Organizational Meetings

Q: Can we administer the oath of office to a newly elected/re-elected board member outside of the organizational meeting?
A: Yes, once the votes are canvassed and official, Iowa code 277.28 indicates the oath to be administered at or before the organizational meeting. The board member could go to the district office to be sworn in prior to the organizational meeting. If this is not possible and the new board member is unable to be physically present, either before or at the organizational meeting, they may be sworn in over the phone. Iowa Code 21.8 and 21.2 specifies that board members can participate in a board meeting via electronic means when being physically present is impossible or impractical. Best practice is that an additional person is present with the new board member during the delivery of the oath of office. Important note: If the board member is not sworn in by the organizational meeting this would result in a vacancy.

Q: What is the process if there is a tied vote during officer elections?
A: In the event someone abstains, a tied vote is a possibility. If there is a tied vote, the motion fails and the board must vote until the motion passes.

Q: Does the president and/or vice president need to take the oath of office when elected during the organizational meeting?
A: No. The president and/or vice president are not required to take the oath of office during the organizational meeting. They can be sworn in by the board secretary after the meeting if they are not present. However, this does not mean they don’t need to take the oath of office at all—they should take the oath of office when elected to the officer position.

Q: Does the outgoing board conduct a meeting to take action on unfinished business?
A: Yes. The organizational meeting is held in two parts: the final meeting of the outgoing board and the organizational meeting of the new board. The outgoing board votes on unfinished business, including settling the books for the previous year.

Q: The board secretary has a scheduling conflict and cannot attend the organizational meeting. Who can administer the oath of office to new board members?

A: IASB sample policy indicates that another board member can administer the oath of office. It is also addressed in Iowa Code 277.28.

Q: When we are voting to elect officers, does the final tally need to include the number of total votes for the nominee and how each board member voted?
A: Yes, according to the Iowa Open Meetings Law, “the minutes shall show the results of each vote taken and information sufficient to indicate the vote of each member present."

Conflicts of Interest

Q: What constitutes a conflict of interest for a board member?
A: Certain conflicts of interest are identified in federal law, state law and board policy. Iowa law sets parameters limiting compensation from the district; prohibiting being an agent of a textbook or school supply company selling to the school district; and prohibiting also serving as a statewide official or state legislator. In addition, Iowa law prohibits school board members from accepting gifts or honoraria, with some exemptions.

Q: Can a district employee serve on the school board?
A: If elected, a school employee earning more than $2,500 per fiscal year from the school district would have to resign the position before serving on the school board. Iowa law prohibits board members from earning more than $2,500 in direct compensation from a school district per fiscal year for part-time or temporary employment.

Q: Is it a conflict of interest if a school employee’s spouse serves on the school board?

A: No. Iowa law does not prohibit a school employee’s spouse from serving on the school board.

Q: Can family members, including spouses, serve on the school board together?
A: Iowa law does not prohibit family members from serving on the same school board.

Q: Can a former school employee serve on the school board if they are receiving retirement/benefits compensation from the district?
A: Yes, they can serve on the school board. Iowa law does not prohibit a former school employee from serving on the school board if elected because that contract/benefits decision was authorized by a former board and will not come up in front of the board member.

Vacancies

Q: If a board member resigns, can we put the required publication in the paper right away?
A: Yes. Once a vacancy occurs, the board may fill the vacancy by board appointment within 30 days of the vacancy. Read more in this IASB special report on filing a vacancy.

Q: Does the board need to take any action on a resignation?
A: Yes. A formal approval/acceptance of the resignation by the board can happen at the next meeting. However, once the resignation is received by the board secretary, resignation is effective immediately unless a date is specified in the resignation.

Q: We have a vacancy on the school board and multiple candidates are interested. What’s the process?
A: If there is not a petition for a special election, the board deliberates on the candidates at an upcoming meeting, and then votes once a motion is made for one of candidates.

Q: We have a vacancy on our board and multiple candidates have expressed interest in the position. What are best practices for selecting which candidate to appoint?

