Understanding the basics

As a newly elected school director, you have assumed membership in PSBA, an association created especially for school directors in Pennsylvania.

A QUICK GUIDE FOR SCHOOL BOARD ORGANIZATION
IN AN ELECTION YEAR

During an election year, many questions arise about the procedure for the organization of a school board.  The following is intended to serve as a quick reference for some basic questions.  However, this is not intended to serve as a substitute for the advice of a solicitor.

Organization Procedure-  The School Code requires a Board to use the following procedure after an election has occurred.
Notice- The secretary of the retiring board is required to provide the incumbent and newly elected members 5 days notice of the organization meeting by mail.  The notice must provide the time and place of the organization meeting (24 P.S. §402).

Organization Meeting-  The Board must reorganize the first week of December (24 P.S. §4-404).  At the organization meeting, the Board is required by law to accomplish five things in the following order:

1.)     Elect a temporary president to chair the organization meeting (24 P.S. §4-402);
2.)     Read the certificates of election for newly elected or reelected Board members (24 P.S. §4-402);
3.)     Administer the oath of office to any Board members who have not already taken the oath for their new terms (24 P.S. §4-402);
4.)     Prepare a list of the newly constituted Board membership (24 P.S. §4-402); and
5.)     Elect a permanent President and Vice-president to serve for a one-year term. (24 P.S. §4-404).

9 QUESTIONS & ANSWERS REGARDING REORGANIZATION

1.     May an elected board member or reelected board member take the oath of office before the term of office begins? 
Answer- This question constitutes a gray area in the law.  Because the term of office begins on the first Monday of December (24 P.S. §3-303), the best practice is for board members not to take the oath before their term begins.

2.     May an elected board member take the oath of office before the organization meeting?
Answer- YES.  It is permissible for a board member to take the oath at a time or place other than the reorganization meeting subject to one time consideration (24 P.S. §4-402).  The board member must take the oath to qualify for the office within 10 days of the beginning of his/her term of office (24 P.S. §3-319).

3.     Who can administer the oath of office for a school director? 
Answer - The temporary president may administer the oath at the reorganization meeting (24 P.S. §402).  Additionally, school directors may be sworn in by judicial officers, the clerk of courts, or other authorized court personnel.  This would include a district justice (42 Pa.C.S.A. §327).

4.  May the school solicitor administer the oath of office?
Answer - Solicitors have no express authority to administer oaths (42 Pa.C.S.A. §327).   Therefore, the solicitor should not administer the oath.

5.     May a board member take the oath of office from a judicial officer in another state?
Answer- This practice raises serious concerns.  The temporary president and judicial officers are granted the authority to administer an oath as a matter of Pennsylvania state law (42 Pa.C.S.A. §327).  Therefore, the authority of a judicial officer to administer an oath in another state is suspect.

6. What happens at an organization meeting if one of the newly elected members was elected for both a 4-year seat, and a 2-year seat?
Answer-  The elected member is only permitted to accept the oath of office for one of the seats.  This would result in a vacancy and the board would appoint someone who would serve until the next municipal election (24 P.S. §3-315).

7.     If one person is elected for two separate seats on the board, does that person have to resign one of the seats?
Answer-  The individual was never entitled to hold two seats at the same time.  Therefore, the elected member would only take the oath for one of the seats and a resignation is unnecessary.  The other seat would become a vacancy and the new Board would appoint a replacement.

8.     What is the proper procedure if a school director vacancy exists when the newly elected board is organized?
Answer- The new board has 30 days to appoint someone to fill the vacancy.  There are no formal procedures for the appointment.  However, the appointed board member must meet eligibility requirements (24 P.S. §3-315).  Additionally, the appointee must be approved by a majority of votes of all of the members of the board (24 P.S. §5-508).

9.     Who may be elected as temporary president of the reorganization meeting? 
Answer- Section 402 provides that the temporary president shall be elected from among the hold-over members (24 P.S. §4-402).  Hold-over members are those members whose terms are not expiring or beginning anew, i.e., persons who were not just elected or reelected to office.

Oath of Office:

School Director Oath of Office
24 PS 3-321

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.