This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Independent School District No. 2886,
Filed July 18, 2006
Concurring specially, Hudson, Judge
Independent School District #2886
Anne F. Krisnik, Education Minnesota, 41 Sherburne Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55103-2196 (for relator)
Steven T. Rizzi, Jr., Adams, Rizzi & Sween, P.A., 300 First Street Northwest, Austin, MN 55912 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Worke, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Relator Annette Kleinschrodt challenges the decision by respondent Independent School District No. 2886 to not renew her probationary contract. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
courts generally review a school board’s action to determine if the action “is
fraudulent, arbitrary, unreasonable, unsupported by substantial evidence, not
within its jurisdiction, or based on an error of law.” Dokmo
v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 11, 459 N.W.2d 671, 675 (
Minn. Stat. § 122A.40, subd. 5(a), also provides for evaluations during a teacher’s probationary period. The statute states that
[t]he school board must adopt a plan for written evaluation of teachers during the probationary period. Evaluation must occur at least three times each year for a teacher performing services on 120 or more school days, at least two times each year for a teacher performing services on 60 to 119 school days, and at least one time each year for a teacher performing services on fewer than 60 school days.
Id. But this court has held that a school board may substantially comply with Minn. Stat. § 122A.40, subd. 5 (2004), even if it does not strictly follow the evaluation provision. See, e.g., Savre, 642 N.W.2d at 472-73 (determining that “[t]he school district’s failure to comply with the evaluation provision . . . did not affect its complete discretion not to renew relator’s teaching contract for budgetary reasons because the district otherwise substantially complied with applicable statutory provisions”); Allen, 435 N.W.2d at 127 (concluding that the district substantially complied with the evaluation provision by providing one evaluation, rather than three, during the probationary superintendent’s second year).
Here, respondent Independent School District No. 2886 hired relator Annette Kleinschrodt in February 2003 as a part-time school social worker. During relator’s employment, relator worked two days per week in a probationary capacity. On May 16, 2005, respondent’s school board (the board) adopted a resolution to terminate relator’s contract at the end of the school year and to not renew relator’s contract for the 2005-2006 school year. The same day, the board sent relator a letter, giving her notice of her nonrenewal and stating that “[t]his action is taken because your performance did not meet the school [board’s] expectations.”
Relator argues that because respondent did not provide her with any formal written evaluations during her probationary employment, this court must reverse respondent’s decision to not renew her contract. Respondent disagrees, contending that it evaluated relator by e-mail in February 2004 and October 2004 and by a memorandum dated January 2005. We agree with relator that the three communications are not formal written evaluations and that they do not substantially comply with the evaluation provision of Minn. Stat. § 122A.40, subd. 5(a). Nevertheless, based on a totality of the circumstances, we conclude that the school district acted within its discretion when it did not renew relator’s contract.
Savre, this court construed the
evaluation provision of Minn. Stat. § 122A.40, subd. 5, as directory because
the statute does not declare consequences for a district’s failure to comply
with that provision. 642 N.W.2d at
472. “Failure to comply with a directory
statute does not necessarily invalidate action taken with respect to that
addition, similar to the school district in Savre,
although respondent did not provide relator with formal evaluations, it
otherwise substantially complied with the remaining provisions of Minn. Stat. §
122A.40, subd. 5. The board supplied
relator with written notice before July 1 that it would not renew her
contract. And the board provided relator
with its reason for not renewing her contract even though “during the
probationary period any annual contract . . . may or may not be renewed as the
school board shall see fit.”
The record also indicates that respondent, through the above-referenced written communications, made some efforts at evaluating relator’s performance. The evaluation provision encourages school districts to provide teachers with constructive feedback to help them improve their performance. Here, respondent offered relator feedback through February 2004 and January 2005 communications to relator, wherein relator’s supervisor ascertained deficiencies in relator’s performance and instructed relator on how she could improve. In addition, the October 2004 communication provided relator with suggestions for overcoming her challenges at work. Relator suggests that a proper evaluation should address “the content of the lesson, the use of various delivery methods, [and the] classroom management of the teacher.” Although we agree that respondent’s evaluation was inadequate, we note that relator was a part-time social worker, and therefore could not expect to receive the same type of evaluation that a full-time classroom teacher would receive.
We conclude that, on these facts, respondent’s failure to formally evaluate relator did not affect its complete discretion to not renew relator’s contract because the evaluation provision in Minn. Stat. § 122A.40, subd. 5(a), is directory, respondent made some minimal efforts to evaluate relator’s performance, and respondent substantially complied with the remaining provisions of Minn. Stat. § 122A.40, subd. 5.
concur in the result reached by the majority because it comports with Allen v. Bd. of Educ. of Indep. Sch. Dist.
No. 582, 435 N.W.2d 124, 126–27 (Minn. App. 1989), review denied (Minn. Apr. 19, 1989) and Savre v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 283, 642 N.W.2d 467, 471–72 (
a teacher’s probationary period, “any annual contract with any teacher may or
may not be renewed as the school board
sees fit.” Minn. Stat. § 122A.40, subd. 5(a)
(emphasis added). But this same statute
also provides for evaluations during a teacher’s probationary period. Indeed, the statute provides that “[t]he
school board must adopt a plan for
written evaluation of teachers during the probationary period.”
Performance evaluations are beneficial to both school districts and teachers. They benefit school districts by providing a formal mechanism––as opposed to subjective, haphazard observations––for measuring and assessing teacher competency, thus ensuring that qualified teachers are in our classrooms. Performance evaluations likewise benefit probationary teachers in that they provide a guidepost for measuring a teacher’s progress and determining areas for improvement, thereby increasing the quality of instruction to students. But the current state of the law trivializes the evaluation requirement and, indeed, effectively writes it out of the statute.
I do not believe this is what the legislature intended when it adopted the evaluation requirement in Minn. Stat. § 122A.40, subd. 5(a).