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 5. Meetings and Records of the Board of Education

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.

5. 1 What is the purpose of the Open Meetings Act?
5. 2 Are school districts and boards of education covered by the Open Meetings Act?
5. 3 What is the definition of a “meeting” covered by the Act?
5. 4 Must a committee of the board comply with the Open Meetings Act?
5. 5 Is there any gathering of a quorum of the board which is not covered by the requirements of the Open Meetings Act?
5. 6 Is a board retreat held outside the school district subject to the Open Meetings Act?
5. 7 Is a workshop or seminar attended by a majority of the members of a board subject to the Open Meetings Act?
5. 8 Are work sessions of the board during which no action or vote is taken governed by the Open Meetings Act?
5. 9 If a board or a majority of its members has a practice of going to a local restaurant following a board meeting for coffee and dessert, is this a violation of the Open Meetings Act?
5. 10 If less than a quorum of the board should meet for lunch to discuss an issue likely to arise at an upcoming board meeting, or if a board member telephones another board member to discuss board business, would this be a violation of the Open Meetings Act?
5. 11 Must local school councils comply with the Open Meetings Act?
5. 12 Must the board allow members of the public or media to video or audiotape board meetings?
5. 13 What notice to the public of meetings of the board does the Open Meetings Act require?
5. 13.a Must the board provide a meeting room large enough to accommodate all persons who wish to attend a board meeting?
5. 13.b Must a board give notice when it changes the location of its meeting?
5. 14 May the board cancel a regularly scheduled or monthly meeting of the board?
5. 15 How must the board give notice of its meetings to the press?
5. 16 Who may call a special or emergency meeting?
5. 17 Must the board make available its agenda prior to its meetings?
5. 18 How should a board amend an agenda which has been posted as required?
5. 19 May a board of education conduct a meeting or allow a member to participate by teleconference?
5. 20 When may a board lawfully close a meeting or a portion of a meeting?
5. 21 When may the board meet with its attorney in a closed session?
5. 22 When may a board close a meeting to discuss student discipline issues?
5. 23 May the board allow third parties to address the board in closed session?
5. 24 When may the board discuss property issues in a closed session?
5. 26 What personnel matters may be discussed in a closed session?
5. 27 May the board vote in executive session on matters which legitimately may be discussed during an executive session?
5. 27.a Should the board keep minutes of its executive session?
5. 28 What is the procedure for closing a board meeting or entering an executive session of the board?
5. 29 Are there any circumstances when the superintendent may be excluded from an executive session of the board?
5. 30 How does the board conclude a closed session?
5. 31 What responsibility does the board chair have in connection with executive sessions?
5. 32 What are the penalties for violating the Open Meetings Act?
5. 33 May board members individually be penalized for violation of the Open Meetings Act?
5. 34 Must a board of education follow Robert’s Rules of Order in conducting a meeting?
5. 35 What is the effect of a motion which is approved by less than a majority of the entire board?
5. 36 Is the board required to furnish minutes of its meeting to the public immediately following a meeting?
5. 37 What information is required to be in the minutes of a meeting of the board?
5. 38 What school district documents are required to be produced if requested under the provisions of the Open Records Act?
5. 38.a Must e-mails and other computer based and generated information that exist only on school system computers be produced under the provisions of the Open Records Act?
5. 39 How does an individual obtain access to a public record?
5. 40 What documents are not public records and are not required to be produced in response to a request?
5. 41 Are applications for employment public record?
5. 42 Is the personnel file of an employee a public record?
5. 43 What are the possible consequences for violating the Open Records Act?
5. 44 Must the board or its employees compile information or answer questions submitted by the media or citizens?
5. 45 May the school district charge fees for producing public records?
5. 46 How long are school systems required to maintain records?
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