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Scott Doran v. Independent School District No. 720

April 22, 2013

SCOTT DORAN, RELATOR,
v.
INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 720, SHAKOPEE, MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT.



Board of Education of Independent School District 720

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

SYLLABUS 1. When a school district withdraws from its membership in an educational cooperative that has placed a teacher on an unrequested leave of absence, the teacher's statutory right to claim an open teaching position in the school district depends on a temporal relationship, not on a causal relationship, between the withdrawal and the leave. Minn. Stat. § 123A.33, subd. 8 (2012). 2. A school district "withdraws" from an educational cooperative and triggers the teacher's statutory right to claim a job in the district when the district removes its students from even one of several learning programs provided by the cooperative so that the district can provide the service by some other means. Minn. Stat. § 123A.33, subd. 1(c) (2012).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ross, Judge

Reversed

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Ross, Judge; and Chutich, Judge.

OPINION

ROSS, Judge

The Shakopee Independent School District announced that it would create its own area learning center for its students and therefore stop purchasing its area-learning-center services from the Carver--Scott Educational Cooperative. The cooperative soon informed social studies teacher Scott Doran that it was eliminating his position and placing him on leave for lack of funding and lack of students. The school district advertised for a social studies teacher and administrator to work in its forthcoming area learning center. When Doran asserted a statutory right to the positions, the district hired others instead. Doran appeals from that hiring decision by writ of certiorari. We reverse the decision because we reject the school district's contention that the statute is triggered only when the displaced teacher proves a causal connection between the district's withdrawal and the cooperative's placement of the teacher on leave, and because we reject its contention that the teacher-rights provision of the statute is triggered only by a district's complete withdrawal from cooperative services.

FACTS

In early 2012, Scott Doran had been a teacher employed for about fifteen years by the Carver--Scott Educational Cooperative. The cooperative included the Shakopee Independent School District and eight other school districts. The member districts purchased educational services from the cooperative, including "area learning center" services. And the cooperative met its obligation to provide services to the school district in part by employing Doran, who taught social studies at the area learning center.

In January 2012, the school district decided to establish its own area learning center independent of the cooperative. It notified the cooperative that by August 15, 2012, the district would no longer need the cooperative's area-learning-center services. Three months after learning of the district's decision, the cooperative wrote Doran informing him that it was placing him on an unrequested leave of absence. The letter gave several reasons for the leave. It said that the leave resulted from the discontinuance of his position, the lack of pupils, and financial limitations. It added also that the leave "is the result of the implementation of an interdistrict cooperation agreement or the withdrawal from a program by a member district." Two days later, the cooperative sent Doran a corrective letter, restating the first three reasons for the leave ("discontinuance of position, lack of pupils and financial limitations") but insisting that "[t]he word 'NOT' was omitted" by mistake from the sentence that referred to an interdistrict cooperation agreement or member withdrawal. The corrective letter specified that the earlier letter should have stated, "This proposed action for placement on unrequested leave of absence is (NOT) the result of the implementation of an interdistrict cooperation agreement or the withdrawal from a program by a member district from the Carver-Scott Educational Cooperative." Whether the second letter corrects a mistake or reflects a change of reasons is a point of contention between the parties.

About a month after the cooperative placed Doran on leave, the school district posted job openings for an administrative position and for a social studies teacher. Doran saw the postings and immediately contacted the district to claim either position as a matter of statutory right based on Minnesota Statutes section 123A.33, subdivision 8 (2012). Superintendent Rod Thompson told Doran that he did not have a right to either job but invited him to apply anyway. Doran applied but the district hired others instead. Doran successfully sought other employment (a full-time position teaching social studies in Burnsville that commenced at the start of the 2012--2013 school year). In this certiorari appeal, Doran challenges the Shakopee Independent School District's decision not to hire him for one of the two posted positions at its new area learning center.

ISSUES

I. Is the dispute in this certiorari appeal moot because the appealing teacher obtained full-time teaching employment elsewhere?

II. Did the school district violate Minnesota Statutes, section 123A.33, by refusing to hire the teacher to ...


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