Jackson v. Independent School Dist. No. 16 of Payne County

Annotate this Case

Jackson v. Independent School Dist. No. 16 of Payne County
1982 OK 74
648 P.2d 26
Case Number: 53985, 53993
Decided: 06/08/1982
Supreme Court of Oklahoma

PATRICIA J. JACKSON, APPELLANT-APPELLEE,
v.
INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 16 OF PAYNE COUNTY, OKLAHOMA, AND GERALD BRADSHAW, HAROLD SARE, ELIZABETH T. SHINDELL, JAMES E. BAKER, AND DELORES LAMBERT, IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT No. 16 OF PAYNE COUNTY, OKLAHOMA, APPELLEES-APPELLANTS.

Appeal from the District Court of Payne County; Ray Lee Wall, Judge.

¶0 Patricia J. Jackson, a probationary teacher, appeals from a declaratory judgment by the trial court that 70 O.S.Supp. 1977 § 6-103.2 does not require notification, admonishment and time for correction of alleged teaching deficiencies before a probationary teacher may be nonreemployed based on the Superintendent's recommendation. The Board of Education appeals from a determination by the trial court that it must state reasons or findings for its decision to nonreemploy the probationary teacher at the conclusion of a due process hearing. The appeals were consolidated.

AFFIRMED.

Fagin, Hewett, Mathews & Fagin by Ronald E. Stakem, Oklahoma City, for appellant-appellee Patricia J. Jackson.

Winfrey D. Houston, Stillwater, for appellees-appellants Independent School Dist. No. 16 of Payne County, Okl., et al.

HODGES, Justice.

[648 P.2d 27]

¶1 The issues presented are whether: 1) a board of education may fail to renew the contract of a probationary teacher on the basis of alleged teaching deficiencies if the teacher does not receive written notification of the deficiencies and an opportunity to correct her job performance, and 2) a local board of education is required to state reasons or findings for its decision to nonreemploy a probationary teacher at the conclusion of a due process hearing.

¶2 Patricia J. Jackson, appellant, (teacher) was employed as a probationary teacher

I

¶3 The teacher does not seek a review on the merits of cause for dismissal, rather her appeal is limited to a very narrow procedural perspective.

¶4 This question turns on a matter of statutory construction. The statute states that "Whenever a superintendent of a school district determines that cause exists for the dismissal or nonreemployment of a teacher he shall submit a recommendation in writing to the board of education of such school district."

¶5 Had the Legislature intended that the admonishment statute § 6-103.2 be employed as a condition precedent to nonreemployment, this intention would have been clearly expressed in the statute. It is apparent that there was no legislative intent that the statute apply to the superintendent. The statute is devoid of ambiguity. There is no room for construction or provision for further inquiry when the statute plainly speaks.

II

¶6 The Board contends that the trial court erred when it determined that the teacher was not given reasons or findings upon which the Board's decision was made.

¶7 The teacher counters that 70 O.S.Supp. 1977 § 6-103.4 (E)

¶8 Historically, there has been a distinction drawn between a right and a privilege for the application of the due process clause. The distinction seems to have been discarded in favor of the concept of entitlement which is based on expectations derived from independent state law. Entitlements have become synonymous with state fostered justifiable expectations which are not equated with a right when given but which are protected by due process when curtailment is threatened.

¶9 Title 70 O.S.Supp. 1977 § 6-103.4 (B) entitles a probationary teacher to a due process hearing. Although the statute does not expressly state that findings must be made, the State Board of Education Policy Bulletin and Guide for Implementing Teacher Hearing Procedures provides that the right to a due process hearing entitles the teacher to be given notice and an opportunity to be heard; granted a reasonable time to prepare for the hearing; be heard before a fair and impartial tribunal; advised of the decision reached by the board and a general explanation of the basis upon which the decision was reached,

¶10 Notice is a jurisdictional requirement as well as a fundamental requisite of due process. Due process requires adequate notice and a realistic opportunity to appear at a hearing in a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner. The right to be heard is of little value unless adequate notice is given, and due process is violated by the mere act of exercising judicial power upon process not reasonably calculated to apprise interested parties of the pendency of an action. Procedural due process of law contemplates a fair and open hearing before a legally constituted court or other authority with notice and an opportunity to present evidence and argument, representation by counsel, if desired, and information concerning the claims of the opposing party with reasonable opportunity to controvert them.

[648 P.2d 31]

¶11 The purpose of any due process proceeding is to afford the opportunity to each person to present evidence and arguments in a forum which provides fair and equal justice. It seems not only fair, courteous, and an exercise of due process, but an efficient administration of justice for notice to be given

¶12 Because 70 O.S.Supp. 1977 § 6-103.4 (E) does not require the making of findings of fact, the school board contends it was not required to do so. The Minnesota Supreme Court was faced with the same problem and a similar statute in Morey v. School Board of Ind. Schl. Dist. No. 492, 268 Minn. 110, 128 N.W.2d 302, 307 (1964).

