Portland Superintendent Carole Smith addresses parents at a meeting at Ockley Green school, March 1.

Portland Superintendent Carole Smith addresses parents at a meeting at Ockley Green school, March 1.

Rob Manning / OPB

Portland Public Schools has settled a lawsuit with Oregon Public Broadcasting over public meetings law.

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Related: OPB v PPS Settlement Statement

OPB sued Portland Public Schools after it closed several meetings of the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Enrollment and Transfer.

OPB argued that because the committee was advising the school board — as well as the superintendent — its meetings had to be open. But a Multnomah County judge agreed with Portland Public that the district was within the law to close those meetings. The settlement avoids a possible appeal from OPB.

In the settlement, Portland Public Schools agrees to provide training to board members and administrators and to have clear written guidelines for public meetings:

PPS is committed to compliance with the Public Meetings Law. PPS will continue to provide training for the Board of Education and senior leadership about the Public Meetings Law. PPS will also develop written guidelines for PPS committees regarding compliance with the Public Meetings Law.

In the agreement, OPB acknowledges that a superintendent can get confidential advice from committees, so long as the advice is only to the superintendent. But the district agrees that if committees share recommendations with the school board, as the transfer committee did, they have to follow open meetings rules.

OPB acknowledges that there are times when it is necessary and appropriate for PPS committees to advise the Superintendent on a confidential basis. To avoid future confusion, PPS will ensure that committees that report to the Superintendent make their recommendations to the Superintendent, and do not make recommendations directly to the Board. Committees that make recommendations directly to the Board of Education are subject to the Public Meetings Law. PPS and OPB will negotiate in good faith to resolve questions and concerns that arise regarding the application of the law in the future.

The settlement could be relevant as Portland’s advisory committee on school boundaries resumes its work this spring.

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