August 11, 2014 - Volume 34 Issue 21



By Howard E. Seufer Jr., Esq.

What are the duties of a school board’s vice president?  I can find nothing about the vice president in the West Virginia Code book.

By law, every county board of education must have a president. West Virginia Code § 18-5-1c requires county boards to elect a president every two years, on the first Monday of July following the state primary election.  All 55 county boards of education did so within the past month.

The school statutes grant the president certain prerogatives that other board members do not enjoy. The president’s signature must appear on all checks drawn on school board accounts.  No other board member’s signature will suffice. The president can also call special meetings of the board by himself or herself.  In contrast, any other board member can call a special meeting only with the concurrence of at least two other members.

But West Virginia state law is silent about the office of school board vice president. There is no such position under state law.

The school laws do not require or authorize county boards of education to have vice presidents. Nor do they empower a vice president to exercise the president’s powers when the president is unable or unavailable to perform them. Arguably, a check drawn on a school district account and signed by a vice president is invalid.  Likewise, a special meeting called only by the vice president appears to be unauthorized.

This isn’t to say that a county board is prohibited, as a local matter, from establishing the office of vice president and empowering the vice president to perform, in the president’s absence, certain housekeeping functions that the board expects its president to perform. These should be specified in a written policy enacted by the board. By way of example, the functions might include presiding at school board meetings or, in some counties, working with the superintendent to arrive at an agenda for a meeting. 

Those kinds of duties are not addressed in state law or vested by state law in a particular person. By designating a vice president to perform such functions whenever the president is unavailable, a board avoids having to pause every time its president is absent in order to decide which of its members will preside over the meeting or perform other housekeeping duties that the president ordinarily handles.

However, a very important point is that if a board chooses to have a vice president, the vice president arguably cannot automatically become the president if the board’s president steps down or leaves the board before the end of his or her two-year term.

State law provides for the selection of the president by vote of the board.  At the time when the president prematurely resigns or departs, the board may consist of different people than were on the board when the vice president was selected.  They may prefer someone else as their president.  It is also possible that even if the board members are the same, they are of a different mind than they were back when the vice president was designated. 

We recommend deciding at that time who will become the board’s president, rather than allowing the vice president, without a vote, to become the president automatically. To do so could raise questions about the validity of acts thereafter performed by the president.


Editor’s Note: Seufer, a partner with  Bowles Rice LLP (Charleston), serves as West Virginia School Board Association counsel, a position he has held since 1986.