may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Independent School District No. 11,
Filed July 20, 1999
Independent School District No. 11
William F. Garber, Education Minnesota, 41 Sherburne Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55103 (for relator)
Gregory S. Madsen, Daniel J.S. Becker, Knutson, Flynn, Deans & Olsen, P.A., 1155 Centre Pointe Drive, Suite 10, Mendota Heights, MN 55120; and Paul H. Cady, Anoka-Hennepin Schools, 11299 Hanson Boulevard NW, Minneapolis, MN 55433 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
Relator Sandra Broton challenges the termination of her substitute-teaching assignment by respondent Independent School District 11, Anoka-Hennepin (Anoka-Hennepin). She claims that she was hired as a regular probationary teacher and that Anoka-Hennepin proceeded under an erroneous theory of the law in terminating her assignment. We affirm.
Broton was hired by Anoka-Hennepin as a water-safety instructor in 1987. In November 1997, she submitted a medical statement to the district, indicating her need for a medical leave of absence from that position because of a work-related injury, and in December 1997, Anoka-Hennepin offered her an alternative assignment as a substitute teacher because she had a teaching license. Broton accepted the new assignment and was placed as a substitute teacher at Fred Moore Middle School on January 2, 1998.
Broton alleges that she worked full-time as a substitute teacher from January 5, 1998, until the end of the 1997-98 school year. But on days when she was not needed as a substitute, Anoka-Hennepin assigned Broton to perform work for which a teaching license was not required. Broton's "duty days," as well as her wages and benefits, remained the same as those under the terms of the agreement between Anoka-Hennepin and the district's water-safety instructors.
Anoka-Hennepin sent a letter to Broton on April 30, 1998, advising her that the district would continue to provide her with an assignment that was within her medical restrictions. But the district's letter also encouraged Broton to apply for "other positions" within her restrictions and qualifications, which would require her to follow "the normal application and interview process." She applied for several teaching positions in the district but was not hired. The letter of April 30, 1998, also informed Broton that, assuming she was not hired for another position, Anoka-Hennepin would determine the nature of her assignment for the 1998-99 school year in August 1998.
Broton began the 1998-99 school year at Fred Moore Middle School with the same assignment as the previous year. But on September 29, 1998, Anoka-Hennepin notified Broton that her assignment was to end October 2, 1998. This decision followed a stipulation for settlement of Broton's workers' compensation claim in which the parties agreed that Broton was no longer able to work as a water-safety instructor. Anoka-Hennepin advised Broton that she could apply for continued employment with the district as either a substitute or permanent teacher and provided her with all necessary application materials. Broton did not apply, and this certiorari appeal followed.
We review a school board's teacher-discharge decision by writ of certiorari. Dokmo v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 11, 459 N.W.2d 671, 673-74 (Minn. 1990) (recognizing limited judicial role and deferential approach to review of decisions regarding teacher discharge). A board's determination will be reversed only if "it is fraudulent, arbitrary, unreasonable, unsupported by substantial evidence, not within its jurisdiction, or based on an error of law." Id. at 675 (citation omitted). Determination of a teacher's employment status under the applicable statutes is a question of law, subject to de novo review. Flaherty v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 2144, 577 N.W.2d 229, 233 (Minn. App. 1998), review denied (Minn. June 17, 1998).
In Minnesota, "[t]he first three consecutive years of a teacher's first teaching experience * * * [are] deemed to be a probationary period of employment." Minn. Stat. § 122A.40, subd. 5 (1998). During this probationary period, "any annual contract with any teacher may or may not be renewed as the school board shall see fit." Id. But if the board chooses not to renew a contract for the following school year, it must give the teacher written notice of its decision before June 1. Id.
Broton claims Anoka-Hennepin proceeded under an erroneous theory of law in terminating her assignment, arguing that she was hired as a regular probationary teacher whose duties were to substitute for other regular teachers when needed. She alleges that because the district failed to provide her with notice of its decision not to renew her contract before June 1, 1998, it could terminate her assignment during the 1998-99 school year only for cause. See id. (permitting board to discharge teacher during probationary period for cause under Minn. Stat. § 122A.44, subd. 1 (1998)). Broton concedes that the statutory provision regarding notice of nonrenewal applies only to regular probationary teachers.
But the record supports Anoka-Hennepin's assertion that the only position for which Broton was hired was that of a water-safety instructor. Because of a work-related injury, the school district offered Broton an assignment as a substitute teacher to comply with the workers' compensation laws, providing her with continued employment within her restrictions. See Minn. Stat. § 176.82, subd. 2 (1998) ("An employer who, without reasonable cause, refuses to offer continued employment to its employee when employment is available within the employee's physical limitations shall be liable in a civil action for one year's wages."). The new assignment did not require Broton to follow the normal application and interview process for hiring regular teachers. And the terms of the assignment, such as Broton's pay and benefits, remained the same as those of her employment as a water-safety instructor.
Broton claims that this appeal is controlled by McSherry v. City of St. Paul, 202 Minn. 102, 277 N.W. 541 (1938). In McSherry, the Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that a teacher employed for two and a half years as a substitute was entitled to the statutory protections provided by the laws regarding teachers' contract rights. Id. at 109-12, 277 N.W. at 545-46. Because of the teacher's probationary status, the school district's attempted mid-year discharge was ineffective, and the supreme court affirmed the district court's decision granting tenure to her. Id.
Broton was hired by Anoka-Hennepin as a water-safety instructor and assigned to perform the duties of a substitute teacher, unlike McSherry, who was specifically hired as a substitute teacher. Id. at 103, 277 N.W. at 542; see also Minn. Stat. § 122A.44, subd. 2(a)(1) (1998) (providing that district may, for less than one school year, hire substitute to replace regular teacher who is absent). And in any event, the purpose of the laws regarding teachers' contract rights is to prevent arbitrary demotions and discharges. Perry v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 696, 297 Minn. 197, 202, 210 N.W.2d 283, 287 (1973). Nothing in the record suggests that Anoka-Hennepin's decision to terminate Broton's assignment was in bad faith. See Steiner v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 625, 262 N.W.2d 173, 174 (Minn. 1978) (questioning whether board created artificial employment classification for purpose of discharging teachers arbitrarily or preventing acquisition of tenure).
Because Broton was not hired by Anoka-Hennepin as a regular probationary teacher, she was not entitled to notice of nonrenewal under Minn. Stat. § 122A.40, subd. 5. We therefore conclude that Anoka-Hennepin did not proceed under an erroneous theory of law when it terminated Broton's alternative work assignment.
Anoka-Hennepin objects to portions of Broton's appendix, claiming that certain documents were not before the school board and that other documents contain marginalia. In a certiorari appeal, our review is limited to an examination of the record before the school board. Dokmo, 459 N.W.2d at 675. We have not considered those documents that were not before the school board or the handwritten notes on other documents in reaching our decision on the merits.