Minutes of school-board personnel discussions can be released for public inspection, N.C. court rules

A North Carolina school board tried to withhold the minutes of a closed-door discussion about the school superintendent's employment contract, claiming the minutes were a "personnel record." But a state appeals court disagreed. The ruling is a reminder that, despite what school lawyers often insist, not everything about personnel decisions is off-limits to journalists' scrutiny.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Call them “retreats” or “briefings,” but government meetings are still open to the public

School boards and other government bodies required to admit the public to their meetings have come up a cute, but not especially persuasive, way of doing their business behind closed doors: By not calling their meetings "meetings."When a bunch of government officials sit around a table and talk about government business, common sense, Webster's dictionary and 20-20 vision say that's a "meeting." Regrettably, some government officials who distrust the public's ability to maturely deal with information -- or who realize their behavior is so deplorable that it can't withstand public scrutiny -- will go to extraordinary lengths to argue otherwise.They'll claim to be holding a "working session" or some other euphemism that sounds less "meeting-like." That may be reassuring for their consciences, but it's rarely a legally adequate justification to shut the public out.Recently, a Rhode Island judge ordered that state's Board of Education to invite the public to an "informational retreat" where board members were scheduled to discuss high school graduation requirements and standardized testing.

While you were taking a holiday, so did the Bill of Rights and government transparency

Over the weekend, quite a few stories involving student rights caught our eye. In case you missed them over the long holiday, here's everything you need to know:

  • In New York, a high school senior was suspended after he started a hashtag for students to discuss the school district's budget, which failed to get voter approval last week.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: As states retrench on openness of presidential searches, can journalists play “find-the-finalists?”

In their quest to conceal the selection of college presidents from the public's inquiring eyes, state officials are taking increasingly extreme and desperate measures.

College trustees lose open-meetings battle (they illegally closed a meeting) but win the war (nobody gets punished)

The good news for public access to government meetings: A New Jersey court says Rutgers University trustees failed to give proper advance notice of a closed-door "executive session," and discussed matters in that session that should've been deliberated in the open.The bad news: Nothing can be done about it.A disgruntled attendee sued after Rutgers' Board of Governors held a four-hour closed session in September 2008 preceding the board's regularly scheduled business meeting.The published notice of the meeting said only that the board would be going into executive session to discuss contract negotiations and other attorney-client matters.