New act requires BOE to adopt code of conduct

Published 3:45 pm Friday, June 8, 2012

Boards of education across the state will soon be held to higher standards with the passing of a new act.

Rep. Elaine Beech’s bill, The School Board Governance Improvement Act of 2012, will require the State Board of Education and city and county boards of education in the state to enact a new code of conduct for board members.

“The State Board of Education will come up with its code of conduct and model,” Butler County Board of Education President Joe Lisenby said. “Then, we as the local board have to do the same thing. We have to come up with our local code of conduct that will include at least a minimum of all the stipulations that the State Board of Education requires.”

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The State Board is required to adopt the new code by January 1, 2013, while local boards will be required to adopt individual codes before April 1, 2013.

Butler County BOE member Terry Williams said he looks forward to having a code of conduct put in place.

“I don’t have a problem with the new code of conduct as long as it benefits our school system,” Williams said.

Along with adopting a new code of conduct, the requirements for prospective board members will have a strict guideline to follow as far as regulations.

“One of the stronger parts of (the act) is a requirement for prospective school board members to publicly affirm the principals of governments the State Board of Education and the local board have adopted,” Lisenby said. “It also requires training and continuing education on the part of the school board members.”

The five elected members on the school board currently go through a state program that requires a completion of 14 to 16 credit hours. For each credit to be earned, a board member must attend four hours of training.

With the act, boards will have some power in controlling who may sit on the board if he or she is not upholding responsibilities and duties.

“I know another part of that bill will provide sanctions to those who neglect their duty and engage in willful misconduct,” Lisenby said. “It gives some power to the individual school board to puts some pressure on any member that may not be attending or doing their job or seeking the continuing education credit.”

Board member Linda Hamilton believes the bill carries great intentions and is pleased to see minimum standards being set.

“In looking at this bill, doctors, teachers lawyers, athletes all have standards of conduct, and I think school boards shouldn’t be any different,” Hamilton said. “I think this bill will go a long way in providing consistency across school boards that will benefit us and more importantly, our students.”

For eight years, Lisenby has served on the school board and has continued to see requirements strengthen and increase.

“I know this act will require that we come up with an updated code of conduct, an expectation of ourselves as board members, the fulfillment of our duties based upon what the state produces to use that as minimal guidelines and then we have to draft our own and make that part of our official policy statement,” Lisenby said. “We’ll be working on that in the next six months. It has to be done.”