The board’s agenda for the meeting in April, 2020 read:
Consider appropriate actions related to COVID-19. 1. Resolution. 2. Updates.
The Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) requires the agenda to list every subject the board is going to discuss. The idea is that Joe Citizen should have a general idea of what’s up for consideration at the board meeting, simply by reading the agenda. If you read this entry, would you understand that the “appropriate actions” might including changing the district’s class ranking procedures?
In Student v. Rocksprings ISD Commissioner Morath dodges the issue, but hints that this might not cut it. His decision says “This notice could be insufficient.” He was able to dodge the issue because the board held a second meeting a month later with a more specific agenda:
Consider appropriate actions related to COVID-19. 1. Consider ratification of COVID 19 grading resolution.
Ah! That cured whatever problem the original agenda may have created. So the Commissioner tells us that even though the April agenda was skimpy on the specifics, the May agenda cured the problem. So the student’s complaint that the board’s action should be overturned because it was done in violation of TOMA was dismissed.
I’ve always thought that board agendas should feature three verbs. Like this:
The board will CONSIDER, DISCUSS, and MAY TAKE appropriate action regarding the following:
Then you list the items to be considered, discussed, and/or acted on.
This case is also a reminder that the Commissioner does have jurisdiction to deal with complaints that the board has violated TOMA. The Commissioner has jurisdiction to address cases alleging that the board has violated “the school laws of this state,” and strictly speaking, TOMA is not a “school law” of Texas. However, T.E.C. 26.007(b) requires the district to conduct its board meetings in compliance with TOMA, and that gives the Commissioner jurisdiction to hear complaints about TOMA.
One final point about this case—the Petitioner also alleged that individual board members acted improperly, but the Commissioner refused to consider those issues, noting that he has jurisdiction over the board’s compliance with TOMA, but not the actions of individual board members.
It's Student v. Rocksprings ISD, Docket No. 008-R10-10-2020, decided by Commissioner Morath on March 16, 2021.
DAWG BONE: MORE SPECIFIC RATHER THAN LESS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA FOR YOUR AGENDA.
Got a question or comment for the Dawg? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow: Can the superintendent reassign a principal to a teaching position?