The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



 

STATE OF MICHIGAN

MIKE COX, ATTORNEY GENERAL

FIRST CLASS SCHOOL DISTRICTS:

REVISED SCHOOL CODE:

Detroit school board's election of officers

The school board of the Detroit Public Schools must next elect its president and vice-president in January 2007.

Opinion No. 7192

March 29, 2006

Honorable Virgil Smith
State Representative
The Capitol
Lansing, MI 48913

You have asked if the school board of the Detroit Public Schools must next elect its board officers in January 2007.

The Revised School Code, MCL 380.1 et seq, governs the operation of Michigan schools. Part 6 of the Revised School Code, MCL 380.401-380.485, governs the operation of first-class school districts. A first-class school district is a school district that has a population of at least 100,000 pupils. MCL 380.402. Detroit Public Schools is currently the only such school district in Michigan.

In 1999, the powers of the elected school board of the Detroit Public Schools were suspended and a new governance structure was instituted. MCL 380.373(1). The powers and duties of the elected school board were vested in a chief executive officer who was appointed by a school-reform board. MCL 380.373(4).

In 2004, the Legislature enacted 2004 PA 303, which, among other things, amended Part 6 of the Revised School Code to provide the school electors of the Detroit Public Schools the opportunity to vote to determine the future governance structure of the school district. See MCL 380.410. In November 2004, the electors of the Detroit Public Schools voted to return operation of the school district to a governance structure consisting of an elected 11-member school board.

In accordance with 2004 PA 303, a new school board was elected at the November 2005 general election. See MCL 380.375, MCL 380.403a, MCL 380.411a, MCL 380.412a. The new board took office on January 1, 2006, consistent with the statute. MCL 380.412a(5). The board then elected its president and vice-president.1

The Revised School Code, as amended by 2004 PA 303, contains two provisions relating to the election of these board officers. MCL 380.411a(3) states:

The board of a first class school district shall elect its officers during the month of January of each odd numbered year. [Emphasis added.]

MCL 380.416(2) states in pertinent part:

The board, a majority of which shall constitute a quorum, shall elect its president and vice-president biennially from among the members of the board. [Emphasis added.]

Although MCL 380.411a(3) states that the board must elect its officers in January of each odd-numbered year, the board took office in January 2006 an even-numbered year. Here the board could not elect its officers in January of the odd-numbered year unless the board waited a full year before electing its officers. Michigan courts have held that "the fundamental rules of statutory construction generally preclude construction of a time limit for performance of an official duty as being mandatory, absent language that expressly precludes performance of such duty after the specified time has elapsed. Such statutes are normally construed as being 'directory.'" People v Yarema, 208 Mich App 54, 57; 527 NW2d 27 (1994). Therefore, under these circumstances, MCL 380.411a(3) does not prohibit the board from electing its initial officers in an even-numbered year.

When interpreting a statute, the goal is "'to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the Legislature.'" People v Weeder, 469 Mich 493, 497; 674 NW2d 372 (2004) (citation omitted). One must apply a reasonable construction that best accomplishes the legislative purpose. Marquis v Hartford Accident & Indemnity, 444 Mich 638, 644; 513 NW2d 799 (1994). Where the words of a statute are clear and unambiguous, "the statute speaks for itself" and is not subject to interpretation. People v McIntire, 461 Mich 147, 153; 599 NW2d 102 (1999). "'Words in a statute should not be construed in the void, but should be read together to harmonize the meaning, giving effect to the act as a whole.'" G.C. Timmons & Co v Guardian Alarm Co, 468 Mich 416, 421; 662 NW2d 710 (2003) (citation omitted).

Here, the intent of the Legislature is clear. A plain reading of the two statutory provisions shows that the Legislature intended that the president and vice-president of the board would serve two-year terms and that the board would vote to elect these officers in every odd-numbered year. But because the school board, under the circumstances presented here, elected its president and vice-president in an even-numbered year, you ask when the board must next elect its officers.

In OAG, 1987-1988, No 6524, p 346 (June 14, 1988), the Attorney General addressed a similar issue. There a statute granted township boards the authority to appoint members of township boards of review. The statute provided that board of review members would serve for two-year terms beginning January 1 of each odd-numbered year. The Attorney General was asked for an opinion concerning when the term of a board of review member would expire if he or she was appointed after January 1 of an odd-numbered year. The Attorney General opined that the board of review member would only hold office from the time the member was appointed until January 1 of the next odd-numbered year, at which time new board of review members would be appointed for a new two-year term. The Attorney General reasoned that regardless of when the board of review member was appointed, his or her term would end, and new members would be appointed, in January of every odd-numbered year.

This same reasoning applies to this situation. The Revised School Code, MCL 380.411a(3) and MCL 380.416(2), provides that the school board of the Detroit Public Schools shall elect its president and vice-president biennially and during the month of January of each odd-numbered year. It follows that the president's and vice-president's term of office is for two years beginning in January of each odd-numbered year. A reasonable construction of the statute requires the board of the Detroit Public Schools to elect its officers during the month of January in the next odd-numbered year, 2007, and that the officers elected in January 2006 serve only until that election. This construction best effectuates the intent of the Legislature in enacting the statute.

It is my opinion, therefore, that the school board of the Detroit Public Schools must next elect its president and vice-president in January 2007.

MIKE COX
Attorney General

1 The officers of a first-class school district board are a president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer.  The only officers that are elected, however, are the president and vice-president.  The secretary and treasurer may not be board members and are appointed, not elected, by the board.  MCL 380.416(2).