Guidelines for School Committee Members

As a service to all School Committee Members, RIASC has gathered the RI General Laws governing school committee roles and responsibilities.

These may also be accessed at the State of RI’s website, by going to


School Committees and Superintendents

SECTION 16-2-9

§ 16-2-9 General powers and duties of school committees.

(a) The entire care, control, and management of all public school interests of the several cities and towns shall be vested in the school committees of the several cities and towns. School committees shall have, in addition to those enumerated in this title, the following powers and duties:

(1) To identify educational needs in the community.

(2) To develop education policies to meet the needs of the community.

(3) To provide for and assure the implementation of federal and state laws, the regulations of the board of regents for elementary and secondary education, and of local school policies, programs, and directives.

(4) To provide for the evaluation of the performance of the school system.

(5) To have responsibility for the care and control of local schools.

(6) To have overall policy responsibility for the employment and discipline of school department personnel.

(7) To approve a master plan defining goals and objectives of the school system. These goals and objectives shall be expressed in terms of what men and women should know and be able to do as a result of their educational experience. The committee shall periodically evaluate the efforts and results of education in light of these objectives.

(8) To provide for the location, care, control, and management of school facilities and equipment.

(9) To adopt a school budget to submit to the local appropriating authority.

(10) To adopt any changes in the school budget during the course of the school year.

(11) To approve expenditures in the absence of a budget, consistent with state law.

(12) To employ a superintendent of schools and assign any compensation and other terms and conditions as the school committee and superintendent shall agree, provided that in no event shall the term of employment of the superintendent exceed three (3) years. Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed as invalidating or impairing a contract of a school committee with a school superintendent in force on May 12, 1978.

(13) To give advice and consent on the appointment by the superintendent of all school department personnel. (No longer applicable as of  January, 2020)

(14) To establish minimum standards for personnel, to adopt personnel policies, and to approve a table of organization.

(15) To establish standards for the evaluation of personnel.

(16) To establish standards for conduct in the schools and for disciplinary actions.

(17) To hear appeals from disciplinary actions.

(18) To enter into contracts; provided, however, that notwithstanding any other provision of the general or public laws, whether of specific or general application, and notwithstanding the provisions of any charter of any municipality where the school committee is appointed and not elected, but not including, the Central Falls school district board of trustees established by § 16-2-34, the power and duty to enter into collective bargaining agreements shall be vested in the chief executive officer of the municipality and not in the school committee.

(19) To publish policy manuals which shall include all school committee policies.

(20) To establish policies governing curriculum, courses of instruction, and text books.

(21) To provide for transportation services which meet or exceed standards of the board of regents for elementary and secondary education.

(22) To make any reports to the department of education as are required by the board of regents for elementary and secondary education.

(23) To delegate, consistent with law, any responsibilities to the superintendent as the committee may deem appropriate.

(24) To address the health and wellness of students and employees.

(25) To establish a subcommittee of the school board or committee to decrease obesity and address school health and wellness policies for students and employees consistent with § 16-21-28.

(26) To annually undertake a minimum of six (6) hours of professional development as set forth and described in § 16-2-5.1.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to limit or interfere with the rights of teachers and other school employees to collectively bargain pursuant to chapters 9.3 and 9.4 of title 28 or to allow any school committee to abrogate any agreement reached by collective bargaining.

(c) The elected school committees of each city, town, or regional school district, or the chief executive officer of any municipality having an appointed school committee, shall have the power to bind their successors and successor committees by entering into contracts of employment in the exercise of their governmental functions.

(d) Notwithstanding any provisions of the general laws to the contrary, the requirement defined in subsections (d) through (f) of this section shall apply. The school committee of each school district shall be responsible for maintaining a school budget which does not result in a debt.

(e) The school committee shall, within thirty (30) days after the close of the first and second quarters of the state’s fiscal year, adopt a budget as may be necessary to enable it to operate without incurring a debt, as described in subsection (d).

