Questions and Answers
By Roger G. Hanshaw, Esq.
As required by law, our school board will meet on July 7 to elect a president. Who should preside at the meeting? By what procedure should candidates for the position of president be nominated? What process should we follow to elect a president?
If the person who was the board’s president at the end of June is still a board member on July 7, he or she should preside at the July 7 meeting until the board elects a president for the next two years.
But if the most recent president’s four-year term on the board ended on June 30 and he or she was not re-elected, the custom has been that the Superintendent of Schools presides over the meeting until a president is elected, at which point the Superintendent steps aside and the newly elected president assumes the duties of that office.
To elect a president, the presiding officer, in public during the meeting, should invite nominations from the board members (and only the board members). There is no requirement that a nomination be seconded. However, a person who is nominated may decline the nomination or withdraw at any time prior to election.
Once all the nominations have been made, the nominees should be voted upon one at a time, in the order in which the nomination were made. The first nominee to receive three votes is declared as the new president, and the election ends at that point.
By way of illustration, the nominations and election might unfold as follows:
CHAIR: This meeting will come to order. The first business in order is the election of president of the board of education. Under Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, each member may nominate only one person for the office of president. Nominations do not require a second. After all nominations have been made, the chair will take a vote on each nominee in the order in which nominations were made. The first nominee to receive a majority vote will be elected president.
The floor is now open for nominations for president.
MEMBER: I nominate Mr. X.
MEMBER: I nominate Mrs. Y.
[and so on until all nominations have been made]
CHAIR: If there are no further nominations, the chair declares nominations closed. The chair will remind the members that ballot votes are not allows under West Virginia law. Each member may vote for only one nominee.
Those in favor of Mr. X, raise your hands. Thank you. There are 2 in favor.
Those in favor of Mrs. Y, raise your hands. Thank you. There are 3 in favor. Mrs. Y has a majority of the votes and Mrs. Y has been elected president of the board of education.
Anticipating that no nominee will receive three votes, the school board should, in advance of the election, adopt its own procedure for how to proceed in such a case. By way of example, the procedure might be that the nominee who receives the lowest number of votes will be dropped and the election process will be repeated from among the remaining nominees.
We are sometimes asked five related questions:
- May the current president be nominated and elected? Yes.
- May a board member who presides over the election process nominate and vote like other members. Yes.
- May the board members vote by secret ballot? No. The Open Governmental Proceedings Act makes it illegal to vote by secret or written ballot.
- May a board member nominate himself or herself? Yes.
- What about electing a vice president? West Virginia school law does not mention a vice president or require that any school board have one. Nevertheless, some school boards like to designate a vice president for reasons specified in their local board policies. Unless such a board has specified a different procedure in policy, the same nomination and election process described above should be followed to elect the vice president.
Hanshaw, an associate with Bowles Rice LLP, serves as the West Virginia School Board Association parliamentarian. Here is his contact information - firstname.lastname@example.org His telephone numbers, as listed by Bowles Rice LLP, are (304) 347-2115 or (304) 343-2867.