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Answers to frequently asked questions about Virtual School Committee meetings and Open Meeting Law.
While most committees have public comment as an agenda item, it is not a requirement of the Open Meeting Law. For remote meetings, a committee may choose to leave this item off the agenda. Or, consider providing an avenue for members of the public to get comments and questions to the committee to be read at the meeting. This could be done by providing an email address on the website specifically for comments and questions at the meeting. Some committees are managing public comment via telephone calls or by using vehicles such as chat windows. There are advantages and pitfalls to the various options, so be prepared for some trial and error to determine what might work best for your committee.
For some professionals, a remote meeting is nothing new. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
Don’t forget, this is still a public meeting under the Open Meeting Law. Many virtual services have chat windows. Just like texting or passing notes during a meeting opens the potential for creating a public record, so does the chat function. Avoid using it, unless addressing a technical issue to someone managing the meeting. Let members of the public who may be viewing the meeting know that it is not a vehicle for communicating with the Committee during the course of the meeting.
Depending on the service used, the Chair may be running the meeting and managing the technical aspects. If the Chair is new to this, they may have someone else manage the meeting from the standpoint of muting and unmuting people and determining who is on the screen at any given point in time, etc.
Some Chairs have found that it can be helpful to manage discussions a bit differently. Rather than the Chair calling on someone waiting to be recognized, the Chair might call on each member in turn to comment or ask questions, cycling through as many times as necessary to ensure everyone gets a chance to speak. For a larger committee, this might work particularly well.
Both chairing and participating in a virtual public meeting is new for everyone. Committees are finding that it is an effective vehicle for taking care of necessary business during this unprecedented time. MASC will continue to provide guidance and best practices as we learn together.