Change to Open Meetings Law catches at least two charter boards off guard

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Encore Academy has canceled tonight’s board meeting after learning it was in violation of the state’s 24-hour notice requirement for public meetings.

At least one other charter school recently has also made the mistake of announcing a public meeting over a weekend, which no longer counts toward the one-day notice requirement.

A 2014 revision of the state’s Open Meetings Law stipulates Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays do not count toward the 24-hour clock. That law went into effect Aug. 1.

Sunday, Encore Academy sent out a notice announcing a special board meeting scheduled for tonight. But the clock on that notice didn’t officially start until 12:01 a.m. Monday, meaning a 6:30 p.m. meeting would come during hour 18.

The law means Monday meetings generally must be announced by Friday.

In response to an email from The Lens, Encore CEO Terri Smith said the board was not aware of the change in law but “…will of course ensure the ENCORE Learning Board follows the law as dictated in the future.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”

This is especially important for the board’s coming meeting because it was called to address a pending property sale. Any actions taken during a meeting held in violation of the state’s Open Meeting Law can be voided if challenged successfully in court.

The law is designed to give the public ample time to read the board agenda and prepare to attend. All public bodies in the state, including charter school boards, must adhere to the law.

Last week, Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans sent a notice on Sunday, April 5, for a meeting the next day.

Board President Allyson Mills said the school’s email system is automated, and programmed to provide a 24-hour advance notice. However, she said they will change the timing in accordance with current law.

“I can’t confirm but I’m willing to bet that the agenda was otherwise timely posted,” she said via email.

She also said the board will re-vote on action items from April 6 at its next board meeting.

The growing French-curriculum charter school is running out of space at its two leased campuses and the board met April 6 to consider leasing additional space.

Encore has rescheduled its meeting for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at its temporary campus, Dibert Elementary School at 4217 Orleans Ave.

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