Interpretation's Date: July 16, 2014
by superintendent Charles K. Heinlein
Section: III. County Educational Administration
SubSection: A. County Boards of Education
July 16, 2014
Howard O?Cull, Ed.D.
Dear Dr. O?Cull:
You have requested an interpretation regarding the responsibilities and actions of county board of education members.
Specifically, you ask:
Is it lawful . . . For a duly-elected county board of education member to request and/or be granted permission by the presiding member of the county board ? or by the member himself or herself if presiding ? to address his or her board at any point in the meeting as a ?delegation??
In the limited cases where this happens, the duly-elected county board of education member so addressing his or her county board will often declare that he or she is peaking as a ?citizen? rather than in the capacity of a duly-elected county board of education member when providing such remarks . . .
Finally, could a county board itself vote to allow a member to speak as a ?delegation,? using the designation ?speaking as a citizen??
Simply put, there is no authority in law that would authorize an elected county official to cast off his or her cloak of membership during a meeting to assume the role of a non-member citizen. Once sworn in as a board of education member, the member can only attend meetings in his or her capacity. There is no provision of law that would allow the member to transition between those roles at-will. Board of education members may, of course, voice their individual opinions on issues that are placed on the agenda in compliance with the Open Meetings Act. Additionally, board members may voice their opinions as individuals when speaking on education related topics outside of board of education meetings. Once in a meeting of the board, however, the member does not have the freedom to choose when he or she will act in an official capacity.
You also ask:
[I]s it lawful for a county board operating under state Board of Education intervention to adopt goals, to plan and to develop means of methods for monitoring and oversight, providing these are developed with strict guidance and input from the county schools superintendent and with full support and respect for the powers granted the county board in terms of state Board of Education intervention as well as any extant understanding of issues to be addressed prior to consideration for the lifting of state intervention?
Yes. I do believe that this is within the authority of a county board of education operating under West Virginia Board of Education intervention. In fact, goal setting and coordination of this type will be beneficial to the local board in regaining local control. In all cases, however, boards in intervention counties must remember that they do not employ the superintendent as in traditional county settings. Rather, they must work in conjunction with and in support of the county superintendent who is an arm of the State Superintendent and West Virginia Board of Education.
Charles K. Heinlein