This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. sec. 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




Wallace Hartzberg,



Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan

Independent School District No. 196,


Filed June 3, 1997


Randall, Judge

Board of Education

Independent School District No. 196

Harley M. Ogata, Rebecca H. Hamblin, Minnesota Education Association, 41 Sherburne Ave., St. Paul, MN 55103 (for relator).

Joseph E. Flynn, Marie C. Skinner, Knutson, Flynn, Deans & Olsen, P.A., 1900 World Trade Center, 30 East Seventh Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent).

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.



Relator challenges respondent school board's decision to hire an unlicensed coach instead of relator. We affirm.


Relator Wallace Hartzberg works as a teacher for respondent Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Independent School District No. 196 (Rosemount). He is licensed by the state as a head coach of varsity high school sports, and served as head coach of Rosemount's girls' varsity soccer team from 1980 through the 1992-93 season. During that time, Rosemount received complaints from parents, students, other coaches, and other members of the community concerning allegedly unprofessional conduct by Hartzberg. Rosemount elected not to renew Hartzberg's coaching contract for the 1993-94 season, prompting Hartzberg to resign as head coach.

Rosemount hired another licensed girls' varsity soccer head coach for the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons. For reasons unclear on this record, Rosemount needed a new head coach for the 1995-96 season. Rosemount posted the opening throughout the district. Rosemount received three applications: one from Hartzberg, and two from unlicensed applicants. Rosemount hired one of the unlicensed applicants because it considered that person more qualified than Hartzberg.

Hartzberg filed a grievance for Rosemount's failure to hire him and attempted to have the grievance arbitrated. The arbitrator, however, found the grievance not arbitrable. Hartzberg did not pursue his grievance in court.

For the 1996-97 season, Rosemount again posted the opening for head coach of the girls' varsity soccer team. Again, Hartzberg was the only licensed applicant for the position. Rather than hire Hartzberg, Rosemount renewed the contract of the unlicensed, 1995-96 coach.

Hartzberg petitioned for writ of certiorari, which this court granted on October 23, 1996. On appeal, Hartzberg argues that Rosemount violated Minn. Stat. § 125.191 (1996) by failing to hire him and that the court should therefore compel Rosemount to appoint Hartzberg as girls' varsity soccer head coach and award him backpay.


A school board acts in an administrative capacity when it decides whether to hire a teacher, and a reviewing court will affirm the board's decision unless the decision is fraudulent, arbitrary, unreasonable, not supported by substantial evidence, or based on an erroneous theory of law. Foesch v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 646, 300 Minn. 478, 485, 223 N.W.2d 371, 375 (Minn. 1974); Rodne v. Commissioner of Human Servs., 547 N.W.2d 440, 444-45 (Minn. App. 1996).

Under Minn. Stat. § 125.191, a school board

may employ as a head varsity coach * * * a person who does not have a license * * * if [inter alia]: (1) in the judgment of the school board, the person has the knowledge and experience necessary to coach the sport; [and] (2) the position has been posted as a vacancy within the present teaching staff for a period of 30 days and no licensed coaches have applied for the position; * * * .

Hartzberg does not dispute that if he had not resigned, he would have been lawfully terminated for good cause. He nonetheless argues that when he is the only licensed applicant for the position of head coach of the Rosemount girls' varsity soccer team, section 125.191 requires Rosemount to hire him.

Rosemount responds that reference to Minn. Stat. § 125.121 (1996) compels a decision in Rosemount's favor. Rosemount argues that the legislature must not have intended to restrict Rosemount's authority as Hartzberg advocates under section 125.191 because section 125.121 grants Rosemount broad authority to terminate its employees. Rosemount further argues that this court should defer to Rosemount's interpretation of section 125.191 because Hartzberg's interpretation would lead to an absurd result. See Minn. Stat. § 645.17 (1996) (stating that the legislature does not intend absurd or unreasonable results). Rosemount contends that, rather than adopting Hartzberg's interpretation of section 125.191, the court should read section 125.191 to permit Rosemount to hire unlicensed coaches if no qualified licensed coaches apply. We agree.

School boards have a certain degree of autonomy to operate their districts as they see fit. They have at least a limited amount of discretion in deciding which teachers to hire and let go. See Minn. Stat. § 125.12, subds. 2, 6, 8 (1996) (governing hiring and termination). They have even greater discretion with respect to coaches than teachers. See Minn. Stat. § 125.121, subd. 2 (permitting school board to terminate a coach's duties "as it sees fit, for any reason."). Where, as here, only one licensed person applies for a coaching position subject to section 125.191 and that person has in effect already been terminated for good cause, we hold that a school board has the authority to hire the most qualified applicant regardless of licensure.

Without legislation explicitly stating so, this court declines to hold that a school board has no choice but to hire someone previously terminated for good cause simply because that person has a license, while the other applicants do not.