Cert. applied for.
Teaching contract. Floyd Superior Court. Before Judge Matthews.
Williams Oinonen, Mario B. Williams, Julie J. Oinonen, for appellant.
Brinson, Askew, Berry, Seigler, Richardson & Davis, C. King Askew, I. Stewart Duggan, Samuel L. Lucas, Lee B. Carter, for appellee.
John F. Beasley, Jr.; Harben, Hartley & Hawkins, Phillip L. Hartley, amici curiae.
ELLINGTON, Presiding Judge. McFadden, J., concurs and Dillard, J., concurs fully and specially.
Ellington, Presiding Judge.
Gilda Day's teaching contract with the Floyd County Board of Education, a/k/a the Floyd County School District (" the Local Board" ), was not renewed following a system-wide reduction in force, a decision ultimately upheld by the Superior Court of Floyd County. In Case No. A15A0401, Day
appeals, arguing that the superior court erroneously interpreted Georgia law in reversing the decision of the Georgia Board of Education (" the State Board" ). In Case No. A15A0402, the Local Board cross-appeals, contending that the State Board did not have jurisdiction to entertain Day's appeal from the Local Board's decision because the Local Board, as a charter system, is not bound by the Fair Dismissal Act (" the FDA" ), OCGA § 20-2-940 et seq. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the order of the superior court and remand with instruction.
The facts relevant to the appeal and the cross-appeal are the same. In 2007, Day was employed as a counselor at Coosa High School, which was part of the Floyd County school district. In 2010, the Floyd County school district became a charter system under the Charter Schools Act of 1998, OCGA § 20-2-2063.2. The charter reflects that the Local Board was granted, pursuant to OCGA § 20-2-2065 (a), " the broad flexibility allowed by state law from the provisions of Title 20" of the Georgia Education Code. The charter did not expressly incorporate or allow for the incorporation of any of the provisions of the FDA, and there is no evidence in the record that the charter was later amended to adopt any provision of the FDA. The charter did require, however, that each charter school within the system establish a Local School Governance Team (" LSGT" ) for the purpose of " maximizing school level decision making." The LSGTs are subject to the control and management of the Local Board.
In 2013, the Local Board implemented a system-wide reduction in force (" RIF" ) of about 120 employees in response to decreased state [333 Ga.App. 145] funding and a projected deficit of $10 million for the 2013-2014 school year. The RIF plan was created by the school superintendent and implemented by a team comprised of the superintendent, the human resources director, and a data analyst. In deciding which employees to let go, the team first selected those with poor performance evaluations and those with " repeated performance concerns." Day was not in this initial group. Thereafter, the team grouped the remaining employees into categories based upon position (e.g., teachers, guidance counselors, etc.) and status (e.g., tenured, nontenured, and classified employees). The team then determined how many positions in each category it needed to operate the school system and then offered contracts for the 2013-2014 school year to employees with the most seniority in each position. The team determined that it could operate the system with 13 of its 24 guidance counselors. Because Day ranked seventeenth in terms of seniority, she was not offered one of the thirteen positions.
By letter dated March 22, 2013, the school superintendent notified Day that her employment contract was not being renewed and, citing OCGA § 20-2-940 of the FDA, advised her that she was entitled to a hearing before the Local Board. Counsel for the Local Board, however, took the position that charter systems are statutorily exempted from the FDA; nevertheless, the Local Board gave Day a hearing, which was held on May 10, 2013. Following the hearing, the Local Board voted to uphold the decision not to renew Day's employment contract.
Day appealed to the State Board, which reversed the Local Board. The State Board ruled that the Local Board was not exempt from the FDA. It concluded that the Local Board had adopted the procedures of the FDA and waived any exemption from the FDA by giving Day a hearing pursuant to the FDA. Next, the State Board found that the necessity of the RIF was supported by the evidence and that the Local Board identified appropriate factors (e.g., performance and length of service) for implementing the RIF. However, the State Board concluded that the Local Board had violated its charter by failing to involve the LSGTs in the system-wide RIF decision-making process. Because of this failure, the State Board characterized the ...