District-level Organization

At the district level, there are many departments to be understood. Generally, the departments include broad areas such as the following:

Instruction

This category includes academic instruction and curriculum.

Labor Relations

The collective bargaining of teachers to determine things such as wage scales, working hours, training, health and safety, etc. is required by a number of states. In states that do not have these requirements, many districts still have collective bargaining agreements with unions (the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are the two largest teachers unions). In most cases, districts negotiate contracts with unions and oversee their implementation, while individual schools generally do not. Although charter schools in most states are exempt from collective bargaining mandates, teachers in some charter schools have elected and are represented by a union that collectively bargains with the school leadership. (In some cases, labor relations may also be a state-level function.)

Legal

This department represents districts in lawsuits and ensures that districts comply with applicable Federal and state laws.

Human Capital

Commonly referred to as human resources, this area supports the hiring, firing, and professional development of teachers and school administrators.

Finance

This department manages the budget of the district, including overseeing revenues from government and private sources and setting guidelines for expenditures.

Special Education

This department oversees the education of students with disabilities to ensure that the district complies with IDEA.

Security

Some districts contract with local police and/or have their own security systems, but broad policies about the function of school security are overseen by districts.

Transportation

This department plans, provides, and maintains busing and other special transportation for students.

Food Services

This department is responsible for overseeing the provision of school meals and ensuring that the district complies with the National School Lunch Program.

Facilities

The physical plant and school operations are generally centralized at the district level, but each school manages its own facilities and custodial staff. (There is a move by some school systems, such as the District of Columbia, for example, to outsource this function to make modernization and maintenance more efficient).

The following organizational chart, from the Oakland (CA) Unified School District, shows a typical set of functional areas within a local education agency (LEA), referring to school districts, school divisions, and counties, and the lines of authority within them.

Oakland Unified SD Organization Chart
Figure 2. Oakland Unified School District Organization Chart.