School board reminded of Open Public Meetings Act
May 25, 2023
The Naselle GRV School District Board met on Tuesday, May16 in the school library. At the opening of the meeting, Chair Amy Hunt made the following statement: “It has come to my attention that at the March 2023 meeting, we the Board violated the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) by having a discussion during the Executive Session which was not on the announced subject. I was aware of the discussion and I want to apologize for this violation of the OPMA. An error such as this erodes trust with the Board and the public. I have been in contact with every Board member and reminded them that new Board members are required to take the OPMA course offered by Washington State School District Association (WSSDA) within ninety days. All other Board members are required to take it every four years. After completion, copies of their certificates must be on file with this School District. All Board members have agreed to this and will have their certificates filed. If an improper discussion is attempted at future executive sessions, it will be shut down.”
The Open Public Meetings Act states: “An Executive Session, although not defined in the Open Public Meetings Act, is understood to mean the part of a regular or special meeting of a governing body closed to the public. A governing body subject to the OPMA is allowed to go into executive sessions only for the reasons listed in RCW 42.30.110. Some of the most common reasons for doing so are to discuss: 1) the purchase of land; 2) claims (or potential claims) against the agency for property or other damage; 3) qualifications of a potential appointee to fill an elected or appointed position: 4) complaints or charges against a public official or employee. No final action can be taken during an executive session. Because the agency (District) cannot make a collective decision in an executive session, one way to get this preliminary direction is for each member to discuss their concerns individually and allow the executive and staff to use that discussion as guidance. Final action by the Board must be taken at an open session.
During other business at that meeting, approval was given for the following: Hiring Amber Frank as Cross Country Coach; Conditional certificate renewals for Kellyn Hazen and Kelsi Nelson; Increased authorization for security upgrades already approved up to $80,000 for an additional $8,000; A Resolution granting WIAA authority over athletics; Use of school facilities and transportation for student summer activities and overnight summer travel. The Board also approved the Facilities’ Committee’s Master Plan 2022-2026 and approved out of area teaching assignments for Rona Johnson (middle school) LAP math.
May it be noted that in using Zoom and electronic communication tools as assets for transparency, any discussions held after the adjournment are still being heard by the public. It is suggested that before the meeting is adjourned, the Board Chair ask if there are any other topics needing discussion. If there are not, then the meeting be adjourned, and electronics be shut down. Realizing that in following the goal of transparency, all Board members should bring up any comments or topics before adjournment, since anything discussed after that time is subject again to the Open Public Meetings Act. OPMA standards can be challenging for small, legal meetings. Add microphones open before and after the meeting and it is advised that the Board members carefully monitor themselves and each other’s discussions remembering the OPMA.
The next Board meeting will be on June 20 at 6:30 in the school library.