Does our board member elect have a conflict of interest? (Part 2 of 4)

Through the month of December, we’re looking at the most common scenarios in which an incoming board member may have a conflict of interest.  Last week, we discussed individuals currently working and volunteering for the district (you can read that blog entry here).  This week, we’ll take a look at board members that have family members working for the school district.  In the coming weeks, we’ll look at board members that are employed by or own a company that has an active cont

Question of the week: Does our board member elect have a conflict of interest?

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:

Can schools require proof of vaccination for service animals?

OSBA’s legal division recently received a question from a member who asked whether a board could adopt a policy requiring proof of vaccinations for service animals accompanying students in the district’s buildings.  The board’s purpose in asking for such proof was to confirm that the animal was not a health risk to students in the building.

What requirements must be met before we may rehire a retired teacher or administrator?

With the end of the school year just around the corner and the conclusion of the fiscal year soon after, many school districts are searching for ways to tighten their belts. Rehiring retirees, while often controversial locally, is one option that a district might consider. School boards can renegotiate contracts in order to gain more control over costs, all while retaining experienced personnel. If a board of education decides to pursue a strategy of rehiring retirees, it must follow certain guidelines in order to comply with Ohio law.

Can a school board conduct votes in open session by using a secret ballot?

No. In advisory opinion 2011-038 (2011 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 038), the Ohio Attorney General (OAG) concluded that a public body (in this instance the State Board of Education) may not vote in an open meeting by secret ballot. The OAG determined that voting by secret ballot would violate Ohio's open meetings law in much the same way as a violation occurs when public officials whisper or pass documents among themselves during meetings or when a vote would improperly be taken during executive session.

Are we required to offer a coaching position to a teacher before hiring a non-licensed individual?

Yes. The general rule is that boards must first offer the opportunity to direct, supervise, or coach a pupil activity program to qualified, licensed individuals in the district (RC 3313.53). Boards of education are permitted to employ non-licensed individuals who have pupil activity permits to direct, supervise, or coach a pupil activity program, but only if the board passes a resolution that outlines two things.