This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A05-1637

 

Barbara Craig,

Relator,

 

vs.

 

Independent School District No. 361,

International Falls, Minnesota,

Respondent.

 

Filed May 30, 2006

Affirmed

Worke, Judge

 

Independent School District No. 361

 

Debra M. Corhouse, Education Minnesota, 41 Sherburne Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55103 (for relator)

 

John M. Colosimo, Colosimo, Patchin, Kearney & Brunfelt, Ltd., 301 Chestnut Street, Virginia, MN 55792 (for respondent)

 

††††††††††† Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Worke, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D†† O P I N I O N

WORKE, Judge†††††††

††††††††††† Relator, a continuing-contract teacher, appeals from respondent school districtís resolution to place her on unrequested leave of absence, arguing that respondent proceeded under an erroneous theory of law when it failed to realign teaching positions in order to preserve relatorís active status and failed to produce substantial evidence to support its decision.† We affirm.

D E C I S I O N

††††††††††† ďAschool district acts in an administrative capacity when making personnel decisions.Ē† State ex rel. Quiring v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 173, 623 N.W.2d 634, 637 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. May 29, 2001).† A reviewing court will reverse a school boardís determination ďwhen it is fraudulent, arbitrary, unreasonable, unsupported by substantial evidence, not within its jurisdiction, or based on an error of law.Ē† Dokmo v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 11, 459 N.W.2d 671, 675 (Minn. 1990).† A school board is obligated to make a sufficient record that supports its decision.† Id.ďIf the findings are insufficient, the case can be either remanded for additional findings or reversed for lacking substantial evidence supporting the decision.Ē† Id.This court ďis not at liberty to hear the case de novo and substitute its findings for those of the school board.Ē† Kroll v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 593,304 N.W.2d 338, 342 (Minn. 1981).††

††††††††††† Relator Barbara Craig argues that respondent Independent School District No. 361 proceeded under an erroneous theory of law when, because of a strained financial situation and declining enrollment, it placed relator on unrequested leave of absence (ULA).† Relator contends that respondent was required to realign teaching positions in order to preserve her status.† Relator held a .6451 Title I[1] position.† There is only one Title I teacher with less seniority than relator and this teacher is also on ULA.† Brenda Leduc is the most senior Title I teacher and the only full-time Title I teacher.† Leduc holds a .6451 lead-teaching position and a .36 coordinating position.† Leducís coordinating position includes a myriad of duties that are highly administrative and not traditional teaching functions.† Relator proposed that respondent reassign Leduc to an open sixth-grade position, assign relator to Leducís .6451 position, and fill Leducís coordinating position as it chose.† Respondent determined that relatorís proposed realignment was not practical and placed relator on ULA.††

††††††††††† Relator relies on Strand v. Special Sch. Dist. No. 1,392 N.W.2d 881 (Minn. 1986), to support her position that respondent had a duty to reassign teachers.† Strand holds that under the Teacher Tenure Act a school district is obligated to attempt realignment in order to retain senior teachers.† Strand, 392 N.W.2d at 886.† Strand was licensed to teach home economics and child development, and had been terminated after her home economics teaching position had been discontinued.† Id. at 883.† Olson, junior to Strand, was licensed to teach home economics, child development, and work experience, and was assigned to teach child development and served as the districtís only work-experience coordinator.† Id.† Busse, senior to Strand, was licensed to teach work experience, home economics, and child development.† Id.† The district assigned Busse to teach home economics.† Id.Strand argued that the assignments should have been realigned in order to retain the two senior teachers.† Id.The school district argued that it retained Olson because the work-experience program Olson built would be lost with a different teacher.† Id.at 884.†

††††††††††† The supreme court devised a test to be applied when a district is forced to reduce staff that favored retaining senior teachers and also accorded school districts flexibility for effective administration.† Id. at 885; see also Laird v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 317, 346 N.W.2d 153, 155 (Minn. 1984).† The school district must consider: ďthe teacherís length of service, the duration and scope of the teacherís license, the school districtís needs reflecting the welfare of the students and the public, and the ease of . . .† realignment . . . [in order to retain] the most senior teachers.Ē† Strand, 392 N.W.2d at 885.† The court in Strand concluded that reassignment was reasonable in order to retain the most senior teachers.† Id. at 886.

