Ask AASB

Here are answers to questions we are frequently asked.

Got a question? Email Timi Tullis or Lon Garrison.

Q: ASK AASB: What constitutes an excused absence?

Here are three examples where districts have made an effort to provide both the board and the public with information or a more defined sense of determination.

EXAMPLE 1 – Lower Yukon School District

BB 9325 BOARD MEMBER ABSENCES

The Regional School Board considers regular attendance at meetings of the Board to be of the greatest importance to its functions and operations. The Regional School Board realizes that some absences by members from meetings are unavoidable and establishes the following guidelines for determining excused and unexcused absences from meetings.

Excused meetings are: family emergency, illness of members/family, scheduled hospital and medical appointments, weather and acts of God, and certain conflicting meetings.

Unexcused meetings are: Failure to notify the board chairman seven (7) days in advance.

The judgment of the Board Chair will be considered official in determining excused and unexcused absences. In making such a determination, s/he may ask for documentation if deemed necessary.

(cf. 9223 – Board Vacancies/Removal/Appointments)

Revised 3/07

Adopted: January16, 2014

EXAMPLE 2 – Northwest Arctic Borough School District

BB 9200 BOARD MEMBERS

Limits of Board Members Authority

The School Board has broad but clearly limited powers. The exercise of its authority is restricted to the functions required or permitted by law, and then only when it acts in a legally constituted meeting. Individual Board members shall submit requests for research or administrative studies to the entire Board for consideration.

(cf. 6162.8 – Research)

( cf. 9322 – Agenda/Meeting Materials)

The Board is the unit of authority. An individual Board member is a part of the governing body which represents and acts for the community as a whole. Apart from the normal function as part of the unit, the Board member has no individual authority. No individual member of the Board, by virtue of holding office, shall exercise any administrative responsibility with respect to the schools; nor, as an individual, command the services of any school employee. Individually, the Board member may not commit the district to any policy, act or expenditure.

No members of the Board shall be asked to perform any routine or clerical duties which may be assigned to an employee, nor shall any Board member become an employee of his/her district while serving on the Board.

A Board member should resign from the Board before seeking to secure district employment. In no event shall a final decision for hire be made prior to receiving the Board member’s resignation.

(cf. 9250 – Remuneration, Reimbursement and other Benefits)

(cf. 9270 – Conflict of Interest)

Board members who visit schools of their own volition have no more authority than any other citizen. Board members have authority only in regularly called meetings of the Board, or when delegated specific tasks by Board action.

(cf. 1250 – Visits to the Schools)

Obligations of Members

Members of the Board must endeavor to attend all meetings, study all materials presented with the agenda prior to attending the meeting, participate in the discussion of any items which come before the Board, and vote on all motions and resolutions, abstaining only for compelling reasons.

If a Board Member knows they will be unable to attend scheduled meetings, work session, or committee assignments they must notify the Board President or the Superintendents Office of this intended absence. If a Board Member notifies the Superintendent’s Office with a request for an excused absence, this information will be communicated to the Board President for his/her decision and action.

The Board member should not subordinate the education of children and youth to any partisan principle, group interest, or the member’s own personal interest.

The Board member should be prepared and willing to devote a sufficient amount of time to the study of the problems of education in the district, the state, and the nation in order to interpret them to the people of the district.

(cf. 9230 – Meetings) Legal Reference:

ALASKA STATUTES

14.14.140 Restrictions on employment

Adoption Date: May 23, 1995

EXAMPLE 3 – Anchorage School District

BB 9223 BOARD VACANCIES

The School Board may declare a school board seat vacant if the person elected:

  1. fails to qualify for School Board membership within 30 days of certification of the election,
  2. refuses to take office,
  3. resigns,
  4. is convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude or a violation of the oath of office while serving as a School Board member,
  5. no longer resides within the boundaries which he/she was elected to represent and a two-thirds vote of the School Board declares the seat vacant.

(cf. 9220 – School Board Election)

The school board shall declare a vacancy on the School Board for any actions which disqualify a member from service in accordance with state laws and local ordinances.

Three consecutive unexcused absences from regular board meetings shall be sufficient cause for the School Board to declare a School Board vacancy.

Board members may request in advance that an absence beexcused by notifying the Board President and the board staff person of the reason for the anticipated absence. At the beginning of each regular meeting, the Board President will announce whether the absence of any member is excused or unexcused. A majority of the Board may overrule the President’s decision as to whether an absence is excused.

Removal for Cause

Board members may be removed for cause under the procedures listed in the Municipal Code 29.10.060. (cf. 9121 – President)
(cf. 9320 – Meetings)

Appointment to the School Board

A vacancy on the School Board shall be filled within 30 days of the vacancy by School Board appointment. When making an appointment to the School Board, the School Board desires to draw from the widest possible number of candidates.

The School Board shall:

  1. Advertise the vacancy in suitable local media.
    2. Solicit applications or nominations of any legally qualified citizen interested in serving on the School Board. 3. Provide candidates with appropriate information regarding School Board member responsibilities.
    4. Announce names of candidates and accept public input either in writing or at a public meeting.
    5. Interview the candidates at a public meeting.
    6. Select the provisional appointee by majority vote at a public meeting.

The person appointed shall hold office until the next regularly scheduled election for District School Board members and shall be afforded all the powers and duties of a School Board member upon appointment.

(cf. 9210 – Qualifications) Legal Reference:

ALASKA STATUTES

14.08.041 Regional school boards 14.08.045 Vacancies

14.08.081 Recall

14.12.070 Vacancies

14.14.080 Declaring a school board vacancy 29.26.240 – 29.26.360 Recall

AASB Master Policy Manual 9/92 Revised 01/07

Q: Does the board approve the hiring of new personnel?

A: The short answer is yes; the board approves the contracts offered to new employees by the superintendent.  The board is required by policy (BP 4111) and by law (AS 14.08.11 and AS 14.14.090) to do this.  The superintendent is delegated the responsibility for doing the actual hiring (advertising, interviews and selection).  The board’s role is to approve the contract for the hiring of the person for the position.  Unless there is an exceptionally good reason, the board does not involve itself in the actual “hiring” of school personnel.  The board’s main role is to understand the parameters and necessity of the position and to allocate funds to pay for the position.  The allocation of funds is usually done when the board approves a budget or grant.

So here is how it goes:

  • The board approves funding a position in the budget and understands what the position will be
  • The superintendent advertises, recruits, interviews and selects the candidate for the job.
  • The superintendent offers a contract to the individual who they have recommended to hire.
  • The superintendent presents the board with a recommendation of approving a contract for the position to be filled.

The board usually approves the contract as long as it meets the parameters of the original need for the position and the range of compensation it anticipated funding.

Q: What is the board’s role and oversight in the district’s involvement with grants?

A: Long story short, it is the board’s fiduciary responsibility to “accept” grants and to understand what district resources may need to be allocated or used to leverage the grant attainment and implementation. The board needs to be informed and understand the variety of grants used within the district, what purpose and goal they serve and what resources including reporting and administration they may take. The board is specifically not responsible for the management and implementation of grants and so must be careful not to “micro-manage” grant administration. As we know for small districts grants are obviously critically important but could create an undue burden on staff and administration if too many are undertaken at once.

  • Set a clear expectation that the board stay informed of grants for which the district may apply and what their purpose is.
  • Review and accept grants that the district has received. (BP 3290)
  • Be informed regarding the resources the district uses or may need to provide to implement and manage grants
  • Be informed regarding the progress and outcomes of grant implementation.

Q: Why is our superintendent an ex-officio member of our board?

A: There is typically some degree of confusion surrounding the definition and role of an ex-officio board member among board directors, executive directors, CEO’s, and managers of non-profits. The term, ex-officio, is a Latin phrase that literally translates “from the office.” Robert’s Rules explains the connection between the term and the meaning. It relates to the notion that the position refers the position the ex-officio holds, rather than the individual that holds the position.

