Re: [nyceducationnews] advisory opinion of Committee of Open Govt re SLTs
- Hesitant as I am to take issue, Jim, there is a difference in the law between the PTA and the SLT in that the SLT is part of a "shared decisionmaking" function. It does not have to be followed, but it must be consulted.
I'll send you the original letter-opinion-with the legal citations-of the Committee on Open Government.
On 9/13/2013 4:35 PM, jimdevor@... wrote:
A somewhat different take.
As someone who has litigated this question, I reach the same conclusion but from a different route.
Specifically, as I recall PTA (and by extension, SLT) meetings are NOT necessarily governed by the Open Meetings Law. They are, however, DEFINITELY governed by the NYS Education Law which provides rhat ALL meetings held in public schools MUST be open to the public. Indeed, that was a codification of an earlier COG opinion to the same effect after some DoE genius decided to excliude Assembly Chair Nolan from a PTA meeting in her District. Sometimes, payback's a bitch.________
Jim Devor follow me on Twitter: @JimDevor
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, <melmeer1@...> wrote:
Someone must have retyped this letter to get it into soft form so that you could include it here.
You've probably forgotten, but these letters (the second of which you reprinted) were in response to my inquiry of the Committee on Open Government a long time ago. The first, which I will send to you separately, provides the legal justification for what you have highlighted n yellow.
On 9/13/2013 8:44 AM, Leonie Haimson wrote:
See advisory opinion from Robert Freeman below, head of the NYS Committee on Open Govt..
I couldn’t find the earlier decision highlighted below but it is clear that according to Freeman,., SLTs are subject to the open meeting law. He is a great guy – the most responsive I have found in any govt position -- and you can call or email him for that 2003 advisory opinion –
Robert J. Freeman, Executive Director
Committee on Open Government
NYS Department of State
One Commerce Plaza
99 Washington Ave
Albany, NY 12231
or call (518) 474-2518
STATE OF NEW YORK
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
COMMITTEE ON OPEN GOVERNMENT
41 State Street, Albany, New York 12231
Fax (518) 474-1927
June 22, 2004
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence.
I have received your letter concerning meetings of School Leadership Teams ("SLT’s") and school based management teams operating in New York City.
By way of background, in 2003 you questioned the status of the entities in question under the Open Meetings Law, and I prepared an advisory opinion in response. An element of the opinion suggested that the time of the meetings of your interest, 7:20 a.m., conflicted with the judicial construction of the Open Meetings Law. Based upon that advice, you initiated a grievance with the New York City Board of Education and received the following response from the Office of Counsel:
"The Open Meetings Law states that ‘public business be performed in an open and public manner.’ Section 2590-h15(b-1)(ii) of the Education Law has been amended to require that the school leadership teams hold their monthly meetings at a time that is convenient for the parent representatives. Thus, if the parents on the SLT have agreed that their meeting will be held at 7:30 a.m this is consistent with law. If other people wish to attend it is their obligation to make themselves available at the time the team has chosen to meet."
From my perspective, while participation by parent members of school based management teams is clearly a consideration, the ability of others to attend is also relevant.
As indicated in the opinion addressed to you on December 29, 2003, the entities at issue are, in my view, "public bodies" required to comply with the Open Meetings Law. They are creations of law, and it is my understanding that they are the New York City entities that carry out the shared decision making functions required to be accomplished pursuant to §100.11 of the regulations promulgated by the NYS Commissioner of Education.
The provision cited by the Office of Counsel does not, in my opinion, affect the obligation of an SLT or a school based management team to comply with the Open Meetings Law. Section 2590-h(15)(b)(ii) requires that school board management teams shall:
"hold at least one meeting per month during the school year. Each monthly meeting shall be held at a time that is convenient for the parent representatives."
As the foregoing relates to the Open Meetings Law, I believe every statute, including the Open Meetings Law, must be implemented in a manner that gives reasonable effect to its intent. In the only decision that dealt with meetings held as early as those held by the body of your interest, the court found that the entity at issue failed to comply with the Open Meetings Law.
To reiterate a point offered in last year’s opinion, the intent of the Open Meetings Law is clearly stated in §100 as follows:
"It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of an able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy. The people must be able to remain informed if they are to retain control over those who are their public servants. It is the only climate under which the commonweal will prosper and enable the governmental process to operate for the benefit of those who created it."
In short, the Open Meetings Law confers a right upon the public to attend and listen to the deliberations of public bodies and to observe the performance of public officials who serve on such bodies.
Further, in the decision to which reference was made involving meetings held at 7:30 a.m., it was stated that:
"It is...apparent to this Court that the scheduling of a board meeting at 7:30 a.m. -- even assuming arguendo that such meetings were properly noticed and promptly conducted -- does not facilitate attendance by members of the public, whether employed within or without the home, particularly those with school age or younger children..." (Matter of Goetchius v. Board of Education, Supreme Court, Westchester County, New York Law Journal, August 8, 1996).
While meetings held at 7:20 a.m. may be convenient for parent members of an SLT or school based management team, many others interested in attending may be unable to do so because they have small children, because of work schedules, commuting, and other matters that might effectively preclude them from attending meetings held so early in the morning. In consideration of those persons and the holding by the court, I continue to believe that it would be unreasonable and inconsistent with law for an SLT or school based management team to conduct meetings at or near 7:20 a.m.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
Follow me on twitter @leoniehaimson
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I went through that and NYSUT has filed a lawsuit against the DOE in Supreme Court. Case to start next month. I'm chapter leader and barred and community member and barred.
Another DOElemma - DOE violates the Open Meetings Law for Mr. Portelos - http://wp.me/p31ecs-vW
UFT Chapter Leader IS 49
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
*sent from my Galaxy S3. Please pardon any typos
On Sep 12, 2013 11:26 PM, "Lisa Donlan" <lisabdonlan@...>wrote:
Can anyone please confirm that SLTs are subject to Open Meeting Laws?
I believed I knew the answer to this until a local blogger was nearly barred from an SLT meeting tonight.
I was called by the NL who cited her legal person (networks have their own legal people on staff?) as well as Marge Feinberg of the DoE's press office who agreed, reportedly, that SLTs are not covered by OML.
In fact, they cited A-655 to explain that only SLT meeting notification is subject to OML!
How can a body be subject to one portion of the OML and not the whole body of law?
When finally I explained that the banning was going to be a story in itself they relented, and said we could stay as long as we did not try to get on the agenda, make comments or ask questions.
We had never intended to join in the meeting, just observe, as per OML.
What we observed was a passionate thoughtful concerned group of students, parents, and staff ask pointed questions about the wisdom and feasibility of shoving another 500 bodies into a 100+ year old building w/o proper wiring to run computers and AC, no gym, and no auditorium, narrow hallways and staircases, and only two bathrooms on 2 of the 4 floors.
I asked the OPM rep what his experience/opinion/expertise was regarding the SLT, OML and rights of the public including the media. Oddly, he did not know, only " SLT meetings go better when no media is present".
Such is the state of "public education" in NYC.
The school buildings belong to the chancellor and mayor, the public is banned from even the most perfunctory of community engagement meetings and no one can keep track of the rules the lawyers in Tweed (and the virtual invisible networks) churn out- not even the lawyers themselves!