the superintendent to implement and administer the adopted budget


  • Administers the affairs of the district in conformity with the policies and regulations adopted by the board; implements the directives of the board
  • Assumes responsibility for serving as professional leader of the staff and adviser to the board
  • Conducts studies and investigations necessary to the development of policies; makes recommendations with respect to policies; advises the board and provides information and materials to assist the board in its deliberations
  • Assumes responsibility for administering financial affairs of the district pursuant to established policy; provides periodic reports to the board relative to financial status and transactions
  • Submits policy recommendations and advises the board on the transportation, operation and maintenance needs of the district; supervises the operation and maintenance of school plants in accordance with board policy
  • Determines instructional personnel requirements, qualifications and duties for the approval of the board; nominates instructional personnel for employment upon board approval
  • Works with the board as a whole; keeps all members informed; does not usurp board responsibilities or prerogatives
  • Ensures educational programs are achieving the board’s desired end results for students
  • Prepares a proposed budget for board consideration; interprets the proposal to the board; provides the board with pertinent data and information; implements and administers the budget upon board approval


Board and Superintendent Expectations

The board should expect much from its superintendent. Likewise, a superintendent has a right to expect much from his or her board. Each should have an understanding of the expectations of the other, and time must be carved out for discussion – to get on the same page – whenever a new superintendent is hired or a new board member is appointed or elected.

In all of its work, a board should expect assistance, cooperation and professional leadership from its superintendent. A superintendent should be expected to recommend changes in district programs and board policies whenever it is felt that such are needed. Without exception, a superintendent should put into effect the policies and plans adopted by the board.

Following are partial lists to help explain expectations for a board and its superintendent:

A superintendent should be able to expect that the board will:

  • Carry out its duties and functions in an ethical and responsible manner
  • Give authority commensurate with the responsibilities it is expected to assume
  • Hold the superintendent accountable for situations and problems he or she has been given authority to correct or control and, similarly, not hold the superintendent accountable when denied such authority
  • Stand behind and support the superintendent if he or she is carrying out the policies and directives of the board
  • Provide objective counsel and advice and offer any criticisms it may have in a constructive manner
  • Adopt policies to guide the superintendent in the performance of his or her duties
  • Look upon the superintendent as a professional educator and administrator; give due consideration to the superintendent’s recommendations on matters pertaining to education and the administration of the schools
  • Keep current with education program trends and actively participate in workshops and conferences that are designed for school board members
  • Follow the agenda and established school board meeting procedures so that it can be adequately prepared to respond to questions

The board of education should expect that the superintendent will:

  • Administer the operations of the school district in conformity with directives and policies adopted by the board and be accountable to the board in all related matters
  • Assume responsibility for serving as the administrative officer of the district and as adviser to the board
  • Facilitate preparation of board meeting agendas
  • Provide recommendations, advice, information and materials to assist the board in its deliberations
  • Keep the board advised of changes, innovations and trends in education that might be applicable to the system
  • Keep the board fully informed on all matters of its concern
  • Keep the board informed of student achievement data and other information affecting the district’s accreditation
  • Utilize the professional competencies of the staff in conducting studies, evaluating programs and developing recommendations for consideration by the board
  • Make an effort to work with all board members on an equal basis and not place undue reliance upon certain individuals
  • Accurately interpret the needs of the school system to the board and to the public
  • Consistently strive to provide for improvements in the instructional programs of the district
  • Make a conscious effort to maintain good staff and community relations
  • Operate the system in a fiscally sound manner
  • Support board decisions
  • Ask to be relieved of his or her contract if unable to perform as expected