Legal FAQ

The OSSBA Legal Department responds to thousands of school board member and administrator calls each year.  This section of the website will be regularly updated with Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) of the Legal Department.  This section of the website is intended to provide general legal information only.  Specific questions about your school’s legal issues should be directed to your school’s retained legal counsel.  If you know of a common question that would be beneficial to be answered to the OSSBA membership, please submit it to the Legal Department ([email protected]).  Click on the category of interest or scroll through the entire FAQ list.

Open Meeting Act
Hiring
Evaluations
Paid / Unpaid Leave
Finance

Open Meeting Act

When can a board discuss “new business”?

The agenda item “New Business” may appear on the regular board meeting agenda.  If the item is not on the agenda, new business cannot be discussed.  The Open Meeting Act provides that new business “shall mean any matter not known about or which could not have been reasonably foreseen prior to the time of posting.”  25 O.S. § 311, S.L.O. § 533.  Your school will need to examine the facts to determine if an item would qualify under this definition.

When must I post a board meeting agenda?

Oklahoma law requires you to post an agenda a minimum of 24 hours in advance, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and state declared holidays.  25 O.S. § 311, S.L.O. § 533.

When must I notify the county clerk that we are having a special meeting?

Schools must notify the county clerk in writing at least 48 hours prior to the special meeting.  25 O.S. § 311, S.L.O. § 533.

When must I notify the county clerk of our regular meeting schedule?

Schools must notify the county clerk in writing by December 15 the times, dates, and places of all regular meetings for the following calendar year.  25 O.S. § 311, S.L.O. § 533.

Hiring

How do nepotism laws restrict hiring?

Nepotism laws require that board members not hire anyone related to them within the second degree of affinity or consanguinity.  70 O.S. § 5-113.1, S.L.O. § 61.  That list of people includes a board member’s:

Spouse
Child or Child’s Spouse
Parent or Parent’s Spouse
Grandchild or Grandchild’s Spouse
Grandparent or Grandparent’s Spouse
Sibling or Sibling’s Spouse
Spouse’s Child or Spouse’s Parent
Spouse’s Grandchild or Spouse’s Grandparent
Spouse’s Sibling

NOTE: Siblings of “half-blood,” meaning that two individuals share one parent, are considered equal to a full sibling sharing two parents.

However, the 2009 Legislation modified the law to allow schools with less than 5000 ADM to hire substitute teachers and temporary substitute support employees who are a relative to a school board member within the second degree of affinity or consanguinity.  Your school may choose to modify its policies to allow this type of hiring to occur.

Is there a requirement to post job vacancies in the newspaper?

Your negotiated agreement or board policy may require that jobs be posted in a newspaper or elsewhere for a certain period of time.  Oklahoma law, however, has no requirement that school jobs be posted in certain places for a set amount of time.  Your school should strive to bring in the best candidates for positions, but how your school does that is usually left to administration.

Evaluations

As a board member, can I evaluate school staff other than the superintendent?

No.  Accreditation standard 210:35-3-48(a)(8) states that the “local board shall transact official business with professional staff members and other school employees only through the superintendent.”  Additionally, accreditation standard 210:35-3-48(b)(3) states that the “superintendent shall be responsible for the selection, assignment, and evaluation of school employees.”  Even though board members may want to be involved with a staff member’s evaluation, they should refrain from doing so.  Additionally, a board member may be disqualified from participating in a staff member’s due process hearing if it is determined that he or she is already biased with regard to the decision he or she would make.  Board members should strive to be an “unbiased jury” should a due process hearing become necessary.

When we evaluate the superintendent, can we ask for other staff member input (even if anonymously)?

No, the board of education must evaluate the superintendent on its own.  Accreditation standard 210:35-3-48(a)(2) states that “the governing local board shall be responsible for the selection and evaluation of its chief executive officer who shall be the superintendent.”

Who determines how the board shall evaluate the superintendent?

The board shall develop a policy to evaluate the superintendent, to be in conformance with the minimum criteria set by the State Board of Education.  No one person will dictate the district’s evaluation tool, because the board must vote on those procedures.

Can a board member see a staff member’s evaluation?

Usually, the board of education is not entitled to see a staff member’s evaluation form.  The only exception would be if the evaluation is a piece of evidence presented at a due process hearing for that particular employee.  If a board member were to see a staff member’s evaluation form prior to a due process hearing, he or she jeopardizes his or her ability to vote at that hearing.

As a board member, what do I do if staff members are calling me to report issues?

Do your best to refer that staff member to the appropriate chain of command. Try not to give your opinions about the situation, but explain that you are not to get involved with day to day operations of the school. You can refer the problem to the appropriate authority, but under no circumstance should you say something to the effect of “I’ll take care of the problem.” A board member only has authority to take action during a lawfully convened meeting.

Paid / Unpaid Leave

Can a teacher receive payment for unused sick leave at the end of his or her employment?

A school board may adopt a policy that entitles teachers to payment for accrued but unused sick leave upon termination of employment with the school district.  70 O.S. § 6-104.5, S.L.O. § 142.  If your school has not adopted this policy, teachers may not be compensated for unused sick leave.

Are support employees at schools entitled to paid breaks?

Article 10, § 15 of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibits a gift of public money.  A gift includes paying an employee for time not worked.  Oklahoma law does not provide for paid breaks for school employees.  At the school’s discretion, employees may be offered breaks, but Oklahoma law prohibits paying these employees for that time.

Finance

Does a school board need to approve encumbrances AND warrants?

Oklahoma law requires school boards to approve encumbrances.  There is no requirement that school boards approve warrants, although most schools boards do.  Oklahoma law provides in relevant part:

“School districts receiving State Aid shall not spend any of these funds except by regularly issued warrants. The warrants shall be issued against properly approved encumbrances in the manner provided by law. All encumbrances shall be approved by the board of education of the school district at a regular meeting or a special meeting called for that purpose.”  70 O.S. § 18-116, S.L.O. § 410.  Before warrants can exceed the encumbrance, the board must approve that modification.

What are appropriate uses of the building fund?

The following have been deemed appropriate uses of the building fund.  For more information, see 70 O.S. 7-118.

Capital Improvements
Erecting, remodeling, repairing or maintaining school buildings
Purchasing furniture, equipment and computer software to be used on or for school district property
Paying energy and utility costs
Purchasing telecommunication systems
Paying fire and casualty insurance premiums for school facilities
Purchasing security system
Paying for salaries of security personnel.
Lighting for football stadium
Salaries of maintenance and janitorial personnel.
Acquisition, design, construction, maintenance of a school building parking lot
Acquire building site
Band instruments
Construct a swimming pool
Construct bleachers