Hundreds of new individuals will begin serving on school boards in Ohio next month.  The legal hotline has received several questions about conflicts of interest for incoming members.  (Remember: OSBA attorneys cannot provide a legal analysis of the specifics for a board member, but we can provide legal information to help you determine whether you should speak with board counsel about a potential conflict.)

While it can arise in many contexts, we most commonly receive the question as one of four basic scenarios:

  • the individual currently works for the district,
  • the individual has a family member working for the school district,
  • the individual is employed by a company that has an active contract with the district, or
  • the individual serves another public office.

Through the month of December, our blog will discuss each of these scenarios.  Up first: new board members that are currently district employees. This scenario most often arises with coaches, but can also occur with teachers, bus drivers, substitutes, and other district staff. 

R.C. 3313.33 prohibits a board member from being employed by the district for which they serve as a board member. As a result, board members elect who currently work for their districts must resign their positions prior to taking office.  Board members may choose continue in their role as a volunteer for the district, but should disclose and discuss that volunteer activity with the board prior to doing so to ensure the board does not have operational concerns about confusion in reporting chains or liabilities associated with certain activities. If a board member chooses to volunteer for the district, the board member needs to abstain from any votes impacting the program for which they volunteer. 

Some board members elect volunteer with a parent organization affiliated with the schools their children attend.  While there is no legal prohibition against continuing to do so, a board member may want to step down from leadership roles in such organizations to avoid the appearance of favoring certain schools over others in the district. 

Learn more at the New Board Member Academies

Ethics is among the many topics that will be covered at OSBA’s New Board Member Academies around the state in January.  OSBA staff will be presenting sessions on Sunshine laws, boardsmanship, media relations and social media, policy, lobbying, finance, transportation, and labor management issues during the two-day workshops.  You can register new board members here:

Posted by Shadya Yazback on 12/4/2015