The International High School governing board deferred plans to meet behind closed doors after a reporter objected to the executive session listed on the board’s Nov. 28 meeting agenda.

Public school boards are bound by state law to conduct all business in a public meeting, save for specified exceptions that allow public bodies to meet behind closed doors. According to the statute, executive sessions should be noted on the meeting agenda, published at least 24 hours before the meeting date and, like other action items listed, “described with reasonable specificity.”

The meeting agenda published for the IHS November board meeting listed an executive session as the last item of business, but the agenda did not give a reason for the private meeting, nor did the board state why it was voting to enter into an executive session.

After a reporter asked publicly why the board was going into executive session, a board member disclosed that the closed door meeting was needed to address a personnel matter.

Although personnel issues are among the exceptions to open meetings law, the reason for the executive session should be outlined on the meeting agenda and published 24 hours in advance. The board’s chairman or designee should also publicly state why a closed door meeting is permissible before the board votes to meet privately.

Board members said the subject of the personnel matter had been given 24 hours notice as required by law. Statute also requires that employees being discussed by a public body be given a choice on whether the meeting is held in public.

IHS board members voted to address the personnel matter in executive session during a special board meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 12.  Also at that meeting, the board will  decide whether International High School will join the 75 percent of charter schools in the city using OneApp, the Recovery School District’s new centralized enrollment process. OneApp was created in an effort to streamline the application process for New Orleans public school parents who have had to fill out numerous charter school applications at several different school sites before the start of each school year.

Raphael Gang, acting director of the Office of Parental Options at the state Department of Education, told board members that the RSD’s three OneApp offices in New Orleans see 60-70 families every day and last year helped 65 percent of students secure their top school choice.

In other business, the board’s finance committee chairman said the state’s most recent financial review of IHS was “excellent,” though the school’s enrollment is currently at 430 while the budget is based on a student count of 450.

He assured board members that the budget will be balanced by January despite the slight dip in enrollment.

The board also welcomed a $1,200 donation to the school on behalf of the New Orleans Bar Man’s Fund, a group of seven New Orleans area bartenders who pool one night’s worth of tips each month and donate the money to various local causes. The local fund was organized in December 2011 by bartender Holly Williams as a spinoff of the Bar Man’s Fund in New York.

Heather Miller

Heather Miller is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to The Lens' Charter School Reporting Corps. She is a former staff writer for The Independent in Lafayette, and is now based in New Orleans.