An ex-officio board member position is an obligation, privilege, or set of privileges that are given by virtue of the position of serving on a particular board or committee.

Another common example is when a board requires that some board members be government officials, superintendent, or voting delegates that represent the entity that they work for as part of a collaboration on a particular issue. Such board members are only appointed as a result of their position. When they terminate their employment with their employer, their successor automatically becomes the ex-officio member.

Q: How do I add an agenda item after the agenda has been posted?

A: The Alaska Open Meetings Act says that the board must give reasonable notice to the public about the business it will be conducting. Because of the way this is worded, there is flexibility in adding items. The guidance we give boards and that we have heard from lawyers on the subject, is that the issue to be added to the agenda may determine whether or not significant advance notice is required. For instance, if the board all of a sudden decided two days before a meeting that it intended to take action on a topic such as changing a discipline policy or closing a school or something of that magnitude, then adding it to the agenda last minute would likely violate the intent of the law.

However, if it is an issue that may not have immediate significance or importance, say approving student travel for a program that has existed for the last 10 years and someone forgot to get approval at the last meeting, then it may not be a big deal. Maybe the board needs to get an RFP approved and advertised right away, this may also be okay. Again it is dependent on the subject to be added to the agenda. In general, we advise trying to avoid adding agenda items at the last minute if possible, but sometimes it is necessary.

Q: Why does the AASB Superintendent Search Application Form state “The superintendent position requires an Alaska Type B certificate with a superintendent endorsement.”?

A: While a school board can hire a CEO without the superintendent endorsement, or even a Type B certificate, that person would not be able to evaluate certificated staff, and perhaps not be able to supervise them as well.

A large district might have sufficient administrative depth to allow for that, but most districts don’t. Every board we’ve worked with has set the criteria for either having, or being able to obtain, both the Type B and superintendent endorsement. What are the school district’s priorities are and what is the board is looking for in a superintendent. Each board should meet to determine what criteria they identify the criteria for the position.

Q: What are the reasons a board can go into executive session?

A: There are four reasons to enter Executive Session. Here are examples of Motion Statements:

  1. Finance: President, I move that the Board goes into an executive session in order that we may discuss matters, the immediate knowledge of which would have an adverse effect on the finance of the District.
  2. Personnel: President, I move that the Board go into an executive session to discuss subjects that tend to prejudice the reputation and character of any person.
  3. Finance & Personnel: President, I move that the Board go into an executive session in order that we may discuss matters, the immediate knowledge of which would have an adverse effect upon the finances of the District and to discuss subjects that tend to prejudice the reputation and character of any persons; in matters that are required by law to be kept confidential.
  4. Confidential Matters: President, I move that the Board go into an executive session to discuss matters, which by law, municipal charter, or ordinance are required to be confidential.

Q: Regarding Superintendent recruitment and selection, is there board policy or state statute concerning how school boards recruit and hire either the superintendents’ position or a chief school administrator?

A: AASB does not have a recommended policy that specifies any particular procedure for the recruitment and hiring of a superintendent or chief school administrator. This practice is generally left to the discretion of the board, which provides the greatest flexibility for each local circumstance. Most school boards in Alaska using the AASB model policies have BP4111 and BP4211 (and some had an administrative regulation that accompanies this policy) which address the recruitment and hiring of certificated personnel. These policies generally pertain to the process by which the district (through the superintendent) hires other administrators and certificated teachers. It does not specifically pertain to the process for hiring or appointing a superintendent or chief school administrator.

State statute does not specify any particular process that a board must use in hiring or appointing either a superintendent or chief school administrator except that it must meet all applicable state laws regarding public school employment. The board may establish procedures for appointing, recruiting and hiring a superintendent or chief school administrator which best fits its needs and the district. The board must still conform to the Alaska Open Meetings Act and must make sure that all board action is taken in an appropriately noticed public meeting. The board may use an executive session to interview candidates or potential appointees and discuss terms of employment as this falls within the realm of personnel issues that are considered privileged and protected.

