The Clayton County Board of Education will meet on Wednesday, November 16 for an executive session.
What is an executive session?
An executive session is called, during a public meeting, for members of a board to give notice that they are entering a private discussion. This has to be done during a public meeting because a quorum of government officials cannot meet in secret. But the executive session gives them leeway to discuss ongoing litigation, pending real estate matters, and personnel issues. The executive session is not a place where elected officials are allowed to discuss any matter that is more properly discussed in public—for example, an unpopular or controversial vote on a matter that falls outside of real estate, litigation, or personnel matters. An executive session specifically is not the place to hold discussions in order to evade public scrutiny.
While executive sessions are not open to the public, the business that transpires within an executive session is open to a judge should it become necessary. Minutes of executive sessions are taken and they are notarized, but they are not published. Any actions to be taken as a result of the executive session must be announced immediately afterward in the open meeting. Any votes on actions taken as a result of an executive session are to be taken in that public meeting.
Elected officials who take part in an executive session also cannot discuss with the public confidential details of what transpired in that meeting.
Executive sessions can be very short—a few minutes long—or last for an hour or more, depending on the complexity of the issue and the discussion. However, if you want to know the results of an executive session right away, you must be present when the participants reconvene in the public part of the meeting.
Often, you might not be able to find out what an executive session is about before the meeting takes place. That means you would need to be at the meeting when the executive session ends to find out what it was about. Usually, an attorney who represents the elected body will ask in very brief form for a vote on whatever the group had discussed: a lawsuit, a real estate deal, or a personnel matter. For example, if someone sues the school system over an accident or a termination, the board might vote to approve a settlement for a certain dollar amount.
You can learn more about executive sessions and open meetings in general here:
- The Open Meetings Act, Georgia Attorney General
- “A Guide to Open Government in Georgia,” Georgia First Amendment Foundation
- “Georgia’s Open Meetings and Open Records Law: A Guide for County Officials,” ACCG
- “Government in the Sunshine: A Guide to Georgia’s Open Meetings and Open Records Laws for Municipal Officials,” Georgia Municipal Association
For more information about access to school records, check out: