Interpretation's Date: May 16, 2014
by superintendent James B. Phares
Section: III. County Educational Administration
SubSection: A. County Boards of Education
May 16, 2014
Howard O?Cull, Ed.D.
Dear Dr. O?Cull:
You have requested an interpretation of W. Va. Code ? 18-5-1a(d) relating to board member orientation. Specifically, you ask whether county board of education members elected to successive terms must complete a session of orientation after each election.
W. Va. Code ? 18-5-1a(d) states, in its entirely:
(d) A person elected to a county board after July 1, 1990, may not assume the duties of county board member unless he or she has first attended and completed a course of orientation relating to boardsmanship and governance effectiveness which shall be given between the date of election and the beginning of the member's term of office under the following conditions:
(1) A portion or portions of subsequent training such as that offered in orientation may be provided to members after they have commenced their term of office;
(2) Attendance at the session of orientation given between the date of election and the beginning of the member's term of office permits the member-elect to assume the duties of county board member, as specified in this section;
(3) Members appointed to the county board shall attend and complete the next orientation course offered following their appointment; and
(4) The provisions of this subsection relating to orientation do not apply to members who have taken office prior to July 1, 1988, and who serve continuously from that date forward.
It is my opinion that the phrase, ?assume the duties of a county board member? refers to the initial point at which a newly elected board of education member begins acting as a board member. The orientation must occur before that point in time. Thereafter, if the board member is elected for subsequent successive terms, the board member is continuing with the duties that he or she has previously assumed. As such, there is no obligation to re-take the orientation course unless there is an intervening break in service as a board member.
All individuals serving as board of education members annually are required to receive seven clock hours of training relating to boardsmanship, governance, effectiveness, and school performance issues including, but not limited to, pertinent state and federal statutes. If a member serves successive terms and completes this training it would not be logical to require an additional course of orientation. This reasoning is bolstered by the language in 18-5-1a(d)(1) which states that ?A portion or portions of subsequent training such as that offered in orientation may be provided to members after they have commenced their term of office.? In reading the statute as a whole, it seems clear that the course of orientation is only required prior to a member assuming duties for the first time and that the remaining training requirements consist only of the seven clock hour training annually which may include issues similar to those covered in the orientation.
However, if there is a break in a member?s service, it is my opinion that a county board of education member should re-take the orientation course upon reelection so that he or she can be brought up to date on new and necessary information that he or she may have missed while not serving as a board member.
Though interpretations of the state superintendent issued pursuant to W. Va. Code ?18-3-6 are issued only after considerable research and deliberation and are given a level of deference by reviewing courts, there is always the possibility that an interpretation can be overturned if it is challenged. Accordingly, any board of education member who is not comfortable accepting my interpretation will not be precluded from repeating the course of orientation offered by the School Board Association upon each successive term as a board member at his or her discretion.
James B. Phares, Ed.D.