(f) In the event that any obligation, encumbrance, or expenditure by a superintendent of schools or a school committee is in excess of the amount budgeted or that any revenue is less than the amount budgeted, the school committee shall within five (5) working days of its discovery of potential or actual over expenditure or revenue deficiency submit a written statement of the amount of and cause for the over obligation or over expenditure or revenue deficiency to the city or town council president and any other person who by local charter or statute serves as the city or town’s executive officer; the statement shall further include a statement of the school committee’s plan for corrective actions necessary to meet the requirements of subsection (d). The plan shall be approved by the auditor general and also submitted to the division of municipal finance.

(g) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, whether of general or specific application, and notwithstanding any contrary provision of any city or town charter or ordinance, the elected school committee of any city, town and regional school district shall be, and is hereby authorized to retain the services of such independent legal counsel as it may deem necessary and convenient. Any counsel so retained shall be compensated out of funds duly appropriated to the school committee, and in no event shall the independent counsel be deemed to be an employee of the pertinent city or town for any purpose.

History of Section. (G.L. 1896, ch. 54, § 8; P.L. 1902, ch. 989, § 1; G.L. 1909, ch. 66, § 5; P.L. 1913, ch. 946, § 1; G.L. 1923, ch. 70, § 4; G.L. 1938, ch. 178, § 4; G.L. 1956, § 16-2-9; P.L. 1978, ch. 295, § 1; P.L. 1988, ch. 336, § 1; P.L. 1991, ch. 44, art. 44, § 1; P.L. 2005, ch. 74, § 1; P.L. 2005, ch. 76, § 1; P.L. 2007, ch. 303, § 1; P.L. 2007, ch. 335, § 1; P.L. 2007, ch. 413, § 1; P.L. 2010, ch. 299, § 1; P.L. 2011, ch. 151, art. 12, § 18; P.L. 2011, ch. 265, § 1.)


School Committees and Superintendents

SECTION 16-2-9.1

§ 16-2-9.1 Code of basic management principles and ethical school standards.
(a) School committees shall adopt the following code of basic management principles and ethical school standards:

The  (District)  does hereby establish a code of basic principles and ethical standards for school committee members acting individually and collectively as boards of education in the management of the public schools of (City or Town).

The school committee in          accepts the obligation to operate the public schools in accordance with the fundamental principles and standards of school management, which principles include but are not limited to the following:

(1) Formulate written policy for the administration of schools to be reviewed regularly and revised as necessary.

(2) Exercise legislative, policy-making, planning and appraising functions and delegate administrative functions in the operation of schools.

(3) Recognize their critical responsibility for selecting the superintendent, defining his or her responsibilities, and evaluating his or her performance regularly without directly engaging in administrative processes.

(4) Accept and encourage a variety of opinions from and communication with all parts of the community.

(5) Make public relevant institutional information in order to promote communication and understanding between the school system and the community.

(6) Act on legislative and policy-making matters only after examining pertinent facts and considering the superintendent’s recommendations.

(7) Conduct meetings with planned and published agendas.

(8) Encourage and promote professional growth of school staff so that quality of instruction and support services may continually be improved.

(9) Establish and maintain procedural steps for resolving complaints and criticisms of school affairs.

(10) Act only through public meetings since individual board members have no authority to bind the board.

(11) Recognize that the first and greatest concern must be the educational welfare of the students attending the public schools.

(12) Work with other committee members to establish effective board policies and to delegate authority for the administration of the schools to the superintendent.

(13) Avoid being placed in a position of conflict of interest, and refrain from using the committee position for personal gain.

(14) Attend all regularly scheduled committee meetings as possible, and become informed concerning the issues to be considered at those meetings.

   (b) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to limit or interfere with the rights of teachers and other school employees to collectively bargain pursuant to chapters 9.3 and 9.4 of title 28 or to allow any school committee or superintendent to abrogate any agreement reached by collective bargaining.

History of Section. (P.L. 1988, ch. 642, § 2.)