"In a case such as the present one, where the school board, acting in a quasi-judicial capacity

¶13 It is fundamental that an absence of required findings is fatal to the validity of administrative decisions even if the record discloses evidence to support proper findings.

¶14 AFFIRMED.

¶15 IRWIN, C.J., BARNES, V.C.J., and LAVENDER, DOOLIN, OPALA and WILSON, JJ., concur.

¶16 HARGRAVE, J., concurs in Part I; dissents to Part II.

¶17 SIMMS, J., dissents.

Footnotes:

1 Probationary teacher is defined by 70 O.S.Supp. 1977 § 6-102.1 (4) as a certified teacher who has completed less than three consecutive complete school years of teaching service in one school district under a written teaching contract as provided by law.

2 At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board went into executive session to consider the evidence. The Board returned to the public meeting session and the following motion was approved by a 4-1 vote:

"I think that everybody realizes that this has been a difficult decision for us, and we have deliberated a long time, but personally, I feel that we have followed the procedures required by Senate Bill 249. I feel that we have weighed the evidence that has been presented. I feel at this time that the Board should uphold its past decision, and I make a motion that we follow our past decision and do not re-employ Mrs. Pat Jackson."

3 It is provided by 42 U.S.C. § 1983:

"Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia."

4 The decision of the Board on the question of a probationary teacher's dismissal or non-reemployment is final and nonappealable pursuant to 70 O.S.Supp. 1977 § 6-103.4 (E).

5 Nonreemployment is a statutorily defined word of art which means the non-renewal of a teacher's contract. Maupin v. Ind. Sch. Dist. No. 26 of Ottawa Co., 632 P.2d 396, 397 (Okl. 1981).

6 It is provided by 70 O.S.Supp. 1977 § 6-103.2 :

"Whenever a principal who has the administrative responsibility under the supervision of the superintendent of a school district to plan, manage, operate and evaluate the educational program of a particular school attendance area and who has carried out the provisions of Section 2 of this act believes that it is necessary to admonish a teacher in the district for a reason he believes may lead to the teacher's dismissal or nonreemployment, the principal shall:

"1. Bring the matter to the attention of the teacher, in writing, and make a reasonable effort to assist the teacher to correct whatever appears to be the cause for potential dismissal or nonreemployment; and

"2. Allow a reasonable time for improvement, which time shall not exceed two (2) months. The nature and gravity of the teacher's conduct shall be considered in determining what length of time would be reasonable. If the teacher does not correct the cause for a potential dismissal or nonreemployment, within a reasonable length of time, the principal shall make a recommendation to the superintendent of the school district for the dismissal or nonreemployment of the teacher."

7 The pertinent portions of 70 O.S.Supp. 1977 § 6-103.4 (A), (B) state:

"A. Whenever a superintendent of a school district determines that cause exists for the dismissal or nonreemployment of a teacher employed within the school district, he shall submit a recommendation in writing to the board of education for such school district. In the case of a tenured teacher, the recommendation shall contain the one or more statutory grounds for the potential dismissal or nonreemployment. The recommendation for the dismissal or nonreemployment of either a tenured or a probationary teacher shall be approved or rejected upon a majority vote of the board's members.

"B. If the local board of education approves the recommendation of the superintendent, or determines on its own volition that a tenured teacher should be dismissed or nonreemployed, the board shall cause written notice of the dismissal or nonreemployment to be mailed by certified mail, restricted delivery, with return receipt requested, to the teacher who is the subject of the action: . . . In the case of a probationary teacher, the notice shall state the right of the teacher to have a due process hearing conducted by the board of education. . . ."

8 See note 4, supra.

9 Central Liquor v. Okla. Alcoholic Bev. Control Bd., 640 P.2d 1351, 1354 (Okl. 1982).

10 See Smith v. State Bd. of Equalization, 630 P.2d 1264, 1267 (Okl. 1981) (Involves constitutional construction).

11 Cavett v. Geary Bd. of Ed., 587 P.2d 991, 993 (Okl. 1978).

12 It is provided by 70 O.S.Supp. 1977 § 6-103.4 (E):

"If a probationary teacher fails to notify the clerk within the ten-day period of time of his desire to have a due process hearing on his dismissal or nonreemployment conducted by the local board of education, the teacher shall be deemed to have waived his right to the hearing and the initial determination of his dismissal or nonreemployment by the board of education shall become final and nonappealable. If, within the ten-day period of time, the probationary teacher notifies the clerk of the board of education of his desire to have a due process hearing on his dismissal or nonreemployment conducted by such board, the board shall, as soon as possible, hold a hearing. At the hearing the probationary teacher shall be afforded all such procedural due process rights as are guaranteed by the Oklahoma and United States Constitutions. At the conclusion of the hearing, the local board of education shall render a final and nonappealable decision on the question of the probationary teacher's dismissal or nonreemployment."

