Dr. Paul Krohne, Executive Director
South Carolina School Boards Association
Category: Special Responsibilities of the Chair How to handle voting when an even number of board members are present
Question: In the event there is an even number of board members present, how do you handle voting?
The voting process is the same whether there are an even or odd number of board members present (assuming a sufficient number is present to have a quorum). I suspect your question; however, is about what happens if the result of a vote is a tie. That rule is easy to remember....a tie vote is a lost vote. Therefore, a vote on the your board that comes out 3-3 is defeated. If all seven members are present and one abstains from voting, the total is still 3-3 and is defeated. The rule is that a majority vote (defined as more than half) is needed to pass a motion.
Category: Special Responsibilities of the Chair When the Chairman is late arriving at the meeting
Question: As Vice-Chairman, I started off a Board meeting in place of the Chairman because he was running late. He arrived approximately 15 minutes into the meeting. Do I continue running the meeting or should I turn the meeting back over to the Chairman to finish out the rest of the meeting when he arrives. One Board member called a point of order and stated after the Chairman arrives the meeting needs to be turn back over to the Chairman.
Answer: Your specific question is not specifically covered by Robert's so I can only respond with an opinion.
The most common situation where the vice-chair assumes the duties of the chair is when the chair is absent from the meeting. Technically a late-arriving chair should assume the chair at the first convenient and appropriate time. For example, the vice chair should continue to run the meeting until board has finished with the motion that was being discussed when the chair arrived. As soon as that agenda item is dealt with, the chair should assume responsibility for running the remainder of the meeting. I suppose if the chair demanded to take control of the meeting IMMEDIATELY upon his arrival, he could do so by virtue of his position as chair. I wouldn't recommend it but I guess they would be entitled to do so.
While we are at it, some other times that the vice-chair should normally assume the role of the chair includes:
When a motion is made that refers to the chairman only such as a motion of commendation or a motion of censure.
When the chair excludes him/herself from participating in the debate of a motion because of a conflict of interest.
When the chair wants to offer a controversial motion or to be an "agressive" participant in a controversial debate (thus not likely to be viewed as an "impartial" moderator in a debate).
Category: Techniques for effective meeting management Advertising the board retreat Question: Our Board is having a retreat--does this retreat need to be advertised to the media, etc?
Answer: This is a legal question concerning a board retreat and its relation to the requirements under South Carolina Freedom of Information Act and not a parliamentary procedures question. In any event, here is my response: yes. The board retreat should be treated the same as a regular board meeting in terms of posting the meeting, notifying the press, etc. It must be open to the public and held within your school district's boundaries.
Category: Techniques for effective meeting management Appointing a neutral board parliamentarian Question: Who is best suited to be appointed as board parliamentarian - a member of the Board or an outside person?
Answer: One of the basic requirements of a parliamentarian (and chairman for that matter) is to function in all situations as being neutral. That being the case, it would obviously be most advantageous for the parliamentarian to be someone who is not on the board. While that may be the ideal, many boards may not have money in their budget for a parliamentarian to be present at all of their meetings (and probably not necessary anyway). I always recommend the use of a parliamentarian for controversial debates during board meetings or during public forums and have the parliamentarian actually chair the meeting. In this role, he/she is called a parliamentarian/moderator and would run the meeting but not participate in the discussion or voting. Again, neutrality on the part of the chair is critical in these settings.
Category: Techniques for effective meeting management Noting temporary absences in meeting minutes Question: If a board member leaves a meeting for a brief period of time and then returns, must his or her absence be reflected in the meeting minutes?
Answer: It is a good idea (but not required) to include the times when a member leaves a meeting unless there is no intent for the member to return that evening. If the departure is for the remainder of the meeting, you should definitely put it their departure time in the minutes to assure an accurate accounting of those present and voting. If it is to excuse themselves for just a short period of time, it probably is not necessary unless there is a vote taken. If a vote is taken while an individual is temporarily out of the room, it should be noted in the recording of the vote with a notation of something like "present, but not voting."
