Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Teacher not entitled to continuing contract, appeals court rules

An Ohio appeals court upheld the dismissal of a teacher who claimed he had a legal right to a continuing contract in the case of State ex rel. Browne v. Sandusky School District Board of Education.

In that case, the teacher had graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Bowling Green State University. In the spring semester of 1983, he enrolled in and received three credit hours in the area of licensure or in an area related to the teaching field. In the spring semester of 1994, at Bowling Green State University, Mr. Browne enrolled in and received credit for 18 hours of coursework in the area of licensure or in an area related to the teaching field.

On June 20, 1994, the Ohio Department of Education issued appellant his
first four-year provisional teaching certificate; at that time, appellant did not hold a master's degree. From 1994 until present, Mr. Browne has been employed with the Sandusky City School District. Following the issuance of his initial teaching certificate through 2003, appellant completed ten hours of coursework in his area of licensure or in an area related to the teaching field.

Believing that he had attained eligibility for a continuing contract, Mr. Browne
applied for a continuing contract for the 2005-2006 school year. In November 2005,
Mr. Browne was informed that he needed to complete two additional semester hours in order to be eligible for continuing contract status. In 2006, Mr. Browne completed an additional three hours of coursework. Also in 2006, he was issued a five-year professional license by the Ohio Department of Education.

In November 2006, Mr. Browne again requested that the Board consider his
eligibility for a continuing contract. In a letter dated December 8, 2006, the Superintendent informed Mr. Browne that, upon closer inspection of
his transcripts, the semester hours that appellant completed following his baccalaureate degree but prior to his initial licensure did not count toward the 30 semester hour requirement for continuing contract purposes. The Superintendent then informed appellant that he needed to complete 20 additional semester hours to be eligible for continuing contract status.

Mr. Browne did not complete any additional semester hours but continued to
assert his right to a continuing contract. On September 18, 2007, the Board again denied his request for a continuing contract.

On July 15, 2008, he filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus
requesting that the Erie County Court of Common Pleas compel the Board to issue him a
continuing contract. Specifically, he asserted that, pursuant to R.C. 3319.11,
he had a clear legal right to a continuing contract; the Board was under a duty to
award him a continuing contract; and that he had no adequate remedy at law.

On the school board's motion, the trial court dismissed the case. The appeals court upheld the dismissal, finding that Ohio Revised Code 3319.08(B)(2)(a) requires that 30 semester hours, in their entirety, must be commenced and completed following the issuance of the initial teaching certificate. Mr. Browne had argued that teachers could commence taking the hours beforehand. The lesson to teachers is that if they want their semester hours to count towards continuing contracts, they should only begin such coursework upon the initial issuance of their licensure.