Matters relating to county board presidents
By Richard S. Boothby
Q: May a county board of education president make a motion and also vote on matters at board meetings?
A: The president of a county board of education has as much right under the school statutes to make motions and vote as any other board member. Boards of educations, and the position of president of the board, are, of course, creatures of statute. And there simply are no statutes that deny the board president these ordinary powers of a board member.
West Virginia Code §18-5-1c provides that each county board shall elect, for a two-year term, a president. West Virginia Code §18-5-4 provides that special meetings of a county board of education may be called by the president. Other than these two provisions, the school statutes are basically silent as to the school board president’s role.
We are aware of attempts to disenfranchise the board president by adopting Robert’s Rules of Order, and then arguing that, under Robert’s Rules, the president may vote only in the event of a tie and that he/she may make no motions without yielding the chair.There is no West Virginia authority to support this position. A State Superintendent of Schools Interpretation dated November 24, 1982 concludes “that the president of a county board of education has the same rights to vote on matters before the board, which other board members have.” He also found that “[i]f the board follows Robert’s Rules of Order, then the president of the county board of education can participate in board meetings without leaving the chair.” In fact, the State Superintendent advised that “[t]he president of a county board of education should not be reluctant to participate in meetings of the board because the president – like any other member of the board – is a representative of the people of the county.” And notably, Robert’s Rules itself anticipates that smaller boards may adopt less formal procedures.
In an earlier Interpretation, dated July 1, 1981, the State Superintendent arrived at essentially the same conclusion. This interpretation refers to a 1961 opinion of the Attorney General of West Virginia which concludes that:
Even though one of the members of a county board of education be designated as its president, he nonetheless continues to be a member and may vote on all matters and business of the board, whether or not a tie vote be involved.
Note also that there is no provision in West Virginia law for a board president to “temporarily” relinquish or resign from the position of board president.
Under 18-5-1c, once elected, a board president either serves as the president or resigns as the president (in which case he or she may continue to serve on the board like any other member). Upon the resignation of the president, the board must select a new president to serve out the balance of the present two-year term. The board may, of course, choose as its new president, the board member whom the board previously designated as its vice president (if it did so), but it is not legally bound to that choice as the position of vice president is not recognized in the school law.
Rick Boothby is a member of the Education Law Group, and a partner at Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love, LLP. He is a former public school teacher, and an honors graduate of the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University.