Trego School (School District 53) has scheduled the regular school election for Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Three trustee positions are up for election – a 1 year term, a 2 year term and a 3 year term. It’s been a long time since a school election was held – for years, a single candidate for each board position has resulted in election by acclamation. Democracy does seem to work better when people actually run for office and elections actually occur. Folks interested in applying should contact the school clerk (email).
Who can run? According to the school election handbook, published by Montana’s Office of Public Instruction (OPI):
Any person qualified to vote in a district is eligible for the office of trustee. However, there are-School Election handbook
restrictions on who may hold office. A trustee may not be employed in any capacity by the
trustee’s own school district (with the exception of officiating athletic competitions under the
auspices of the Montana Officials Association). The trustee candidate may be related to a
school or county employee
No person convicted of a felony is eligible to hold office until final discharge from state supervision.
Trustee candidates may be related to a school employee, are there any special considerations if they are? Definitely! State nepotism laws absolutely apply to school boards, this means that a relative of a school employee that is also a board member will need to be well informed in order to avoid violating state law. Especially significant, since the penalty is potentially as hefty as $1000 fine and 6 months jail time.
Can board members be related to one another? Sure, but like the previous case, some research is going to be necessary. In this case, the law to be careful of is the open meeting law. A meeting occurs whenever a quorum is present, and while a Quorum is three members of a five member board, a four member board has a quorum of two. While Trego School has a five member board, any one person stepping down could create a situation in which a husband and wife (or parent and child) couldn’t talk to one another without having an illegal meeting. So, is it possible to have relatives on the school board? Definitely. A good idea? Perhaps not.
Why aren’t the terms all the same length? School board terms are staggered, so that only part of the board is up for election at any given time. If someone steps down from the board, midyear, the board appoints a replacement who serves until the next election. At that point, the person elected serves the rest of the term.
Why haven’t there been elections recently? If there aren’t more candidates running than vacancies, the district isn’t required to have an election, instead, each candidate is appointed, by “acclamation”, since they’ve effectively ran unopposed for the position.
What does being on a school board entail? Monthly meetings, at minimum. Boards can also hold special meetings, as needed, and board members can attend trainings.