Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Administrators must be given notice, meeting, Supreme Court rules

The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled today, in a 7-0 opinion, that the failure of a School Board to grant the request of a grade school principal for a meeting with the board prior to the board’s vote not to renew her contract was a violation of state law that invalidates the board’s nonrenewal vote and requires her reemployment. In that case, an elementary school principal entered into an administrative contract with the School District to serve as a principal for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years. In May 2007, during her first year as principal, she was placed on paid administrative leave for the remaining term of her contract based on school employees’ allegations that she had tampered with Ohio Achievement Test answer sheets that had been completed by students at the school. In June or July 2007, the principal was orally advised by an assistant district superintendent that her contract would not be renewed when it expired in the summer of 2008. At the time of that notification, the principal orally informed the assistant superintendent that she wanted to meet with the district school board prior to any final board action on the nonrenewal of her contract. Despite the principal's request, at a regularly scheduled school board meeting on March 17, 2008, without advance notice to the principal that her contact would be considered at that meeting and without a prior meeting with her to discuss its reasons for nonrenewal, the board voted not to renew her contract. Subsequently, the Ohio Department of Education determined that there was no evidence that any tests had been altered or that the principal altered any tests. The principal then filed a lawsuit, arguing R.C. 3319.02(D)(4), requires that, before a school board takes action to renew or non-renew the contract of a public school administrator, if the administrator requests a meeting with the board, the board “shall grant a meeting in executive session,” at which the board “shall discuss its reasons for considering renewal or nonrenewal of the contract.” R.C. 3319.02(D)(5) provides that if a school board “fails to provide at the request of the employee a meeting as prescribed in division D(4) of this section, the employee automatically shall be reemployed ...” The Supreme Court unanimously reversed both the trial court and the court of appeals. The case is State ex rel. Carna v. Teays Valley Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn., 131 Ohio St.3d 478, 2012-Ohio-1484.