Today is the second Monday of the month, so many Nebraska Boards of Education have scheduled their meeting for tonight. Today is also the approximately 1,000,000th ice storm that the state has endured this winter. Many superintendents and board members have reached out to us asking about what they need to do to accommodate weather concerns.
First, let’s start with what you CAN’T do. In discussions with representatives from the Attorney General’s office just this morning, you cannot move up the time of your hearing. If you were scheduled to meet tonight at 7 PM, you cannot move the meeting up to noon today to beat the worst of the weather.
Now, onto what you can do and delaying the meeting. There is no requirement in the Open Meetings Act that you delay if public travel is at issue. So long as a quorum of your board members can arrive at the meeting, you may lawfully go ahead with the meeting. However, the weather may make it impossible or inadvisable for board members to travel to their board meeting tonight. If that is the case, you have several options, depending on the wording of your board policy on meetings.
We have conferred with the Nebraska Attorney General’s office on this issue at several points over the years. The attorneys in that office who handle open meetings complaints have advised us that so long as your board policy on meeting notices includes a process to follow due to weather delays, you may reschedule your meeting without following the complete meeting notice procedures from scratch. Check your board’s policy to see if there are protocols for meetings that are interrupted by inclement weather (KSB policy service subscribers, that will be the “Weather Delays” section of Policy 2008).
If your policy does not include a process for weather delays, you should contact your school’s attorney before making a decision to postpone your meeting. In either case, the safest route is to do treat the delay like a brand new meeting with at least 48 hours’ notice after you post notice again. If your board policy requires your meeting notices to be published in the newspaper, you will have to move quickly to make sure the publication schedule of your paper will accommodate the new meeting. (This is why we advise clients to have a post-only or website policy for board meetings, in addition to a weather delay provision.)
Nebraska statute requires boards of education to hold their regular meetings on or before the 3rd Monday of the month. If you are under the gun and simply cannot get your new meeting advertised in the method set by your board before that time, we think it is better to hold a “postponed” meeting on or before the 3rd Monday and do your best to provide reasonable notice to the public. Even the AG has discussed with us informally that following the same process you do for school closings (social media, radio, TV stations, website, etc.) and then reposting an updated meeting notice is probably sufficient to get the message out there.
Finally, just a reminder that tonight, February 11 at 6:00 p.m. C.S.T., we will host a 50-minute live webinar titled “Five Things Every New School Board Member Should Know Right Away.” You will learn (1) everything you need to know about parliamentary procedure (which legally isn’t much); (2) the basics of closed session; (3) what you need to know about school district insurance and individual legal liability for board members; (4) how to deal with patron complaints; and (5) your role and responsibilities as a board member.
If your board cannot participate in the webinar live, we will record the session and make it available on our website. If you would like to register for this webinar, click here.