October 24, 2014

Board replacement statute unclear on appointment process

Danedri Thompson

dthompson@gardnernews.com

Kansas statute doesn’t clearly spell out a step-by-step process for replacing school board members, although K.S.A. 25-2022  states a notice shall be published in the newspaper  “when a vacancy occurs.”

To date, Shelta Collins has officially resigned, and Tim Rayburn has notified the district of his intent to resign. Neither resignation has been formally accepted by the board.

The statute also requires that board members wait 15 days after publication before making the appointment.

According to Donna Whiteman, assistant executive director of legal services for the Kansas Association of School Boards, the board isn’t required to formally accept a letter of resignation during a public meeting prior to publishing the vacancy.

“Usually there’s a letter of resignation, and the board would accept the letter and then move to direct the superintendent to publish the notice of vacancy,” Whiteman said. “Some boards make it more formal than others.”

The USD 231 board of education hasn’t had a meeting since members Collins and Rayburn announced their intentions to resign from the body. Collins’ resignation was effective immediately. Rayburn did not submit a letter of resignation, but has said he intends to resign, because he is moving out of the district.

Interim superintendent Christy Ziegler published a notice of vacancies in the Aug. 28 edition of The Gardner News. Ten days later, applications for the position were available at the board office and online. Superintendent Bill Gilhaus outlined the replacement process in a letter to board applicants.

Applicants will be given five minutes to address the school board during the Sept. 16 meeting. According to Gilhaus’ letter, applicants should explain why they want to serve on the board and detail the strengths and challenges of the school district. Current board members will then be allowed to ask questions of the candidates.

Whiteman said a primary intent of the state statute is that the replacement process be done in a transparent fashion.

“The one thing we’re concerned always about is the appointment has to be made in an open meeting. And the public has to be able to see and hear that,” Whiteman said.

The law doesn’t clearly specify whether Rayburn can vote on his own replacement. Though it states that in order for the replacement process to begin, there must be a vacancy on the board. It also stipulates that the appointment process is a board-driven process – not a school staff-driven one. Exactly how the process is carried out, however, is up to individual school boards.

“You may see variety,” Whiteman said. “Some (boards) are more formal than others.”

K.S.A. 25-2022: Vacancies on boards of education filled by appointment; publication of notice; term of appointee. Any board shall have power to fill by appointment any vacancy which occurs thereon, and such appointee shall serve for the unexpired term. When a vacancy occurs, the board shall publish a notice one time in a newspaper having general circulation in the school district stating that the vacancy has occurred and that it will be filled by appointment by the board not sooner than fifteen (15) days after such publication. If such vacancy occurs before January 1 of an odd-numbered year leaving an unexpired term of more than two years such appointee shall serve until the July 1 after the following general school election as provided in K.S.A. 25-2023 or any amendments thereto.

In the latter event, the unexpired term of two years commencing July 1 after the following general school election shall be filled at such election and the ballots or ballot labels and returns of election with respect to such office shall be designated as follows: “To fill the unexpired term.”

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