Thursday, December 1, 2016

Additional Guidance for Principals Concerning New SLT Meetings Policy

Additional Guidance For Principals Concerning New Policy for SLT Meetings Because of a recent appellate court decision, SLT meetings must now be open to the public and subject to the Open Meetings Law. This means that SLTs must allow members of the general public and the press to attend their meetings, in addition to members of the school community, and new procedures must be implemented. Below is a list of the new procedures and instructions on how to implement them. 1. Public Notice of Meetings: SLT meetings must be scheduled at least one week before the meeting takes place. In addition, notice of the time and place of SLT meetings must be given to the public and to the news media at least 72 hour prior to the meeting. A member of the SLT will be responsible for posting the meeting notice on the school’s website and also posting it in a conspicuous place in the school building. Family Leadership Coordinators (FLCs) and Family Support Coordinators (FSCs) will be responsible for sending notice of the SLTS meetings to the news media, which can be a local news station, such as NY1, and/or a local newspaper. The notice must state the date, time and location of the SLT meetings. 2. Minutes: SLTs must prepare minutes of topics discussed at each meeting, including any proposals made or items decided upon through consensus-based decision-making. Minutes must be made available to the public in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) within two weeks of the meeting. Minutes that are taken during “executive sessions” (see below) should include a record of any final decisions made and must be completed and made available within one week of the date of the meeting. If the SLT minutes have not been finalized or approved by the SLT by this time, the Open Meetings Law requires that the minutes be marked “Draft”, “Not Approved”, or “Not Final”, and made available in this format if requested under FOIL. For all minutes, material that is exempted from disclosure by law, such as student information/records protected under the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) or information that would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under the Public Officers Law, will be redacted by the DOE’s Office of Legal Services prior to release of the minutes in response to FOIL requests. 3. Executive Session: If discussions at the SLT meeting concern the following topics, the SLT should go into “executive session,” meaning that the SLT members should remove themselves from the public meeting to a private room (out of view and earshot of the public and the press):  Matters that could imperil the public safety (such as School Safety Plans)  Matters that disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer  Information relating to current or future investigations (such as SCI, OSI, OEO or School-Based Investigations)  Discussions regarding proposed or pending litigation (including cases pending in courts or administrative agencies, such as the State Division of Human Rights)  Matters involving the preparation, grading or administration of examinations. In order to go into executive session, someone on the SLT must make a motion to do so, by saying something like, “This is a matter that requires us to go into executive session because School Safety Plans, which involve the safety of our students and school community, will be discussed.” The SLT must then take a vote to on whether to go into executive session. If a majority agree that the SLT should do so, the SLT should leave the room and go to a private space to have a discussion about the topic. Once the discussion has been completed, the SLT should return to the regular public meeting and continue that meeting. 4. The Role of the General Public at SLT Meetings: There is no requirement that the general public be allowed to speak at SLT meetings; there is only the requirement that the public be allowed to attend and observe the meetings. The SLT may choose to allow members of the public to speak but, if it does so, it must treat everyone equally, letting anyone who wishes to speak to do so. The SLT can adopt rules to ensure fairness (e.g., allowing any member of the public to speak for a certain period of time). 5. Photographs and Recordings: The general public and the press may record the meeting (by photograph, audio, video, or digital means). The SLT may adopt rules concerning the use of recording devices so as to prevent disruption of the meeting. For example, rules may require that people who use cameras to take pictures must remain in the back of the room, and if recording equipment is used, it must be silent so as not to disrupt the meeting. If rules are created, they should be conspicuously posted during the meetings and written copies should be provided upon request to attendees. The SLT is not required to record or transmit its meetings by audio, video or webcast. As noted in previous editions of Principals’ Weekly, the New York State Appellate Division recently issued a decision ruling that School Leadership Team (SLT) meetings must be open to the general public and comply with the requirements of the Open Meetings Law. You should note the following change in procedure for giving public notice to the news media concerning the date, time, and location of SLT meetings: Change in Procedure for Giving Public Notice of SLT Meetings: Family Leadership Coordinators and Family Support Coordinators (changed from Field Support Centers in the previous announcement) will be responsible for sending notice of SLT meetings to the news media, which can be a local news station, such as NY1, or a local newspaper. To facilitate this procedure, you or your designee must send the schedule of SLT meetings to your Family Leadership Coordinator and Family Support Coordinator, so that they can send notice of the meetings to the news media. The information that you send must include the date, time and location of the SLT meetings. The coordinators will then provide notice to the news media at least 72 hours prior to each meeting, provided the meeting has been scheduled at least a week in advance. If the SLT meeting date, time or location changes, you should notify your Family Leadership Coordinator and Family Support Coordinator as soon as possible, so that they can notify the media of the change. You or a designee must post a notice of the SLT meeting on your school’s website and also post it in a conspicuous place in the school building. You should review additional guidance on the new policy for SLT meetings in this guidance document. For questions, contact your Senior Field Counsel. __._,_.___