Category: Techniques for effective meeting management Formality during school board meetings can vary ... but not by much
Question: How formal should our school board meeting be?
Answer: Thanks for sending the question. Not a particular easy one to answer because only your school board can answer that question..and that answer can vary from time to time...but hopefully not by much.
I happen to be a strong advocate for a very formal school board meeting at all times. While a school board is consider by Roberts as a small group (which allows for less formality than large convention settings), I have found that a high level of formality during board meetings sends to everyone a strong message of fairness and professionalism. It also offers a very clear set of "rules" to follow by both the board and the general public and assures that the board is consistent in how they handle all situations regardless of how controversial an issue is.
So what does it mean to run a "formal" meeting? Simple, just follow Roberts in terms of the 6 steps in handling motions, requiring board members to speak only when called upon by the chair, limiting debate to one single issue at a time, and making sure that all substantive discussions only take place after a formal motion is on the floor. Just by following those four simple rules, your board will generally come across as highly professional in your conduct...something the public has a right to expect from an elected school board.
Some informality will eventually slip into your board meetings..and that is o.k. Certain factors such as the size of the audience, the level of controversy of an issue, and the purpose of the meeting will obviously dictate how formal a meeting should be run by the chair. In general, however, a formal meeting of the board at all times will serve you best in the long run regardless of those intervening factors. Informality during a board meeting should be the exception, not the rule. Avoid it as much as you can.
Category: Techniques for effective meeting management Last-minute changes to an approved agenda Question: Some of our board members repeatedly place items on the agenda, only to withdraw the item when it comes up during the meeting. Other board members have begun to complain about this practice. I have been maintaining, without much support, that a withdrawal of an agenda item is a change to the agenda, and as such should require a two-thirds vote. Since most of our two-thirds votes pass easily, I think we should at a minimum call for any objections before an agenda item is summarily withdrawn. Can you clarify this?
Answer: You are correct in your thinking. Once the agenda is adopted, it is considered the "property" of the full board and can only changed by a 2/3 vote of the board. Withdrawing an item from an agenda that has been previously adopted by the board is considered "changing" an agenda. However, the 2/3 requirememt applies to an "adopted" agenda.
It is possible for an item to be removed from the proposed agenda the night of the meeting by a simple majority vote...if the action to remove comes before the final adoption of the agenda. For example:
Chair: It has been moved and seconded that the agenda be adopted as presented. Is there any discussion?
Board member: I move that item 6.2 be removed from the agenda (this motion, which is really a motion to amend the main motion, can be made by any member of the board.)
On a non-controversial item, the chair would simply say, "without objection, item 6.2 will be removed". If, however, the item is controversial or if anyone on the board does object to an item being removed, the chair simply calls for a vote by saying:
"All in favor of removing item 6.2 of the proposed agenda signify by saying "aye". All opposed to removing item 6.2 fromt he proposed agenda signify by saying "no". The chair then announces the vote (simple majority vote).
Hope this helps.
Category: Handling a motion.
Substitute motions and amended motions are the same
Question: A board member questioned the term substitute motion which we have used in our minutes in the past when someone offered to amend another's motion. According to an old edition of Robert's Rules of Order Revised (75th Anniversary Edition), the substitute motion and the amended motion are the same. Should we stop using the term substitute motion and start using the term amended motion only?
Answer: A substitute motion is actually a form of an amended motion. The difference is that you should only use the term “substitute motion” when an amendment is offered which strikes out the entire text of a main motion and inserts all new language. The new language can completely change the intent of the original motion; however, it must be germane (i.e. related) to the issue being addressed in the main motion. You should only use the phrase “substitute motion” when the entire text (or at least a complete paragraph) is being deleted and then new language being substituted. It should be handled as any other proposed amendment in that it is only offered after a main motion is on the floor and open for debate. It must be seconded and it is debatable. It may even be amended further by the board.
If the motion to amend is only to change a single word or a few words, a sentence or sentences, or anything less than a full paragraph or the entire text of the main motion, simply refer to the action as an amended motion.
