MUSD’s Rules of Order for School Board Meetings
The following explanation of Madera Unified School District’s meeting rules is based on the 2011 revised edition of Rosenberg’s Rules of Order by California Judge Dave Rosenberg and on state law (Education Code § 35012 and Ralph M. Brown Act § 54950-54963).
What follows are rules for how different situations at a government meeting should be handled. These rules are meant to order a meeting clearly and simply, encourage discussion and decision-making, and enforce the will of the voting majority while protecting the rights of the voting minority.
What is a Quorum?
The starting point for a decision-making meeting is a “quorum.” A quorum is a minimum number of a group’s decision-making members who must be present at a meeting for matters to be legally decided. For MUSD’s Board of Education, four non-student members must be present to have a quorum.
What is a Chair?
The “chair” of the MUSD Board of Education is its president or, in the president’s absence, another board member acting as president. The chair leads the meeting in accord with these rules of order. For the sake of civility, the chair may also shutdown debate that becomes too personal, loud, or crude. Moreover, the chair may limit the time given to speakers, including board members, in an effort to keep the length of meetings tolerable for participants.
What is an Agenda?
An “agenda” is a list of items to be considered or done. Before each board meeting, a written agenda is displayed online and at the district’s headquarters. By law, only items on this public agenda can be discussed or voted on by the board at a meeting. During each meeting, items to be decided will be announced by the chair, reported on by appropriate persons, clarified by questions from the board if needed, commented on by the public, and then -- after a “motion” has been made by board members - publicly voted on by the board.
What is a Motion?
A “motion” is a proposal by a board member that invites the board to make a particular decision. Motions are made in a two-step process. First, the chair acknowledges a member of the board. Second, the board member says “I move that we” followed by what is being proposed. Often the chair invites members to make a motion at an appropriate time or may even suggest a motion. But board members can independently initiate motions as well. The board can consider up to three motions at the same time.
What is Seconding a Motion?
Many motions require another board member to say “I second the motion” before it can be voted on. This shows that at least one other person is interested in considering the motion.
What are the Most Common Motions?
The three most common motions are the basic motion, the motion to amend, and the substitute motion. The “basic motion” puts forth a decision for the board to consider. The “motion to amend” proposes changing a basic motion that the board is considering. The “substitute motion” proposes replacing a basic motion that the board is considering with a new motion.
How Many Votes are Needed to Pass a Motion?
All motions require a majority of votes by non-student board members to pass. But a few motions also require a “super majority,” which means at least two thirds of non-students voting for an item. The vote of student board members is “preferential,” which means it expresses their opinion but does not determine whether a motion passes or fails. This is to protect student board members from legal liability for the actions of the school board.
What Motions Require a Super Majority to Pass?
The extraordinary motions that require a super majority to pass are the motion to limit debate, the motion to close nominations, the motion to suspend the rules, and the motion to object to the consideration of a question. The “motion to limit debate” is an attempt to cut off the ability of a minority of board members to continue debating an item despite the majority being ready to vote. The “motion to close nominations” similarly attempts to stop further nominations from a minority of board members, such as when choosing officers of the board. The “motion to suspend the rules” would enable the board to suspend its rules of order (but not its bylaws) for a particular purpose. The “motion to object to the consideration of a question” is an attempt to prevent an item on the agenda from being discussed or considered at all. Unlike most motions, it is not debatable and must be voted on immediately after being seconded.
What Other Motions are Not Up for Discussion and Debate?
Besides the one mentioned above, motions that aren’t debatable are the motion to adjourn, the motion to recess, the motion to fix a time to adjourn, the motion to table, and the motion to limit debate. These motions are voted on immediately after being proposed and seconded. The “motion to adjourn,” if passed, requires the immediate end of the board meeting. The “motion to recess,” if passed, requires the board to take a break for a set amount of time before continuing the meeting. The “motion to fix a time to adjourn,” if passed, requires the board to end the meeting at a specific time. The “motion to table,” if passed, halts discussion of an item and put the matter on hold for now. The “motion to limit debate,” if passed, stops the discussion and asks for a vote to decide the item being considered.
Can a Board Member Interrupt a Speaker with a Motion?
Aside from issues of time or propriety, a speaker can only be interrupted for motions of privilege (“Point of privilege”), order (“Point of order”), to appeal, to call for orders of the day, and to withdraw a motion. After interrupting, a board member making a “motion of privilege” is asked to “state your point,” and would reply by pointing out something that is interfering with the normal comfort of the meeting, such as temperature or an inability to hear the speaker. Likewise, a board member making a “motion of order” will -- when asked to state one’s point -- direct attention to a violation of meeting rules. A “motion to appeal” asks the board to consider reversing the ruling of the chair. A “motion to call for orders of the day” asks the board to return to the agenda if it has strayed from it. A “motion to withdraw a motion” enables the maker of a motion to retract it.
Can a Past Vote on a Motion be Reconsidered?
There is a unique motion that, if passed, allows the board to reconsider an item it already voted on previously during the same meeting. This “motion to reconsider” can only be made by a board member who originally voted in the majority on the item.