It’s an election year for school boards of education. Nominating petitions were due Aug. 4 and write-candidates were required to file declarations of their intent to be a candidate by Aug. 23. As a result, you should know at this point how many candidates are running for the open seats on your board of education.

In many districts, the number of candidates exceeds the number of open seats. But what happens if that’s not the case and your board has more open seats than potential candidates (e.g. two candidates running for three open seats)?

In these cases, your board will have a vacancy on the board as of Jan. 1 and the position should be filled using the same procedures the board uses to fill a mid-term vacancy. Those procedures are outlined in RC 3313.11 and summarized by OSBA in its Filling board of education vacancies fact sheet. Although RC 3313.11 doesn’t specifically enumerate this scenario as the type of vacancy to which the statute applies, there is an old Ohio Supreme Court case, State ex rel. Henry v. Triplett, that found that the procedure for filing a vacancy that is outlined in RC 3313.11 is appropriate to fill “any such vacancy” that occurs on a board of education and shouldn’t be restricted only to those vacancies resulting from enumerated causes.

Perhaps the most critical thing a board needs to know about January board vacancies is the timeline for appointing individuals to fill the vacancy. Under RC 3313.11, the board must act to fill a vacancy at its next regular or special meeting after the vacancy occurs. However, the statute also prohibits the board from filling the vacancy earlier than ten days after the vacancy occurs. Since the vacancy will occur on the board as of Jan. 1, the board may not act to fill the vacancy until Jan. 11. A school board that holds its organizational meeting between Jan. 11-15 can fill the vacancy at that meeting. If the board elects to hold its organizational meeting prior to Jan. 11, the vacancy cannot be filled at that meeting, and a special meeting will need to be held within 30 days after the vacancy occurs for the purpose of filling the board vacancy. If the board fails to fill the vacancy within 30 days after the vacancy occurs, the position will be filled by the county probate court.

If you have any questions, please contact OSBA’s division of legal services.

Posted by Sara C. Clark on 10/8/2021