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School board oaths of office

Kentucky School Advocate
December 2022

By John Powell
KSBA Staff Attorney

School board members elected or reelected in November will be required to take their oaths of office prior to being seated. Here we provide a refresher on board member oaths; the who, what, when, where and how.

What oath is required for new or reelected board members?

There actually are two oaths — one verbal and one written — that newly elected or appointed board members must take prior to beginning their service. The verbal oath is found in Section 228 of the Kentucky Constitution. A separate written oath is set out in KRS 160.170.

When is the earliest time an elected board member may take the Constitutional oath?

The oath may be administered at any time following issuance of certificates of election by the county board of elections. Statute says that the written oath should be signed before the board member assumes his or her duties. Newly elected or reelected board members should, however, avoid taking their oaths prior to the end of the calendar year as this might inadvertently trigger state-mandated training requirements for that board member.

It is recommended that board members take their oaths of office anytime after Jan. 1, but before their first meeting. It is common in many districts for oaths to be administered in the moments before the scheduled January board meeting (when new members are slated to begin their service). This conveniently allows multiple board members to be sworn in at once, serves as a great time for photos and gives community members the opportunity to witness the oaths.  

(See KRS 118.425(2), KRS 160.170, KRS 160.200(2) and OAG 79-606.)

How are the oaths administered?

An official qualified under KRS 62.020 must administer the verbal oath by having the board member repeat after the official. The administering official can be an active, retired or senior status state justice or judge, any active, retired or senior status federal judge with Kentucky jurisdiction, any member of the Kentucky General Assembly, any county judge-executive, notary public, clerk of a court or justice of the peace within the county of the board member. That official must then certify in writing that the verbal oath was administered, and the certification must be filed with the office of the county clerk.

The written oath, on the other hand, may be prepared as a document to be completed and signed by the board member, notarized and then maintained as an official board record.

If no one filed to run for a full-term seat, and therefore there was no election for that seat, what happens?  

If no candidates filed for the new term to start in January, a board vacancy exists as of Jan. 1. Seats left open after this year’s election will be appointed by the other board members per KRS 160.190.

The General Assembly passed legislation in 2019 allowing school boards to fill their own vacancies. Under this new law, boards have 60 days from the time the seat is vacated to advertise the opening, review qualified candidates and fill the seat. If the seat is not filled within 60 days, Kentucky’s commissioner of education is charged with appointing someone to the vacant seat.

If your district experiences a vacancy at any point, feel free to contact KSBA with questions or for assistance in facilitating the appointment process.

Districts should refer to Board Policy 01.3 when addressing a board vacancy.

Additional board oath information can be found in KSBA’s 2022 School Board Election Resources Guide available at

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