A board of education can consider the business of the school system and take action on that business only during a meeting of the board. All meetings of the board are governed by the provisions of the Open Meetings Act of Georgia.1 Therefore, no act is more important for board members to understand and follow than Georgia's Open Meetings Act. This chapter will examine the provisions of this Act in some detail, since the failure to comply with the Act's many requirements can have significant ramifications for board members personally, as well as for the action taken by the board at its meetings. Since the Open Meetings Act was adopted in 1972, it has been amended on many occasions, with each amendment expanding both the requirement that meetings be open to the public and that the public have notice of those meetings. Furthermore, Georgia's appellate courts, when asked to interpret the provisions of the Act, have narrowly construed the occasions when a government agency can close its meetings or hold executive sessions, repeatedly emphasizing that the intent of the Act is to ensure that public agencies conduct their business in the open.
This chapter will also address the Open Records Act of Georgia which defines very broadly those records which must be open and available to members of the public.2 As with the Open Meetings Act, the appellate courts consistently have construed the Open Records Act to limit the few occasions when a record or document is not available to the public. Penalties may also be assessed against those school officials who willfully fail to comply with the requirements of the Act.