by Arati Nagaraj, Sepideh Yeoh, and Deb Dudley

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Best practices to select board officers

Dear BoardWise,

What are some open, fair and transparent practices to select board officers? What falls under the responsibility of each officer?

Arati Nagaraj: Board officers provide leadership and structure to the governance team. Your board bylaws provide the parameters on how to select your board officers, and articulate the officers’ roles and responsibilities. A good place to start is with Board Bylaw (BB) 9100, which states “The Board of Trustees shall hold an annual organizational meeting at its first meeting in December, within the time limits prescribed by law. The district Superintendent shall serve as Chairman of the Board at the Organizational meeting for the officer election and administration of Oath of Office.”

For county boards of education, it is important to refer to Education Code 1009. It requires that a president is elected and that the county superintendent is appointed as the secretary and executive officer to the board at the annual organizational meeting.

Governance teams should also review Board Bylaws 9121, 9122 and 9123 — these define the titles and duties of officers, process of electing them and their term limits. Ensuring the entire team agrees to these roles and responsibilities is imperative. To do this, conduct a review of the board’s bylaws in a regularly scheduled board meeting to ensure all members agree to the bylaws. If there is a disagreement, the board should work together to make the changes and ensure they are adopted by putting them on the agenda. Know that each governance team will bring new perspectives to the structure.

It is good practice for the superintendent to share and review BB 9100, and Education Code 1009 for COEs, with new board members prior to the first organizational meeting for the new board. The board practice of reviewing and discussing the bylaws builds trust, transparency and positive governance practices — all of which are important for the success of a district.

Sepideh Yeoh: When reviewing your local board bylaws, you may find that they refer to one of these two options commonly practiced by districts and COEs to select their board officers.

  • Option 1: Officer selection by rotation — This process allows officers to rotate, providing each member the opportunity to serve as president of the board. After serving one year, trustees follow the progression from clerk to vice president to president. The other two (on five-member boards) or four (on seven-member boards) serve as general trustees as they, too, move through the cycle of clerk, vice president and president.
  • Option 2: Officer selection by election — Each year at the annual organizational meeting, the board elects the entire slate of officers. The election is conducted in open session without the use of secret ballots. This option does not provide each trustee to serve as an officer and officers may serve more than the one-year term that they do in Option 1.

The option that your board chooses should be based on your local board preference and needs and be reflected in your board bylaws.

Deb Dudley: When considering the role of the board officers, it is important to pay particular attention to the board president responsibilities. The board president establishes the culture of the board by taking care to model positive behaviors, transparency and leadership, which will direct the other board members and staff toward a culture of trust and professionalism.

BB 9121 further defines the board president responsibilities: “The Governing Board shall elect a president from among its members to provide leadership on behalf of the governance team and the educational community it serves. To ensure that Board meetings are conducted in an efficient, transparent, and orderly manner, the President shall:

  1. Call such meetings of the Board as he/she may deem necessary, giving notice as required by law.
  2. Consult with the Superintendent or designee on the preparation of Board meeting agendas.
  3. Call the meeting to order at the appointed time and preside over the meeting.
  4. Announce the business to come before the Board in its proper order.
  5. Enforce the Board’s bylaws related to the conduct of meetings and help ensure compliance with applicable requirements of the Brown Act.
  6. Recognize persons who desire to speak, and protect the speaker who has the floor from disturbance or interference.
  7. Facilitate the Board’s effective deliberation, ensuring that each Board member has an opportunity to participate in the deliberation and that the discussion remains focused.
  8. Rule on issues of parliamentary procedure.
  9. Put motions to a vote, and clearly state the results of the vote.”

It is important to establish a regular practice of reviewing and discussing Board Bylaws 9100, 9121 to 9123 at the first organizational meeting of the new board. This regular practice ensures that new board members have an orientation on the roles and selection of board officers, while it also provides the opportunity for the new board to collectively agree on the practices that establish the board leadership for the year.