School board members in each county are required to be elected by the people from districts of substantially equal population. T.C.A. § 49-2-201. Board members must be elected to staggered four year terms, and may succeed themselves. Board members in special school districts may serve different terms of office established by private act but must be popularly elected on a staggered term basis.
Boards of education may have “no more members than the number of members authorized by general law or private act for boards of education in existence on January 1, 1992, or the number of members actually serving on a board on January 1, 1993.” The General Assembly, by private act, may establish the membership of particular school boards at any number not less than three nor more than eleven. T.C.A. § 49-2-201.

Members of the board of education must be residents and voters of the county in which they are elected, and, except in a few counties, must possess a high school degree or G.E.D. Members of the county legislative body and other county officials are not eligible for election to the board of education. T.C.A. § 49-2-202(a). Members of the board of education are not eligible for election as teacher or any other paid position under the board. T.C.A. § 49-2- 203(a)(1)(D). 41Members must attend initial and annual training sessions as prescribed by the State Board of Education. The compensation of the board of education is fixed by the county legislative body. T.C.A. § 49-2-202. Vacancies are filled by the county legislative body until the next election. T.C.A. § 49-2-202(e) and TENN. CONST., art. VII, § 2, as interpreted in Marion County Board of Commissioners v. Marion County Election Commission, 594 S.W.2d 681 (Tenn. 1980).

The county board of education must hold regular meetings at least quarterly, although the chair may call special meetings. T.C.A. § 49-2-202. The board is to elect a chair from among its members annually, who countersigns all warrants approved by the board and issued by the director of schools. T.C.A. § 49-2-205. The chair of the school board also serves as chair of the executive committee, composed of the chair and the director of schools, which functions as purchasing agent for the school board unless there is a separate purchasing board or purchasing agent otherwise established by law, and also monitors accounts to see that the budget is not exceeded. T.C.A. § 49-2-206. All business coming before the county school board must be passed by a majority of the membership of the school board, and not just a majority of the quorum. T.C.A. § 49-2-202.

There are certain duties listed in the statute which the board of education is required by law to perform. T.C.A. § 49-2-203. Some of the more significant duties are summarized as follows:

In addition to the duties specifically required in T.C.A. § 49-2-203, the local board is given certain discretionary powers. These are things the board is empowered, but not required, to do. Briefly summarized, these discretionary powers are as follows:

To consolidate schools under their jurisdiction.

To require school children and employees to submit to a physical examination by a competent physician under certain circumstances.
To establish night or part time schools.

To permit school buildings and property to be used for public, community or recreational purposes, subject to rules and regulations adopted by the board.

To employ legal counsel.

To make rules providing for school safety patrols.

To establish minimum attendance requirements or standards as a condition for passing a course or grade.

To provide written notice to probationary teachers of specific reasons for failure of reelection and provide a hearing to determine the validity of the reasons, upon request.

To offer and pay monetary incentives to encourage the retirement of any teacher or other employee who is eligible to retire.

To lease or sell unused buildings and property to any governmental entity, civic group or community organization, if such a transaction is in the best interest of the school system and the community; otherwise public school buildings and property may not be used for private benefit.

To establish and operate before and after school care programs in connection with any schools, before and after the regular school day and while school is not in session.

The board of education is empowered to exercise the right of eminent domain for public school purposes. T.C.A. § 49-2-2001. The board has the power to purchase land and to erect and equip buildings for public schools, and the board holds title to property so acquired. The board has the power to dispose of real property to which it has title in accordance with T.C.A. § 49-6-2006. Personal property which has become surplus is required to be sold by the board in accordance with T.C.A. § 49-6-2007. The board is permitted to transfer surplus real or personal property to the county or to any municipality within the county for public use, without the requirement of competitive bidding or sale. T.C.A. §§ 49-6-2006 and -2007. The board of education is not authorized to donate surplus real or personal property to charitable or non-profit organizations; the board may, however, sell or lease surplus property to such organizations. T.C.A. §§ 49-2-203(b)(10)(A), 49-6-2006, 49-6-2007; Op. Tenn. Att’y Gen. 96-046 (March 14, 1996). Public school buildings and property may not be used for private benefit. T.C.A. § 49-2-203(b)(10)(A).

The board of education is authorized to receive donations of money, property or securities from any source for the benefit of the public schools, which the board is to disburse in good faith in accordance with the conditions of those gifts. T.C.A. § 49-6-2006.
The authority of the county board of education is limited by the rules and regulations of the State Board of Education as enforced by the Commissioner of Education. It is the duty of the state board to prescribe rules and regulations for all public schools, kindergarten through the twelfth grade, to prescribe curricula, and to approve courses of study adopted by local boards of education. T.C.A. § 49-1-302. The state regulations extend to such matters as personnel evaluation, classroom size, pupil-teacher ratios, building suitability and other matters that directly impact the budget process.