The method for selecting members of local boards of education in Georgia has changed dramatically over the past several decades. Georgia has moved from a system in which almost all local school board members were appointed to one in which all members must be elected. The significance of this change must be evaluated with the accompanying constitutional change in the method of the selection of the local school superintendent. Historically, the vast majority of superintendents were elected by the voters; now, all superintendents are selected by the local board. These changes have altered the role and function of the local board of education in the governance of the school district. With the board directly accountable to the electorate and the superintendent answerable to the board, the local board's authority and involvement in making the decisions as to how students in their districts will be educated has increased significantly.
As a historical note, Georgia's Constitution of 1945 prescribed that the grand jury in each county would select five citizens of the county to serve a term of five years. It provided that the people, by referendum, could change the process for a specific school district and require members of that local board to be elected by the voters of that county. Members of city or independent boards of education were selected by the various methods provided in their respective city charters. In most cases, city charters provided for the appointment of board members by the city council or commission. County school superintendents were elected by the voters in each county, unless a local constitutional amendment provided for the superintendent's appointment by the local board. Superintendents of independent school systems were selected also as prescribed by the city charter; in almost all cases, the city charter authorized the local board of education to hire the superintendent for a specified term.
By 1992, most county school districts had changed, through this referendum process, to boards elected by the voters, but very few independent school boards were elected, as most independent districts continued to prefer an appointed board. While most county school districts abandoned grand-jury appointment of board members, many of them continued to elect their superintendents, sometimes creating a political situation where the superintendent and local board were at cross purposes in the governance of the school district. In the 1992 general election, Georgia voters ratified an amendment to the state constitution which required all local boards of education, both county and city, to be elected by the voters residing in the applicable school districts. The number of members of the board, their qualifications, and terms of office were left to the General Assembly to determine by general law or local acts.1 The same amendment also provided that, by 1996 when the term of the newly elected superintendents ended, each local board of education would select the local superintendent of schools.2