The simple answer is that Board Policy and the Superintendent Procedures provide all of the answers to these questions. There is a clear answer in these governing documents that defines the scope of authority for each person. Granted, a lot of the policies and procedures are so poorly written that they are neither actionable nor enforceable.
The real answer, however, is much more fluid. The real answer is: "Whatever you can get away with."
This is the hallmark of a dysfunctional organization. This is a facet of the culture of lawlessness.
The Board writes policy, but if they do not enforce it, then they have failed to set policy. The current Board, like every Board before them, refuses to enforce policy. The Board Directors may not care for that characterization. They may claim that they have no process for enforcing policy, that they can only request the superintendent's compliance. It appears their only management tool is to threaten to fire the Superintendent. So unless the non-compliance gets so bad that it makes them want to fire him, they have no method for coercing that compliance. While it may be true that the Board has no policy compliance process, who's job is it to develop a policy enforcement process? I have no sympathy for people who complain that their dinner is burning, but won't cross the room to turn off the oven. They negotiate the superintendent's contract. They design the superintendent's performance evaluation. For all of the talk about "The Board sets policy and the Superintendent implements it", there is very little concern about whether the Superintendent implements it or not.
The Superintendent, likewise, can enforce policy and has the duty to enforce policy. He also has the duty to enforce procedures, but he doesn't. He doesn't because the bulk of the work is done several levels below him on the org chart and he will not address himself to anyone but his cabinet. To do so would not only be beneath his dignity, but it would bypass the chain of command. Also, a lot of the policies are directed at the Superintendent and he is out of compliance with them. His own gross non-compliance robs him of the moral authority to enforce policies and procedures.
The District Staff lacks the authority to enforce policy. As the Advanced Learning department recently explained, they have no authority over principals or teachers, so they have no authority to direct them in the implementation of advanced learning programs or services. If a Spectrum/ALO program is non-existent there isn't anything the Advanced Learning staff can do about it. I'm not sure they can even take the designation away from the school. I use Advanced Learning as an example because the Advanced Learning staff has been so candid about their impotence. The same is true, however, about every other department in the Central Office. Special Education staff has no authority over teachers or principals to coerce them to adhere to laws, regulations, polices, or procedures. Same for ELL, Curriculum and Instruction, the Civil Rights Office, Research Evaluation and Assessment, and all the others.
Here's a statement by REA in a response to an internal audit that illustrates their limits:
"REA does in fact institute procedures that specify explicit restrictions and strict protocols for the handling of test materials by school staff. Principals and school-based staff are trained each year to implement these procedures, and are required to sign documentation attesting that they have followed them."
They can provide training on the procedures and they can require people to sign statements attesting to the adherence to the procedures, but they aren't really able to check anything to confirm it's true. The teachers who lead the NatureBridge field trip signed the forms attesting that they had read the field trip procedures and would follow them, but in the investigation the teachers admitted that they had not, in fact, read the procedures and it was shown that they did not follow them. The response from the District Staff was to shrug their shoulders and say "Yeah. Whattayagonnado?"
Executive Directors of Schools have, we presume, some sort of authority over principals, but like the Board, short of threatening to fire them, they don't have much in the way of a management tools. This was recently revealed when things spiraled out of control at Stevens this past year. The Executive Director of Schools for the Central Region had no authority to take any decisive action to help that school community. Honestly, it's unclear what Executive Directors of Schools do. They don't appear to do anything. Which is not to say that they couldn't exercise authority; they just don't have a model for it and little incentive to do so. They have sinecure; why would they rock the boat by trying to do something?
Perhaps the most frustrating and perverse example of this dysfunction is the Ombudsman, who has no authority over anyone. So you can bring a complaint to the Ombudsman that a policy, procedure, or even a law was violated and continues to be violated, the Ombudsman can find that your complaint is totally correct and that the violation occurred and continues to occur, but that's it. The Ombudsman doesn't have the authority to take any corrective action. From the District web site:
"What is the District Ombudsperson?The Ombudsman's office is little more than a complaint box stuck to the top of a shredder.
"The District Ombudsperson serves as an independent liaison to assist SPS parents and community members in helping to resolve problems, complaints, conflicts, and other school-related issues when normal procedures have failed. The Ombudsperson office does not have authority and can only make recommendations."
So where is the authority?
Principals have the bulk of the authority in the District and very little limit on how they wield it. They hire teachers, assign them, and evaluate them. They can, and do, drive teachers out of their school if not the profession. They are responsible for the administration of student discipline in their schools. They control budgets and nearly every decision made at a school. While there is supposed to be a BLT at every school that is charged with making decisions, some schools don't have BLTs and a lot of school BLTs are under the principal's control. Principals can exercise autocratic control free of accountability because no one above them in the org chart will ever interfere with the principal. The Executive Director of Schools is the one who is supposed to, but they are all ineffective supervisors. They can hear appeals of principals' decisions, but they always side with the principal. Always. And they do it with a shrug like they lack the authority to reverse the decision. It's likely that they don't because they can't really make a principal do anything. In a system in which you are free to do anything that you can get away with, and in which you have no meaningful supervision, you are free to do anything. Principals can be little tyrants if they want to be.
In my memory, there have only been two principals fired by an Executive Director of Schools: David Elliott, from Queen Anne Elementary for failing to complete performance evaluations, and Martin Floe, from Ingraham High School, for... not really sure what Mr. Floe was fired for, but it got reversed anyway, in a clear renunciation of the Executive Director's authority.
Principals can also, if they choose, act like King Log and do nothing.
Teachers can have a lot of freedom and authority when they, too, have little effective supervision. Teachers' decisions and actions are only limited by whatever action their principal might take in response. Since a number of principals are, to put it nicely, "hands off" managers, teachers are as free and unaccountable as many principals for the same reasons. They can use whatever instructional materials they want, use whatever instructional strategies they want, and, once the door is shut, pretty much teach whatever they want. That's not to say that there isn't clearly defined content that they are supposed to teach, only to say that there's no one who can make them do it if they choose not to.
And that's the theme: There is no authority anywhere in the JSCEE. None. The principals are free to exercise as much authority as they dare because they have no effective supervision. And teachers are equally free unless their principals impose authority over them.
Or am I wrong about this? Are the policies and procedures unclear about the scope of each person's or group's authority? Are the rules about decisions and authority followed and enforced?