Category: Handling motions
Who can call for point of order
Question: Can Superintendents call for point of order during meetings or only Board members?
Answer: First, the technical answer is that the only individuals who have a “right” to speak during a school board meeting (including calling for a point of order) are members of the board. However, while that answer may be technically correct according Robert’s Rules of Order, it may not be the best response to your question.
I have always believed that the superintendent should be viewed as a part of the school board and should be allowed a substantial amount of freedom to participate in the discussion on all matters before the board. Obviously, the superintendent cannot make motions, cannot second motions, and cannot vote on motions. However, beyond those prohibitions, the superintendent should be allowed to be a part of all discussions and offer his/her expert opinion for the board’s consideration. That should include the ability to point out to the school board that they are not following their own rules.
Robert’s refers to a “point of order” as an incidental motion and technically can only be made by a member of the board. It is used when a member of the board believes that the rules of the board are not being followed. It requires a response and/or a ruling by the chair as to whether the point of order is correct or not. That ruling by the chair is appeal able and can be either sustained or overturned by the full board.
However, if the superintendent believes that the board is about to do something that is contrary to the rules of the board, board-adopted policies, or to any state or federal laws, he/she should indicate such to the board. The chair (and eventually the board) can either accept or reject the superintendent’s “point of order” because such a “point of order” being offered by the superintendent is really only advice.
Category: Handling motions Pending motion set aside, not stopped
Question: Once a board member makes a motion and it is seconded, but not voted on and another board member makes a motion to table the first motion and it is voted on and passed by a majority, is the first motion stopped.
Answer: The first motion (actually called a pending motion) is not "stopped", it is simply tabled or "set aside for the time being". In fact, motions to table are not meant to be "kill" motions; only motions to delay taking action until a late time.
There is a seldom-used motion to "table indefinitely" which is a "kill" motion. I do not recommend its use in school board meetings although Roberts' Rules of Order does allow it. Typically, however, a pending motion that is tabled is taken "off the table" by a motion that is seconded and voted on by the body prior to adjournment of that same meeting. Remember, only the majority of the board (not an individual) can table a motion, and only a majority vote of the board can take it off the table. Once a vote to take a motion "off the table" is passed, it is taken up immediately and acted upon in a normal manner.
The tougher question is, "what is the status of a tabled motion if a meeting is adjourned and the motion remains tabled?" The chairman is responsible for reminding the board prior to final adjournment that a pending motion has been tabled and needs to be handled in some way prior to the adjournment of the board meeting (i.e. handled immediately or consideration delayed to some designated future date..normally the next meeting.) In the rare case that the meeting is adjourned while a motion remains on the table, I recommend that it simply be listed on the next meeting agenda as unfinished business. If it is not acted upon at the next meeting, it should be considered dead. The only way for the original pending motion to be brought back before the board is for it to show up as a new agenda item at a future board meeting.
Category: Handling motions Tabling a motion requires majority
Question: Can a board member keep tabling the motion and the motion never get a vote.
Answer: A single board member can't table the motion, only a majority of the board can do so. Therefore if the majority continues to table a motion everytime it is brought before them, they can do so and the motion will never get a vote. Kind of a strange way for the majority to "kill" a motion; however, I guess it is possible.
Category: Handling motions Seconding a motion: How long to wait before declaring it dead
Question: How much time should be allowed to get a second on a motion before it is declared dead?
Answer: Obtaining a second should happen without much hesitation at all. Usually it is automatic and happens with no hesitation. It there is no second offered, the chair could simply declare the motion dead for lack of a second. As a courtesy however, most chairs find it appropriate to ask "is there a second" before declaring the motion "lost for lack of a second." I would say if there is no response from the Board after you ask "is there a second" that it would be safe to assume the motion is lost and should not be considered. Remember, some motions don't require seconds. The two most common motions not requiring a second during school board meetings are:
motions presented as part of a committee report (assuming at least two members of the board are on the committee); and,
Category: Handling motions Motion to table requires a second
Question: Can a member sucessfully move to table a motion without it requiring a second or discussion, which is essence kills the original motion?
