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A Closer Look at the Annual Organizational Meeting

Frequently Asked Legal Questions: The Annual Organizational Meeting

In July, most school boards will conduct their annual organizational meeting. The general purpose of the meeting is to organize the board by electing officers and appointing committee members for the upcoming year and to approve items that must be considered on an annual basis. To help school officials prepare for their upcoming organizational meetings, the following questions and answers provide information and guidance on legal issues that are frequently presented to MASB and concern the annual organizational meeting.

Does the Revised School Code require a local school board to have an organizational meeting?

No. Prior to its revision in 1996, the School Code of 1976 required a school board to "organize the board at [a] meeting by electing a president, a vice president, a secretary, and a treasurer." Now, the Revised School Code does not reference an organizational meeting for local boards of education. Section 613 of the Revised School Code, however, provides that an intermediate school board shall hold an organizational meeting.

While not required by law, a local school board, for practical purposes, still needs to have an annual meeting to organize the board by electing officers and establishing committees and to act on matters that require adoption or authorization on an annual basis. It is not necessary, however, to close an organizational meeting and then open a regular meeting immediately thereafter. The organizational meeting and the regular monthly meeting can be combined into one meeting.

When should a school board hold its organizational meeting?

Local School Districts

Prior to its revision in 1996, the former School Code of 1976 required local school boards to hold organizational meetings "not earlier than July 1 and not later than the second Monday in July." With the adoption of the of the Revised School Code, effective July 1, 1996, the reference to the organizational meeting was removed and local school boards were directed to adopt bylaws to establish board procedures for "matter[s] related to the effective and efficient functioning of the board," such as procedures for scheduling regular meetings and calling special meetings. Additionally, the Revised School Code stipulated that any board procedures, bylaws, and policies in effect on July 1, 1996 be carried over until changed by action of the board.

Thus, while the Revised School Code no longer requires a local school board to schedule and convene an organizational meeting, holding such a meeting is likely addressed in a board's bylaws. And, if a board has not updated its bylaws in the last 11 years, it is likely that its bylaws would still restrict the board to holding its organizational meeting in July, no later than the second Monday of the month. If this is the case, a board should consider amending its bylaws with respect to the holding of an organizational meeting to allow more flexibility in scheduling the meeting in the future.

Intermediate School Districts

Intermediate boards must hold their organizational meetings on or before the fourth Monday of July.

Are newly elected board members required to take their oath of office at the organizational meeting?

No. The oath of office for newly elected or re-elected board members may be given at any time after the certification of election. However, the oath must be administered by a notary public, judge, clerk of a court, or member of the state legislature. Because a school board member-elect must file an acceptance of office with the secretary of the board within 10 days after receiving a certificate of election, many school districts administer the official oath at the board's administrative office when the acceptance of office is filed. A second "ceremonial oath" can then be reenacted at the organizational meeting.

What should be included on the agenda for an organizational meeting?

The following business should be conducted at the organizational meeting:

  • Election of officers.
  • Setting of regular meeting dates.
  • Designation of a person for posting notices of meetings.
  • Designation of a depository for school district funds.
  • Committee appointments.
  • Ceremonial reenactment of the oath of office for recently elected board members.
  • General appointments (Delegate(s) and Alternate(s) for the MASB Delegate Assembly, County Association of School Boards Representative, Board Parliamentarian, etc).
  • Approve memberships (MASB, MHSAA, etc).
  • Approval of retainer contracts (law firms, auditor, labor relations consultant, etc).
  • Other matters specified by board bylaws or policies.

What happens to the organizational meeting if a school board has its regular election in November?

If a board member is elected in November, his or her term of office begins on Jan. 1 immediately following the election. Thus, a school board that has a November regular election will have its organizational meeting in January to elect officers, establish the membership of committees and cover other business relating to the effective and efficient functioning of the board. However, other matters that correspond with the school district's fiscal year on an annual basis, such as approving retainer contracts and memberships, will still need to be addressed at a meeting in June or July.

Does the Revised School Code outline a process for electing officers?

No. The process and procedure for nominating and electing board officers should be clearly stated in the board's bylaws. Additionally, a board may refer to Robert's Rules of Order for guiding principles on parliamentary procedures for electing officers. Regardless of what election process is used, secret ballots are not permitted. The Attorney General has ruled the Open Meetings Act prohibits a voting procedure that prevents citizens from knowing how members of the school board have voted.