State administrative code 4 AAC 12.345 defines the requirements for qualifying for a Type B superintendent endorsement for Alaska. State statute 14.14.130 declares that a school board may hire a chief school administrator, which may or may not have a current Type B superintendents endorsement.

Q: What does it mean to censure a board member? When would a board take such action?

A: Here is some general information regarding what boards can do when it comes time to reprimand or “censure” a board member. First, before you take any such action, which is usually considered a drastic measure, we highly recommend that you discuss this with your legal counsel and that you thoroughly review your board bylaws and policies. It is also recommended that you try to deal with the issue directly and see if “censure” can be avoided.

The board, even through censure, cannot limit the individual board member’s ability to carry out their duties as a publicly elected official. Therefore, “censure” is a very public reprimand which should specifically address the offenses concerning any violations of federal, state or local laws and regulations as well as board policies and bylaws including board conduct and ethics and/or the violation of board standards if your board has adopted those.

Censure can only take place through the action of the board voting to endorse a resolution concerning the matter. Again, we strongly recommend checking with your legal counsel to make sure of your authority and protocol if you have one.

Q: What is the process for filling a vacant seat on our board? 

A: Our suggested board bylaw 9223 states:

Appointment to the Board
A vacancy on the Board shall be filled within 30 days of the vacancy by Board appointment.  When making an appointment to the Board, the Board desires to draw from the widest possible number of candidates.

The Board shall:
1. Advertise the vacancy in suitable local media.
2. Solicit applications or nominations of any legally qualified citizen interested in serving on the Board.
3. Provide candidates with appropriate information regarding Board member responsibilities.
4. Announce names of candidates and accept public input either in writing or at a public meeting.
5. Interview the candidates at a public meeting.
6. Select the provisional appointee by majority vote at a public meeting.

The person appointed shall hold office until the next regularly scheduled election for district Board members and shall be afforded all the powers and duties of a Board member upon appointment.

Q: Are there, or will there be, any updated policies specifically related to Sexual Assault & Dating Violence?

A: Annual updates for Policy Update and Policy Online subscribers come out in late February/early March. We strive to release timely updates to new regulations as their effective dates approach.

Q: Is there a statute regarding an Advisory School Board (ASB) holding an executive session?

A: Yes, Alaska’s open meeting law excludes advisory boards from holding executive sessions if they have no authority regarding decisions or policy concerning personnel or financial matters. Because of their advisory capacity only, ASBs do not qualify for any of the conditions in paragraph (c) items 1 through 4 of the Alaska Open Meetings Act. Check your Board’s meeting policy, BP 8320 MEETINGS, for more detailed information on Advisory School Board meetings.

Q: Is there a generic ‘job description’ for board members on committees?

A: There are some duties outlined in our AASB Board of Director policy manual. See the policy manual pages that discuss board member duties in this linked PDF file.

Q: When filling a vacant board slot, what questions should applicants be asked during interviews?

Questions to ask potential new board members:

  • What skill set do you bring to the board?
  • What do you think it takes to create a team that can work toward a common objective and what would you bring to that team?
  • What is your understanding of the relationship between a board and the superintendent?
  • Explain your understanding of “governance” and “management”.
  • Why do you want to be a school board member?
  • Tell us about your experiences with the ABC schools.
  • If selected as a school board member how would see your role with the community/parents/students/staff?
  • If you could change one thing about our school, what would that be?
  • What area of school board service interests you the most?

Q: Should a School Board’s by-laws state the amount of time a board meeting should be in session (ie. 7-9PM or 6-10PM?)

A: Some boards have a bylaw specifying the latest that meetings can extend to. If they go beyond that time they must vote to suspend the bylaws to continue the meeting.  However, most boards have nothing in their bylaws regarding the length of meetings. This is a local preference.

