A review of your organization’s constitution and bylaws is one of the first activities outstanding groups do each year. A review does not mean changes need to be made, but it does set the tone for the year – our group will do the right things in the right way. Constitutions should be clearly written and easily understood. If the review identifies areas that are out of date, in conflict with current practice and are unclear, revisions should be proposed, and the current revision process should be followed to make needed changes.
Constitutions typically include the name and purpose of the organization, the powers granted by school authorities and right of veto, a definition of membership, a description of nomination and election procedures, the frequency of required meetings, a statement of the duties and responsibilities of members and officers, the method of ratification of the constitution, and the provisions by which the constitution may be amended. The dates of reviews and revisions should be listed.
Bylaws deal with fluid issues and usually address the day-to-day operation of the group. Topics may include the number of members needed for a quorum, the standing committees of the organization, the process for establishing special (ad hoc) committees, regulations for conducting election that are not covered in the constitution, a definition of the rules of order for conducting business, procedures for filling vacancies, procedures for dealing with delinquent members and officers, procedures for removal from office, and the procedure for amending the bylaws.
Particular attention should be given to election and removal from office procedures as these can be used in legal challenges. Because revising constitutions and bylaws involve a time requirement, the review of these should take place early in the year, well in advance of the time they may be needed.
There are benefits in keeping the building administration appraised of the review and revision process. They are frequently brought into problem situations and challenges involving election procedures and removals from office. As a general rule, administrators do not like surprises. Involving them before there are issues helps to build a strong working relationship between your group and the administration.
Additional information on constitutions and bylaws can be found on the mascmahs.org website under the Resources / Adviser Resources tabs.