Press Club

The Right Note: Oops?

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Last month I wrote about the School Board’s lack of explanation for the last minute addition to their legislative package which included a restriction on people of faith. This month, the Arlington School Board is spending meeting time discussing the length of voicemails between the administration and staff.

As you let that sink in, is there anything else the School Board has done that leaves you scratching your head? Turns out, they may not have had the power to do it. Don’t like the new school boundaries? They might not actually exist.

According to Delegate Patrick Hope, Arlington is not technically allowed to elect school board members under our unique form of government in Virginia, despite doing so for the last quarter century. When the General Assembly allowed localities to elect School Board members, they forgot to include us in the change. So, ours are still technically still supposed to be appointed.

Hope has offered a piece of legislation to fix it. While there is no reason to believe the General Assembly will not accept the change, it raises a number of questions.

We all make mistakes, but how did our elected General Assembly members, our County Board, the Superintendent, the County Attorney never realize it until now?

With all the lawyers in this county, how did we all miss it?

Could one of those enterprising lawyers write a legal challenge any and every action the Board has taken over the last two decades as illegal? If so, how would all former School Board members feel when they found out they had no real power to do anything?

It is not a completely far-fetched scenario to imagine a court case springing up here. The Supreme Court unanimously struck down appointments that President Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board because they did not comport with the Constitution.

Without the prior authority to hold an election, could a judge also appoint a temporary board until a new election could be held? If so, would a judge appoint the current members to the seats? And, would it not trigger new four year terms for all five members of the Board?

This is really an intriguing political consideration. Absent Dave Foster, Democrats have ensured control of the Board by electing just one seat for three years, then two seats in the fourth year. Republicans are faced with heads up elections with the odds stacked against them. If all five were elected at once, Republicans would probably have their best chance to pick up a seat on the Board as county voters might be more willing to consider someone else in that scenario to provide a little balance.

In the end, the process is unlikely to change. But hopefully we will soon be on the right side of the law.

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