††††††††††† Relator argues that the only factors a district may consider are licensure and seniority.† But the Strand test sets forth four factors for consideration; and each case is to be decided on its own merits.† Any realignment should be practical and reasonable, and school districts do have some discretion.† Id.at 885-86.† Additionally, ď[t]he exercise of school management prerogatives [] may limit the availability of positions and the possibilities for . . . realignment.Ē† Kvernmo v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 403, 541 N.W.2d 620, 622 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Mar. 19, 1996).†

††††††††††† Respondent applied the Strand factors and determined: (1) Leduc had been a full-time Title I teacher since 1994, (2) Leduc has not taught as a regular classroom teacher because of her longtime service in Title I, (3) Leduc has many invaluable and seemingly irreplaceable duties dealing with families and the public, (4) relatorís proposed realignment would be confusing and difficult for the Title I program.† Respondentís findings are not erroneous.† The record shows that Leducís longtime Title I service has kept her out of a regular classroom since 1994.† There is also evidence that Leduc has many duties that a Title I teacher does not have and is invaluable to the district in the coordinating position.† Additionally, there was testimony that finding someone to fill the coordinating position would be difficult and not beneficial to the district.†

††††††††††† Moreover, there are problems with relatorís realignment scenario.† First, the collective-bargaining agreement establishes different seniority lists and does not include any requirement for realignment across lists.† Respondentís seniority lists include a full-time teacher list (regular teacher) and a Title I teacher list (Title I).† Separate lists were negotiated to protect Title I positions so that teachers with more seniority on the regular teacher list could not bump Title I teachers out of their positions. †Relator is only on the Title I list.† The districtís superintendent testified that relatorís realignment scenario was not practical because moving Leduc to a sixth-grade position would preclude recalling a regular teacher currently on ULA.† Thus, although relatorís seniority date is earlier than the regular teacher to be recalled, relator is not on the regular-teacher list, making the regular teacher more senior as it relates to the regular-teacher list.†

††††††††††† Second, the Title I coordinating position would need to be filled.† The record shows that Leduc holds the only full-time Title I position.† In In re Petition of Dallman for Recall and Realignment, the teacher argued that the school board should be required to sever a class into two courses in order to effect a realignment.† Dallman, 470 N.W.2d 148, 152 (Minn. App. 1991).† This court did not address relatorís argument that his seniority rights were superior to a school boardís discretion to shape curriculum, but stated that relatorís argument was unpersuasive.† Id. at 153.† Respondent shaped its curriculum in a way so that Leduc holds a full-time Title I position.† While relator argues that Leducís position can be severed, the Title I list indicates that Leduc holds a 1.0 position.† Respondent exercised its discretion in creating a Title I position that includes a teaching component and a coordinating component.† As Strand and Dallman state, relatorís seniority rights do not supersede respondentís discretionary power to shape curriculum, and school districts must be accorded flexibility to effectively administer the schools.†† See Dallman, 470 N.W.2d at 152; Strand, 392 N.W.2d at 885.† Respondent did not err in failing to realign positions because relator is not on the regular-teacher list and because relatorís proposed scenario is not practical as it severs Leducís Title I position.†

††††††††††† Relator next argues that there is not substantial evidence in the record to support respondentís decision.† There is evidence in the record that the teachersí union negotiated a separate seniority list for Title I teachers in an effort to protect Title I positions.† But there is no evidence that respondent is required to realign across seniority lists.† Further, in relatorís suggested realignment a Title I teacher assumes a regular-teacher position; something that Title I teachers sought to prevent from happening to Title I positions.† There is also evidence that it would be difficult and confusing to sever Leducís Title I position.† †In addition to being the lead teacher, Leduc is responsible for many administrative duties.† Leducís coordinating position is one that she has been doing for a long time, and there is evidence that no other Title I teacher is currently qualified or capable of doing Leducís job.† While someone will eventually have to assume Leducís responsibilities, respondent, students, and the public will be better served if Leduc is permitted to train a qualified individual when that time approaches.† Thus, there is substantial evidence in the record supporting respondentís decision.

††††††††††† Affirmed.



[1] Title I is a federal program providing support for students with learning difficulties. ††