Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Charter School Boards and Email

The single biggest issue to trip up charter school governing board members is discussing school business on email. Charter schools are public entities in Colorado and therefore the school's governing board is subject to Open Meetings law the same as school district boards of education.

According to the statute, three people constitute a discussion and therefore the individuals cannot meet without properly noticing the meeting. The same applies for email discussions. A board president can send out an informative email such as giving the dates for Back to School Night, but when a recipient on that email hits "reply all" he/she has violated the Open Meetings law.

Two individual charter school board members can communicate in email, on the phone, or in person. Open Meetings law kicks in when the third person is involved.

The ease of communicating via email is very tempting for most charter school boards. It's especially convenient for the school's administrator to send out information to the board that doesn't require a response. This is perfectly acceptable.

The question has arisen how to handle an emergency situation where a letter needs to be drafted and sent out to parents within hours. The board president should draft the letter and send it out to the entire board. Individual board members may respond directly to the board president with suggested edits. The board president then has the responsibility to incorporate edits based on his/her best judgment and make the decision on what is the final draft of the letter.

The fundamental reason for the Open Meetings law is so that public business is discussed in public. Likewise, charter school boards should strive for transparency in all their actions.

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