As we head into a new year, many joint vocational school districts are welcoming new members to their governing boards. This can be an exciting time, with opportunities to meet and work with fresh faces and new ideas. This might also present some unanticipated challenges regarding appointment of new members, thanks to somewhat “recent” changes in the law over the past few years that have modified the qualifications for an individual to serve on a joint vocational school district board.
Back in 2017, the legislature amended the language in the statute which governs the appointment and qualifications of JVS board members. Under the amended version of R.C. 3311.19, an individual who is a current elected member of the appointing school district board of education is no longer required to have specific business and industry experience or knowledge. They simply must be current members of their appointing board.
You may recall that a previous version of the law amended in 2013 declared a current school board member was required to “have experience as chief financial officers, chief executive officers, human resources managers, or other business, industry, or career counseling professionals who are qualified to discuss the labor needs of the region with respect to the regional economy” in order to serve. Those individuals were further expected to represent employers in the region with knowledge of the state’s workforce needs. Again, now they simply must serve on the appointing board and if they do not, meet alternative qualifications.
There is a second group of candidates who are not currently serving on the appointing school district’s board but who qualify for service if they have “experience or knowledge regarding the labor needs of the state and region with an understanding of the skills, training, and education needed for current and future employment opportunities in the state.” Well appointing new members, preference may be given to an individual who serves on the JVS business advisory council but this is not a requirement.
The statutory language provides broader discretion to an appointing board of education in selecting the JVS board representative for their district than were found in the 2013 amendments. It also means that boards may be drawing from a more diverse pool of candidates, some of whom may have little or no experience serving on a school board or even in a public office. As a result, it is important to prioritize training for new JVS board members to onboard them more quickly in areas such as Sunshine Law compliance, board meeting rules of order, the structure and function of the JVS as an entity, its mission, vision, services and programs, policies and more.
Joint Vocational Schools should also communicate with appointing districts so they are aware of the qualification requirements for the appointment of new JVS members. By appointing an individual, the appointing school boards are expected to be aware of the JVS board member qualifications and by their action to appoint, are certifying that the appointees meet them.
The final change in the law from 2017 worth mentioning is the elimination of term limits. Under prior law, JVS board members could serve no more than two consecutive three-year terms. This limit no longer exists, and members may presumably serve an unlimited number of three-year terms.