Q: What are the rules on making the newly elected Board Members official after an election. How many days do we have?

A: It is outlined in statue 14.14.070: “Within seven days after the certification of the results of each regular election, the school board shall meet and elect one its members as president, one as clerk, and, if necessary, one as treasurer.”

Q: When a site closes in a Regional Educational Attendance Area (REAA) can sites still have an Advisory School Board?

State statute asserts that the REAA must establish an ASB for any community over 50 people of permanent residence (paragraph a). Paragraph (b) speaks to what the advisory boards’ purpose is but if there is no school to advise and advocate for then the question becomes what is their purpose?  The reality may be that if a community has no school it may be nearly impossible to create and keep filled an ASB.  “Sec. 14.08.115. Advisory school boards in regional educational attendance areas.

(a) A regional school board shall establish advisory school boards in each community in the regional educational attendance area that has more than 50 permanent residents, and by regulation shall prescribe their manner of selection and organization, and, in a manner consistent with (b) of this section, their powers and duties.

(b) An advisory board shall advise the regional school board on all matters concerning schools in the community in which the advisory board is established. (§ 2 ch 24 SLA 1979; am §§ 6, 7 ch 173 SLA 1990)

Q: My board is wanting to go paperless, what can AASB do to help us with this?

AASB has developed a partnership with the Texas School Boards Association who has developed BoardBook®, a paperless meetings tool available from AASB to our members. Boardbook’s web browser-based agenda-preparation tool streamlines the compiling, distributing, and publishing of agenda packets. It also generates an online searchable archive of meeting agendas, documents, and minutes.

Boardbook is used by the AASB board of directors, as well as by many Alaska school districts. Customer service and technical support from BoardBook are exceptional, and feedback from district users has been very positive. The subscription fee is $2,250 annually.

To learn more about Boardbook, read the flyer or contact lgarrison@nullaasb.org.

Q: What are the kinds of workshops that AASB can offer my board or APC?

We are happy to customize any workshop your board may need. Some of the workshop topics we offer are listed below. One item we strongly encourage every board to do is a board self-evaluation and goal setting session. Nearly every board we work with rates this as one of the best activities they do to help their board work better and to understand its role in guiding the direction of the school district.

School Board Training Topics

  • Board self-evaluation (facilitated)
  • Board self-improvement goals for the coming year
  • Board & Superintendent roles and responsibilities
  • Advisory School Board roles & responsibilities
  • New developments in superintendent evaluations
  • Open Meetings Act
  • Conducting effective board meeting using Roberts Rules of order
  • Budgeting – Establishing and understanding your budget process
  • Budgeting – Understanding your budget reports
  • The board’s role in standards, curriculum, and instructional material review and adoption.
  • Your Fiduciary Responsibility
  • The importance of board policy and bylaws (including a review of the board’s existing bylaws)
  • Setting board goals for the coming year
  • The board’s role in using data to drive decisions
  • Embracing community engagement

Advisory School Board Training Topics

  • Board self-evaluation (facilitated)
  • Board self-improvement goals for the coming year
  • Advisory School Board roles & responsibilities
  • Open Meetings Act
  • Conducting effective board meeting using Roberts Rules of order
  • The board’s role in standards, curriculum, and instructional material review and adoption.
  • The importance of board policy and bylaws (including a review of the board’s existing by laws)
  • Setting board goals for the coming year
  • The advisory board’s role in affecting student achievement
  • Communication: ASB – RSB- Superintendent – School Administration
  • Understanding student achievement data
  • Embracing community engagement

Charter School  APC Training Topics

  • APC self-evaluation (facilitated)
  • Roles and responsibilities of and APC vs Staff
  • Importance of doing a principal evaluation annually
  • Open Meetings Act
  • Conducting effective meetings using Roberts Rules of order
  • Your Fiduciary Responsibility
  • The importance of policy and bylaws
  • Setting goals for the coming year
  • Communicating with your principal!