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BOE sets two closed sessions

May 10, 2001

BOE sets two closed sessions



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education will hold 10 hours of closed meetings tonight and Friday.

The first meeting is a two hour executive session being held tonight to carry out negotiations with the Educational Support Personnel Local I, which is permitted under the Maryland Open Meetings Act.

On Friday, the board will meet behind closed doors for eight hours in a retreat at Williamsport Retirement Village. The board originally announced the retreat as an executive session but did not give specific reasons for calling the meeting.

When asked to provide a list of topics that would be discussed, the board stated it mistakenly announced the meeting was an executive session.

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"Although originally noted as a board retreat, the Board of Education has changed the format of the May 11 meeting to be an executive function meeting to discuss board member inter-relationships...," said Carol Mowen, the board's public information officer.

"We regret any confusion this may have caused," Mowen said.

When a public body carry outs an executive function, it is exempt from the Open Meetings Act. Therefore, the body is not required to advertise or provide reasons for meeting in closed sessions, the Open Meetings Act states.

An executive function differs from an executive session.

An executive function means the administration of a state, county or local law, or a rule, regulation, or bylaw of a public body, according to the Open Meetings Act. The board is not required to take minutes of the meeting.

The Maryland Attorney General's office said in a written explanation of an executive function that the exception covers only the application of an already established law or policy.

An executive session is permitted for personnel matters, to protect the privacy interests of individuals and to consider preliminary matters involving state investments, litigation matters and public security matters.

Executive sessions must be advertised and minutes of the meeting must be taken.

"I can only say that the board members have decided that they need to spend time addressing their inter-relationships in order to move forward in conducting the business of a school system," Mowen said. "They believe that the time spent doing that on May 11 will enable them to work better as a board."

Judith Ricketts, administrative director for the Frederick County Board of Education, said the Frederick County School Board tries to meet in closed sessions as little as possible.

"It's certainly not something we do each time," Ricketts said.

She said, however, the board must sometimes meet in closed session to discuss matters including personnel and negotiations. While there is no set time limit for the meetings, she said Frederick County always states the reasons for closed meetings, the names of people in attendance, a list of topic items and any action taken.

The Washington County Board of Education will hold another executive session on May 15.

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