As the WSSDA 2021 Legislative Conference approaches, members are wondering whether they need to consider the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) along with their attendance. If a majority of your board is attending, the answer is yes. Whenever a majority of the board is present (physically or virtually), board members should consider the OPMA.
Legislative 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 of matters or information pertaining to the board’s governance. All of which could happen if a majority of your board members attends Legislative Conference and reflects on the information between sessions.
We’ve made a checklist of 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 can attend Legislative Conference without violating the OPMA, it requires that your board not discuss issues and information from the sessions relating to your district outside of an open public meeting. This means not discussing these matters during the conference, including break times, or in preparation for meetings with legislators. Given the value of your board discussing, deliberating, considering, and reviewing what you learn at Legislative Conference, if a majority of your board is attending the 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 Legislative Conference itself. However, the OPMA does give the public the right to attend your board’s discussions about how the information and ideas presented at Legislative 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 Legislative Conference, the agenda is to discuss how sessions, information, and ideas presented pertain to the district.