Navigating Your School System
This is a guide to help you navigate the various levels of your school system – classroom teachers, principals, the superintendent, and the local board of education. Each has different areas of responsibility.
Before you set out, it will be helpful to acquaint yourself with your district's policy manual, which contains the local rules that directly affect your child, such as policies on school attendance and absences, graduation requirements, suspensions and expulsions, school entry requirements and others. The policy manual should be available in your district business office during school district hours.
Once you learn about your district and its policies, you are encouraged to be involved in the life of the school, especially teacher conferences and special events such as back-to-school night. Your child will benefit from a positive working relationship with the teacher so you can reinforce learning at home. You might even want to arrange for a visit to the school to observe classes in action. Above all, don’t hesitate to thank teachers and principals who are doing a good job with your child.
There are times when parents feel it is necessary to address an issue that affects them with the school or district. The following will guide you to the person most able to assist you:
- CLASSROOM: If you have any concerns related to your child’s classroom such as poor academic performance, behavior issues, or difficulty interacting with peers, make an appointment with the teacher to discuss the matter. Work with the teacher, but if the issue cannot be resolved, request a meeting with the principal.
- SCHOOL: If you have issues with administration of the school, such as quality of meals, condition of the facility, extra-curricular activities, receiving school information, obtaining Title I supplemental services, or getting a special education evaluation, make an appointment with the principal.
- DISTRICT: If you have issues related to the operation of your school district, such as unresponsiveness to your requests by the teacher or principal, hours of instruction, starting times, school attendance boundaries, transportation routes, etc., make an appointment with the superintendent.
- BOARD OF EDUCATION: The board of education hires the superintendent and approves other personnel. The board sets the policies for the district. The superintendent administers the policies for the board. If you have issues that you think would require a change of district policy or you have concerns about the general governance of the district, these matters should come to the board’s attention. You could write or e-mail the individual board members or speak about the issue at the public forum at a board meeting.
What can the state do?
If you have been unable to resolve issues by navigating the four local levels, there are several ways to bring issues to the attention of the Department of Education. Every county has an office with personnel who can help resolve issues if you have exhausted all avenues in the district. There is a directory of county offices at http://www.state.nj.us/education/counties/
A complete listing of matters that may be brought to the department can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/education/parents/law.htm