13 Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577, 92 S. Ct. 2701, 33 L. Ed. 2d 548, 561 (1972); Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 261-63, 90 S. Ct. 1011, 1016-17, 25 L. Ed. 2d 287 (1970). Nilsson, "Constitutional Law," 13 Creighton L.R. 1248, 1259 (1980).

In Roth the Court in what seemed to be a deviation from previous decisions, employed a two-step analysis to determine whether Roth had a right to a statement of reasons and a hearing. The first step is to determine whether due process requirements apply by looking to the nature of the interest at stake, specifically whether it is a property or liberty interest protected by the fourteenth amendment. It is only after this step has been completed and an interest has been found that the process of weighing the plaintiff's interest in securing his job against the institution's need for unfettered discretion in its employment practices comes into play. This balancing process is applied in the second step to determine the form of hearing and the extent of procedural due process required.

14 See Oklahoma State Board of Education Policy Bulletin and Guide For Implementing Senate Bill No. 249 (Procedures And Conduct For Due Process Hearings Of Probationary Teachers) Ch. XI(F) (1977). See also L. French, "Oklahoma's Newest Teacher Tenure Law, An Evaluation and Analysis of Senate Bill No. 249" (Title 70 O.S.Supp. 1977 § 6-103 et seq.) 50 OBJ 657, 659 (1979).

15 Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 378, 91, S.Ct. 780, 786, 28 L. Ed. 2d 113, 119 (1971); Armstrong v. Manzo, 380 U.S. 545, 85 S. Ct. 1187, 14 L. Ed. 2d 62 (1965); Schroeder v. New York, 371 U.S. 208, 211, 83 S. Ct. 279, 281, 9 L. Ed. 2d 252, 89 A.L.R.2d 1398 (1962); Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 313-15, 70 S. Ct. 652, 656-57, 94 L. Ed. 865, 872-74 (1949); Riverside & Dan River Cotton Mills v. Menefee, 237 U.S. 189, 35 S. Ct. 579, 59 L. Ed. 910 (1915); Grannis v. Ordean, 234 U.S. 385, 394, 34 S. Ct. 779, 783, 58 L. Ed. 1363, 1369 (1914); Bomford v. Socony Mobil Oil Co., 440 P.2d 713, 719 (Okl. 1968); Simms v. Hobbs, 411 P.2d 503, 510 (Okl. 1966); Vernon v. State, 245 Ala. 633, 18 So. 2d 388, 389 (1944).

16 See Friar v. Sirloin Stockade, 635 P.2d 597, 598-99 (Okl. Oct. 6, 1981).

17 J. Frankfurter concurring in Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123, 171-172, 71 S. Ct. 624, 648-649, 95 L. Ed. 817, 853-854 (1951).

18 L. Tribe, American Constitutional Law, Ch. 10 § 7 P. 503 (The Foundation Press, Inc. 1978).

19 This argument was rejected in Morey which quoted 2 Davis, Administrative Law Treatise § 16.05:

"The practical reasons for requiring administrative findings are so powerful that the requirement has been imposed with remarkable uniformity by all federal and state courts, irrespective of a statutory requirement. The reasons have to do with facilitating judicial review, avoiding judicial usurpation of administrative functions, assuring more careful administrative consideration, helping parties plan their cases for rehearing and judicial review, and keeping agencies within their jurisdiction."

See also Ganyo v. Ind. Schl. Dist. No. 832, 311 N.W.2d 497, 500 (Minn. 1981).

20 Quasi-Judicial power is a term applied to the action of public administrative officers or boards which investigate facts or ascertain the existence of facts; draw conclusions from them as a basis for official action; and exercise discretion of a judicial nature in connection with and incidental to the administration of matters entrusted to or assigned to the officers or board. Winters v. Governor's Special Committee, 441 P.2d 370, 372 (Okl. 1967); Green v. Bd. of Com'rs. of Lincoln Co., 126 Okl. 300, 259 P. 635, 637 (1927).

21 Brown v. Banking Bd., 512 P.2d 166, 168 (Okl. 1973). Some cases have held that a statute which does not require express findings of fact as a prerequisite to valid administrative action is unconstitutional. See Rohrer v. Milk Control Bd., 121 Pa. Super. Ct. 281, 184 A. 133 (1936) rev'd on other grounds, 322 Pa. 257, 186 A. 336 (1936); see also Annot., "Necessity, Form And Contents of Express Finding Of Fact To Support Administrative Determinations," 146 A.L.R. 209, 211 (1943).

22 Dunlap v. Bachowski, 421 U.S. 560, 571, 95 S. Ct. 1851, 1859, 44 L. Ed. 2d 377, 389 (1975); State v. Guardian Funeral Home, 429 P.2d 732 (Okl. 1967).

23 Saginaw Broadcasting Co. v. F.C.C., 96 F.2d 554, 559 (D.C. 1938) cert. den'd. 305 U.S. 613, 59 S. Ct. 72, 83 L. Ed. 391 cited with approval in Okl. Insp. Bur. v. State Bd. for Prop. & Cas. Rates, 406 P.2d 453, 457 (Okl. 1965).

24 See note 17, supra.