Interpretation's Date: July 16, 2014
by superintendent Charles K. Heinlein
Section: III. County Educational Administration
SubSection: A. County Boards of Education
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:
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:
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 State Superintendent of Schools