RALEIGH, N.C. — When North Carolina school board members retreat behind closed doors to discuss sensitive public business, the amount of information they share with the public afterward varies greatly.

While some release detailed notes of their closed-door discussions, others conceal large portions of their meetings, refuse to say how board members voted or release nothing at all.

In honor of Sunshine Week, an annual effort to highlight the importance of public records and open meetings laws, a coalition of 10 North Carolina news organizations requested a year’s worth of closed session minutes from nearly 50 public boards across the state, including nearly a dozen school boards.

The goal was to test their transparency and learn what kinds of public business and decisions are discussed behind closed doors. What do board members talk about? How detailed are their meeting minutes? And how much information do they release?

In Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the nine-member Board of Education routinely schedules time for closed session before its regular meetings twice a month. With a $1.4 billion annual budget, the board’s decisions affect more than 146,000 students and 19,000 employees in the state’s second-largest school system.

In January, a reporter requested all closed session minutes from the board’s meetings in 2017. For more than two months, the school system refused to release anything, saying the closed meeting minutes are “protected from disclosure by law” and arguing that revealing them to the public would “frustrate the purpose of the closed session.”

The reporter pushed back, asking board leaders and their attorney to reconsider. Last week, more than two months after the initial request, the school system released 74 pages of heavily redacted minutes covering Jan. 10 to July 27, 2017.

Most of the records contained only the date, location and purpose of the closed session, the list of attendees and the vote to adjourn, with everything in between blacked out. A closed session held during a special meeting on July 3, which included approval of contracts for top administrators, was not among the minutes provided.

The minutes stopped in July because there had been a change in board clerks and the board has not yet approved minutes for the more recent meetings, general counsel George Battle III said. The school district originally declined to provide any documentation of closed sessions because “there was confusion in the way I saw the request,” Battle said, adding most of the content involves student or employee matters that are protected by law.

More than 200 miles east in Wilmington, the New Hanover County school board also refused to release any records to a reporter, saying the minutes “contain confidential information and cannot be released.”

Asked to cite the legal basis for the denial, the district pointed to the state’s closed session law, which covers discussions about students, employees and attorney/client privilege.

State law allows school boards to meet in private to discuss confidential issues, but records of those meetings are supposed to be available to the public so that a person not in attendance would have a reasonable understanding of what happened.

Amanda Martin, a Raleigh attorney who often represents media organizations, took issue with boards saying they do not have to release any closed-session minutes.

“As a blanket statement, that’s just not true,” Martin said. “I’m very skeptical of the idea that everything that happened in every closed session in 2017 still has to be kept from public view.”

One thing boards sometimes refuse to reveal is how individual members voted in closed session.

On Dec. 28, 2016, the State Board of Education had a big decision to make. Should it sue the state over House Bill 17?

The law, in part, stripped the board’s powers and shifted them to new State Superintendent Mark Johnson. After half an hour in closed session, the board emerged with a decision — they would file a lawsuit.

State board Chairman Bill Cobey cited attorney/client privilege in refusing to disclose which members supported the lawsuit and which ones, if any, opposed it, according to Carolina Journal, which is affiliated with the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank in Raleigh.

Requested minutes from the board’s meeting failed to include details about the closed session. The state board’s closed session minutes from 2017 were nearly all blacked out and hidden from public view. WRAL last week asked for the board’s voting record from that December 2016 closed session and was also denied.

“According to the State Board of Education’s attorneys, how individual board members voted on the motion in question is not a public record,” state Department of Public Instruction spokesman Drew Elliot said by email.

While some boards reveal little or nothing about their closed sessions, others are far more transparent. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools provided some of the most detailed records of their private meetings of all the closed-session minutes reporters reviewed for this story.

The board released 23 pages, which were lightly redacted to protect names and other specific private information. The records included:

— Possible litigation about the Confederate flag

— Reference to a negotiation with the Town of Chapel Hill

— Possible legal issue with the structure of the PTA Thrift Shop

— School safety plans and the need for a full-time director of school safety

— Legal advice that text messages between the board and superintendents must be retained

— Discussion with four high school principals about free speech policies and to what degree the board can limit speech

Also included in Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s records were a handful of potential settlements totaling nearly $300,000. The largest of those was approved Aug. 17, when the board unanimously agreed to pay up to $200,000 to settle a case, the details of which were not included.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools officials declined an interview request for this story.

The most common reason school boards go into closed session is to discuss staffing and other personnel issues, said Raleigh attorney Ken Soo, whose law firm works with more than 20 North Carolina school boards.

“Speaking for the boards I work with, they try to use closed session for the purposes that are authorized by law and that are about fairness to individuals and not disclosing confidential information,” Soo said.

This story was reported by Emery P. Dalesio, The Associated Press; Christina Elias, The Times-News of Burlington; Jim Morrill and Ann Doss Helms, The Charlotte Observer; Monica Vendituoli and Steve DeVane, The Fayetteville Observer; Scott Bolejack and Andy Specht, The News & Observer; Shawn Flynn, Spectrum News; Brandon Wissbaum, WECT; Tyler Dukes and Kelly Hinchcliffe, WRAL; and Jason deBruyn, WUNC.