Missed a Deadline? God Might Forgive You But the Commissioner Will Not.

Welcome to March!  It’s a month of bluebonnets, meaningful basketball, spring break and St. Patrick’s Day.  I think we all know that March is far superior to February, so let’s all be grateful that the February grind is over for another year.

We open the month with a case that illustrates that the deadlines for the appeal of a nonrenewal of contract are serious business.  Citing the “unforgiving statutory timelines” the Commissioner dismissed a teacher’s appeal because his lawyer filed his brief too late. 

The Commissioner has 50 days to issue a decision in a case appealing a nonrenewal of contract.  Those 50 days begin to run when the teacher files the Petition for Review.  If the Commissioner does not get his decision issued in 50 days, the school district automatically wins. It says that point blank at T.E.C. 21.304(b).  That 50-day deadline cannot be extended, even if all parties would like to push the deadline back.  Because of these tight timelines the Agency issues a “briefing schedule” to both parties, and, as this case informs us, that briefing schedule is not to be trifled with.   

The teacher’s lawyer was told to submit his brief by December 6, 2018. He didn’t do that.  First he attempted to get all of the timelines moved back, including the Commissioner’s 50-day deadline. The Commissioner denied that request because he has to. It’s an “unforgiving” statutory deadline.

So then the teacher’s lawyer submitted the brief three days late, with a footnote asking that the brief be accepted for filing. It wasn’t.  The Commissioner cited three reasons: 1) the request to accept the brief late was not made by motion; 2) it was not accompanied by a statement of good cause for the late filing; and 3) it did not include a “certificate of conference” indicating that the lawyers had talked about this.

If the teacher’s lawyer fails to file the brief on time, the teacher has failed to “exhaust administrative remedies.” That means the Commissioner does not have jurisdiction of the case.  It gets tossed out.

That’s what happened in Wolber v. Round Rock ISD, decided by the Commissioner on December 21, 2018. It’s Docket No. 006-R1-11-2018. 


See you next week!