A: If the board elects to fill the vacancy by appointment, they must publish notice of their intent to do so and fill the vacancy within 30 days. While there isn't any set formula, the board appointment process should be transparent and equitable while providing the board members adequate information to make an informed decision. We recommend, at the very least, that each interested candidate be provided a questionnaire that elicits information regarding their desire and ability to perform the responsibilities of the position. Such questions may include, but are not limited to, the candidates' experience, interests, goals for the position, and community involvement. It would be wise to also provide public notice of the questionnaire and submission details so that other members of the public may submit their interest prior to the deadline. All submissions should then be provided to the board prior to the meeting where they will be filling the appointment. The board may also choose to provide interested candidates an opportunity to speak before the board at a public meeting, as long as each candidate is allotted an equal amount of time to do so. Ultimately, the board will decide their specific appointment process, but should strive to keep the process open, fair and complete.

Meetings

Q: Our board is driving together to a neighboring district to look at their facilities. Does this constitute a meeting?
A: IASB advises board teams to err on the side of openness. Iowa law states that a meeting exists when a majority of the board deliberates or takes action on an issue within the board’s policy making duties. Board members may gather for purely social purposes or ministerial duties, such as a graduation or awards ceremony, and this gathering would not be considered a meeting. However, in traveling to a neighboring district for an education-related purpose, board members may unintentionally discuss an issue while riding together. By posting the facility visit in compliance with the open meetings law, the board prevents an unintentional violation as well preventing potential public perception of violation. Check out the full Open Meetings Overview on the IASB website.

Q: We arrived at our board meeting, and only three of our seven members were in attendance. Can we still have a meeting and address our agenda?
A: If, after waiting a reasonable amount of time for additional board members to arrive, there still is not a quorum, a meeting cannot be held. The meeting will need to be postponed to a time when a quorum of board members can attend.

Q: Does the board president vote on every motion or only in the case of a tie breaker?
A: The board president is an elected public official, like the rest of the board. It is important that all board members participate in voting, including board officers.

Q: Can the board president make a motion or second a motion?

A: The board president can legally do both. However, best practice is that the board president facilitates and controls the meeting and asks for motions and seconds rather than making them. If desired, boards can create a district policy that prohibits the board president from moving or seconding unless the board president hands over control of the meeting to the vice president before doing so. The board president does have a responsibility to vote on motions.

Board Policy

Q: Is the board legally required to adopt a policy regarding English Learner (EL) students?
A: While there isn't a legal requirement that a specific board policy be adopted regarding EL students or an EL program, districts may choose to have a board policy regarding either. There are also several required policies regarding education opportunity and non-discriminatory practices that are related to providing an equitable education. For example, some related Sample Policies are 102 Equal Education Opportunity, 501.16 Homeless Children and Youth, 505.8 Parent and Family Engagement, 603.4 Multicultural/ Gender Fair Education , 605.6R1 Internet - Appropriate Use Regulation. Please review your district's policies and consult IASB's Sample Policies as a reference.

Q: Should the board include mandatory policies as district policies, or is it sufficient to address the mandatory policies in a handbook or other district document?
A: IASB provides a list of mandatory policies; these policies should be included in the district's policy reference manual. It's also a good idea to reference or include them in the district handbook.

Q: Our board is interested in creating a committee to address employee issues. What should our board consider before creating a committee?
A: If your board is considering creating a committee, follow these steps to ensure compliance: Consult your district’s policy on committees and compare the policy to IASB Sample Policy 208 on Ad Hoc Committees. Some committees, such as a Labor Management Committee, may require additional obligations to the district. Work with legal counsel to ensure any proposed committee is compliant with the law. Outline the purpose, structure, duties and authority of the proposed committee before taking action.

Q: Are we legally required to release the superintendent's contract, upon request from the community?
A: Yes. Prior to releasing the contract, contact your district attorney to ensure any item that isn't public is redacted first. Following your attorney's review, check your district policy for additional guidelines regarding records requests, such as restrictions on where the contract must be viewed, if and how much an individual is charged for copies, etc. Iowa Code 22.7(11)(a)(1).

School Finance

Q: Our district has a special education balance deficit. Why should the board approve a request for a modified supplemental amount for the deficit?
A: IASB recommends that boards approve that request. In many cases, there is not enough money generated and designated for special education services to fully fund the cost of those services. Because of this, funding is taken from regular program dollars to cover the excess special education costs. If the board approves a request for a modified supplemental amount, Iowa law allows districts to recoup the regular program money that was spent to cover the additional special education costs.