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Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)

By-Laws of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Article I. Organization and Function of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Section 1. Composition and Function of the Board

The composition, duties, functions, powers and responsibilities of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (the "Board") shall be as provided and authorized by the General Laws and the Acts of the General Court as in effect from time to time (the "General Laws").

Section 2. Officers of the Board

The officers of the Board shall be a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and a Secretary. Each officer shall have duties, functions, powers and responsibilities:

  1. As prescribed for such office by the General Laws;

  2. Which by general consent and parliamentary custom pertain to such office, consistent with the General Laws; and

  3. As are consistent with the foregoing and which, in addition, the Board may prescribe.

The Chairperson shall be that person so designated by the Governor pursuant to the General Laws. The Vice-Chairperson shall be elected by the Board from persons nominated by the Board at the annual meeting of the Board, and shall hold office until the next annual meeting of the Board, and until a successor is elected and qualified. The Secretary shall be the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education (the "Commissioner"), appointed by the Board in accordance with the General Laws.

Section 3. Duties of the Chairperson of the Board

  1. To preside at all meetings of the Board.

  2. To call special meetings of the Board.

  3. To serve ex officio as a member of all standing or designated committees of the Board.

  4. To appoint committees and to take such other action as is consistent with the By-Laws or the General Laws.

Section 4. Duties of the Vice-Chairperson of the Board

To perform the duties of the Chairperson at his or her request or in case of his or her absence or incapacity.

Section 5. Duties of the Secretary of the Board

The Secretary of the Board (the "Secretary") shall have the following duties:

  1. To give written notice of all regular and special meetings of the Board and of standing and designated committees of the Board and to compile and distribute agenda for each such meeting with the notice thereof.

  2. To record the proceedings of the Board and of each standing and designated committee thereof in a book or books to be kept therefor.

  3. To preserve all documents, papers and records determined by the Board to be a part of its official records or of the official records of the Department.

  4. To conduct correspondence as directed by the Board and to certify official documents and proceedings.

  5. To carry out all statutory responsibilities.

The Secretary, with the approval of the Chairperson, may designate an employee of the Department to carry out the duties set forth in Subsections (a) through (d) above under the direction of the Secretary. During the absence or incapacity of the Commissioner to act as Secretary, the duties of Secretary shall be performed by such designee and, in the absence of such designee, by such other person as may be designated by the Chairperson.

Article II. Meetings of the Board

Section 1. Annual and Regular Meetings

The annual meeting of the Board shall be held in September. Regular meetings shall be held in accordance with state law. The time and place of such meetings may be fixed by the Board or the Chairperson. All meetings shall be held within the Commonwealth.

Section 2. Special Meetings

Special meetings of the Board may be held at any time and at any place within the Commonwealth. Special meetings may be called by the Chairperson or by a majority of the members then serving on the Board by a written notice to the Secretary in which the time, place and purpose of the meeting are set forth.

Section 3. Notice of Meetings, Waiver

Written notice of each regular and special meeting of the Board shall be given to each member by mail at least seven (7) days prior to the date fixed for the meeting, which notice shall state the time and place of the meeting and, in the case of special meetings, the purpose for which it has been called. No notice need be given to any Board member who waives the same in writing before or after the meeting. Each such waiver shall be filed with the records of the meeting.

Section 4. Agenda

A written agenda of matters to be considered at each regular or special meeting shall be given to each Board member no less than three (3) days prior to the date fixed for the meeting. Items to be included in the agenda for the regular meeting shall be submitted to the Secretary in writing by:

  1. standing or other designated committees of the Board relating to their reports;

  2. any Board member, given to the Secretary fifteen (15) days prior to the date of the meeting at which consideration is desired and containing a title and/or description of the agenda items.

Section 5. Quorum

The number of members to constitute a quorum for the transaction of business shall be that number equal to a majority of the members then serving on the Board, or such number as is fixed by the General Laws, but a lesser number may adjourn any meeting from time to time, and the meeting may be held as adjourned without further notice. When a quorum is present at any meeting, a majority of the members present may take any action on behalf of the Board unless a larger number is required by the General Laws.

Section 6. Order of Business

All meetings of the Board shall be conducted in accordance with commonly used parliamentary procedure, and the order of business at meetings shall be as determined from time to time by the Chairperson.

Section 7. Action at Board Meetings

Except in an emergency, the Board shall take action on a matter of policy only when the matter has been discussed by the Board at a previous meeting. This provision may be waived by a two-thirds vote of the members present.

Section 8. Remote Participation

  1. Board members are strongly encouraged to be physically present at meetings.

  2. To the extent consistent with the Open Meeting Law and the Attorney General's regulations (940 CMR 29.00), a Board member, including the Chairperson, may participate remotely in no more than one regular meeting and one special meeting per calendar year. All such requests are subject to approval by the Chairperson; provided that any such request from the Chairperson is subject to approval by the Secretary of Education. If the Chairperson is participating remotely, the Chairperson shall not preside over the meeting.

  3. Any member who wishes to participate remotely must, as soon as reasonably possible prior to a meeting, notify the Chairperson or, in the Chairperson's absence, the Vice-chairperson, of the member's desire to do so and the reason for and facts supporting the request.

  4. Permissible reasons for participating remotely are limited to the following: (i) personal illness; (ii) personal disability; (iii) emergency; (iv) military service; or (v) geographic distance, provided that the member is outside of Massachusetts on the scheduled meeting date. The Chairperson or Secretary may grant an exception to (v) based on the circumstances.

  5. No more than one member may participate remotely in any regular or special meeting of the Board.

  6. Remote participation depends on video conferencing technology being available and working at the meeting site and at the location from which the member is participating. The member is responsible for testing the video technology in advance to be sure it works. If technical difficulties with the video occur during the meeting, the member may participate remotely via audio and will be counted as in attendance at the meeting.

Article III. Committees of the Board

Section 1. Practice of the Board

The Board shall act upon matters considered, and upon recommendations made, by designated committees of the Board, but any member may present matters to the Board for consideration without prior reference to a committee.

Section 2. Committees

  1. The Chairperson may appoint such committees of the Board as may be deemed necessary, provided that each such committee shall be automatically discharged on completion of its assignment or otherwise as the Chairperson may designate.

  2. The Chairperson and the Commissioner shall be members ex officio of each committee. Any member of the Board may attend any meeting of any committee of the Board.

  3. To the extent permissible under the General Laws, meetings may be held by telephone so long as no fewer than two members are present at the location noticed for the meeting, and all those present in person or by telephone can hear each other at all times during the meeting.

  4. Temporary work assignments of a functional or project nature may be made by the Chairperson of the Board to individual members of the Board, each such assignment to terminate automatically upon the report to, and final action by the Board on such project.

  5. Notice of all committee meetings shall be given to all members of the Board. Such notice shall be no less than the minimum possible notice required under the General Laws.

Article IV. Rules and Regulations, Amendment

Section 1

These By-Laws are a part of the rules and regulations which the Board is authorized to adopt.

Section 2

These By-Laws and other rules and regulations, however characterized or denominated, adopted by the Board, may be amended or repealed, and new rules and regulations may be adopted, by vote at any meeting of the Board called for the purpose and the notice of which shall have specified the subject matter of the proposed addition, amendment or repeal.

Adopted: June 23, 1992


  • December 11, 1996 (added Art. II, Sec. 7)
  • May 23, 2017 (added Art. II, Sec. 8)

Last Updated: June 6, 2017

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


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