Answer: Thanks for sending the question. If I am reading your question correctly, you are asking if a motion to table requires a second and is debateable. A motion to table does require a second like any other motion; however, it (meaning the motion to table) is not debateable. A simple majority vote on whether to table is required. If a motion to table is made while a main motion is pending, the motion to table is voted on first.
I am not sure of your meaning that a motion to table kills the original motion. It only kills the main motion if that is what the board wants to happen. If a motion to table is passed by the board, it simply means the main motion is set aside for the time being. At anytime prior to the end of the meeting, any member of the board can move to "remove the main motion from the table". This motion also needs a second and is not debateable. If the motion to remove the main motion from the table is successful, the main motion is once again available for debate. If the motion to remove from the table does not pass, the main motion dies at adjournment of the meeting. Some boards adopt a policy that requires a tabled motion not acted upon by adjournment to automatically be placed on the agenda for the next meeting. However, even if you don't have such a policy, there is no prohibition that the main motion which was left on the table against being placed on the agenda for the next meeting.
Hope this helps.
Category: Handling motions
Amending main motions
Question: What is the procedure for changing or amending an original motion?
Answer: Amending a motion at a school board meeting is usually handled with no problems; however, trust me when I say a board can get into a real "mess" if amendments aren't handled properly. They can be a source of procedural confusion that can leave a board (and the audience) with no idea what they are really voting on.
First of all, an amendment can only be added to a main motion that has been properly made, seconded, and stated by the chair. Once stated by the chair, the main motion becomes the "property" of the whole board and not just the maker of the main motion. Therefore, only action by the full board through the offering of an amendment can change the main motion.
Anytime prior to the time a final vote is taken on the main motion, any member of the school board (including the maker of the original motion) can offer an amendment to a main motion if:
(1) the maker of the motion to amend is recognized by the chair
(2) the amendment is "germane" (directly related to) to the main motion
(3) the amendment is seconded by another member of the school board
After a motion to amend is made and seconded, the school board must first deal with the amendment before dealing with the main motion. The board's debate and discussion is on the amendment only (not on the main motion). If a member offers comments on the main motion instead of the amendment, they should immediately be ruled out-of-order by the chair. Once debate on the amendment is concluded, a vote is taken to accept (or not accept) the amendment. If accepted, the main motion is now up for consideration by the school board as amended. If the amendment is not accepted, the main motion is now up for consideration as originally proposed with no amendment.
Category: Handling motions Seconding a motion: When it is needed...and when it is not Question: What is the purpose of seconding a motion?
Answer: The purpose of a second is to indicate that a second member of the school board supports the consideration of (although not necessarily the adoption of) the main motion made by a different member of the board. That's it...nothing more and nothing less. That is why it is O.K. for someone to make a motion to second "for purposes of discussion" and then vote against the same motion that he/she just seconded. Another way of saying that is the person who seconds a motion is not obligated to vote for the motion, only to consider the motion. In fact, the board member who seconds the motion might even be against the motion, but in agreement that the board should take a stand or that the board should decide on the issue one way or the other.
There are some situations when a second is not required. Most common of those situations are when a motion is coming from a committee made up of at least two board members, when a member raises a "point of order," or when a name is placed in nomination for an officer's position on the board. One interesting aspect of a motion to second is that it can be made WITHOUT the member being recognized by the Chair to speak (very rare in Roberts). Occasionally, I have seen boards begin debate without a second (which shouldn't happen, but does). In that case, the fact that debate has already begun indicates that at least two people on the board want to consider an issue. Therefore, once debate has begun, a point of order that the motion was not seconded should be ruled "not well taken," because the point was not raised at the time the rules were breached. By not objecting at the time, school board members waive their right to object later.
One last thing, what is the status of a main motion that does not receive a second? Easy..the motion dies immediately (no discussion, no debate) "for lack of a second" and the chair then moves on to the next item on the agenda.
Hope this helps.
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