As the WSSDA Annual Conference approaches, many members are wondering whether they need to consider the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) along with their attendance. The answer is yes. Whenever a majority of the board is present (physically or virtually), board members should consider the OPMA.
Annual Conference might not feel like a school board meeting, but for OPMA purposes, a meeting happens any time a quorum of the board is present and action happens. You likely think of “action” as conducting official business, such as voting on a motion. It is important to remember that for OPMA purposes “action” includes much more than official business. It includes discussions, deliberations, considerations, and review—all of which could happen as your board reflects on Annual Conference sessions.
Here are questions your board should consider:
If you answered yes to any of these questions, please consider noticing a special meeting and providing opportunity for the general public to attend your gathering(s).
Although a majority of your school board members (we hope it’s the whole board) can attend Annual Conference without violating the OPMA, it requires that your board not discuss the sessions and the ideas you’re learning during conference or break times. Given the value of your board discussing, deliberating, considering, and reviewing what you learn at Annual Conference, we encourage school boards to schedule and give notice of one or more special meetings during breaks or shortly after conference.
To be clear, the OPMA does not give the public the right to attend Annual Conference itself. However, the OPMA does give the public the right to attend your board’s discussions about how what you learned by your attending Annual Conference might pertain to your school district.
Special meetings require a minimum of 24 hours’ notice, for board directors and the public. The notification must include the time, place, and the business / agenda to be transacted at the special meeting. For the purposes of WSSDA’s Annual Conference, the agenda is to discuss sessions, information, and ideas generated by attending the event.