School Board FAQ
This section answers questions as they pertain to a local school board, board meetings, and board minutes among other issues.
Every local school district is governed by a school board. These school board members (or trustees) are guardians of the public trust; they put the interests of their community's youth first. Through the policies they make, school board members are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of local public education. More information is available on the Texas Association of School Boards website.
Each district is required to post their board policy manual online. You can locate it by visiting the district’s website. If you need assistance locating it, you may contact the district directly using the contact information found on their website.
Conflicts of interest are governed by Chapter 171 of the Local Government Code. Depending on the circumstances, a board member may be required to disclose a potential conflict and refrain from discussing or voting on that issue. For a board member with different roles, the question is: in what role is the board member acting. As a board member, the trustee should be an advocates for employees, but as a business person doing business with the school board, the board member may also have a duty to protect the interests of the company he or she represents. This issue really all boils down to disclosure of a potential conflict and clarity as to what role someone is assuming.
The positions of public school teacher and trustee for the same district are legally incompatible. A teacher may run for school board in the district where he or she teaches. However, if the teacher wins the election, the teacher must give up the teaching position.
Section 551.042 of the Texas Government Code limits the ability of a governmental body to deal with a subject that is not posted to discuss. If that is the case, the board can only respond to factual inquiries and discuss putting it on a subsequent agenda. They cannot discuss the merits of that section without first posting it for an open meeting.
School board meetings are generally open to the public under Chapter 551 of the Texas Government Code, except for executive sessions which may be held to discuss limited issues such as possible real estate purchases or personnel actions. No votes may be taken in executive session. During the public portion of the meeting, individuals who are disruptive may be removed if their conduct disrupts the meeting, but generally there is no ability to exclude members of the public from a public meeting. You can access more information about the Open Meetings Act at the Texas Attorney General's website.
A complaint about a school board can be filed in writing with the TEA Complaints Division. If your concern is with access to a public document, you may contact the Attorney General’s Office via their Open Government Hotline.
The statute that is the "Texas Open Meetings Act" is found in Chapter 551 of the Texas Government Code. The act requires that a school board must give the public advance written notice of the subjects it will consider in a regular, special, or called meeting. The notice must also state the date, hour and place of the meeting. A school district must post notice of meetings at a place at the central administrative office of the district that is generally accessible to the general public for at least 72 hours before the scheduled time of the meeting. The only exception to the 72 hour posting requirement is for "emergency" meetings and those meetings must meet the requirements of Texas Government Code Chapter 551.045. In cases of emergency, the board must post notice of the date, place and subject of the meeting for not less than 2 hours prior to the meeting.
The Office of the Attorney General has an Open Government hotline to answer questions about compliance with the act. The number is (877) 673-6839. Additionally, questions relating to the Texas Open Meetings Act and the text of the act are accessible online at the Attorney General's Open Government section of their website.
Even if a school board does not approve a staff appointment, the nepotism law would still apply to the school board because the board has authority to approve or disapprove an appointment even if it doesn't actually do so. In other words, it could decide at any time to exercise that authority. However, under the nepotism law a person is considered to be related to a niece or nephew in the third degree. The nepotism law does not prohibit employing a person who is related to an officeholder in the third degree by affinity. A board member and the spouse of a board member's niece or nephew are related by affinity. Please refer to Sections 573.002, 573.024 and 573.025 of the Texas Government Code.
Official minutes of a school board meeting would generally be public, though the certified agenda of an executive (closed) meeting would not.