Three Lessons from a Nonrenewal Case

There are three things we can learn from a recent decision of the Commissioner in a nonrenewal case.

First, the teacher’s attorney has to point out specific mistakes in the board’s decision by citing to the local record along with legal authority. Here’s how the Commissioner put it:

It is not the job or the role of the Commissioner to review the local record and legal authority to determine if at any point an improper decision was made.  Nor is it the job of opposing counsel to guess what argument Petitioner is making. It is the job of the petitioner to demonstrate that a school district’s decision is incorrect by showing where in the record an error occurred and by citing authority to show such error requires reversal of the board’s decision.

Second, when the school board hears the case the rules about “hearsay” do not apply, unless the board’s rules require that they do.  This is one way in which hearings before the school board differ from a hearing before an independent hearing examiner. In the independent hearing system, the Texas Rules of Evidence apply, including the hearsay rules.

Third, if the district’s lawyer files a brief that points out the evidence in the record that supports the board’s decision, the teacher’s lawyer needs to respond to that. Here, there was no response to the district’s brief, and the Commissioner again noted what he is not willing to do: “It is not the Commissioner’s job to make Petitioner’s arguments for her.”

Nonrenewal of the principal’s contract was supported by substantial evidence, and thus, the decision was upheld by the Commissioner.  The case is Ross v. Judson ISD, Docket No. 052-R1-06-2016, decided by the Commissioner on August 15, 2016.


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