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Can boards reduce seats from seven to five or switch from positions representing zones to all at-large positions?

Yes, it's usually possible, although it may not be advisable. The first thing you should do is contact your attorney for legal advice, as a variety of factors will influence if and how you can accomplish a reduction in the number of board seats or a change to all at-large positions.

Ask (and answer) these questions before you begin the process:

  • Why do you want to change the number of board seats or zoning restrictions?
  • How was your district formed?
  • How was the number of board seats set and the zones defined?
  • Are all of your seats filled or are there vacancies?
  • What have you done to engage your community and encourage people to run for seats?

If you need help answering some of these questions, your county clerk may be able to help. Obtain copies of your merger documents, if there are any.

Here are the statutes relevant to this question:

ORS 332.07, which authorizes the board to transact all business coming within its jurisdiction.

ORS 332.105(b)(1), which authorizes boards to perform other duties as the wants of the district may from time to time demand.

ORS 332.011, which states that unless specified by a preceding merger agreement, a school district board shall consist of five or seven members. This statute specifies what a board must do to increase membership from five to seven, but does not address reduction.

ORS 332.124, which states that unless provided otherwise, school board members shall be elected at large.

ORS 332.128(1), which states that the members of the school board can opt for representation based on zones.

ORS 332.128(5), which states that zones can be abolished in the same manner in which they were created.

ORS 332.132, which states that when zones are created, they must be apportioned into zones containing nearly equal populations, based on the latest federal census.

In Oregon, we have about 117 five-member boards, 111 seven-member boards, and seven boards with nine members among our K-12, ESD and community college boards. Of the seven-member boards, about 60 K-12 districts have student enrollments under 1,000. All but one of the nine-member boards are ESD boards.

Making such a change legally, without confusion for board members and the public, requires assistance from your local attorney or the OSBA Legal Services as well as your communications staff.

For more information on this question, Ask Betsy's Team.