CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON APRIL 22, 2013
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST JUDICIAL CIRCUIT UNION COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE GLEN W. ENG Judge
ANNE PLOOSTER of South Dakota Education Association Pierre, South Dakota Attorney for plaintiff and appellant..
THOMAS H. FRIEBERG of Frieberg, Nelson & Ask, LLP Beresford, South Dakota Attorneys for defendants and appellees.
[¶1.] Sheila Huth taught fifth grade in the Beresford School District. In the spring of 2011, the Beresford Board of Education voted not to renew her teaching contract for the upcoming school year as a part of a reduction-in-force (RIF). Huth appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed. We affirm because we conclude that the policy for reductions in force was governed by a 2010-2011 Negotiated Agreement (2010-2011 Agreement) and the policy was correctly applied.
Facts and Procedural History
[¶2.] Huth was a continuing contract, fifth-grade teacher and girls' basketball coach in the Beresford School District. During the spring of 2010, Huth received notice that her contract was not being renewed for cause. She challenged the Board's decision not to renew her contract. She also filed a grievance criticizing Superintendent Brian Field's handling of parental complaints related to her coaching. Ultimately, in conjunction with a stipulated agreement, Huth resigned from her coaching contract but retained her teaching contract for the upcoming 2010-2011 school year.
[¶3.] In March 2011, Field notified the Beresford Education Association (BEA) and Huth that significant budget cuts would be necessary to meet monetary shortfalls for the upcoming school year. In order to reduce the budget, Field suggested several staff reductions, including the elimination of Huth's fifth-grade teaching position. To accommodate the reduction of Huth's position, the fifth-grade class would be reduced from three sections to two. Field indicated that it was more important to maintain the smaller, three-section class sizes in the lower grades.
[¶4.] Field afforded both BEA and Huth the opportunity to suggest alternatives to the proposed cuts. BEA and Huth suggested the reduction of educational programs and reshuffling teaching positions based on an upcoming resignation. Field rejected the proposed alternatives. He indicated that the remaining educational programs were important and he expressed concerns regarding shuffling teaching positions.
[¶5.] Field maintained his recommendation that Huth's position be eliminated. Field suggested eliminating Huth's position instead of two other fifth-grade teachers, Mrs. Carlson and Mr. Ebert. Field reasoned that: Carlson and Ebert had more endorsements than Huth; they were deemed by the administration to be better suited to meet the needs of the District; and they were deemed better suited to develop and advance programs, including extracurricular activities.
[¶6.] Per Field's recommendation, the Board of Education voted not to renew Huth's teaching contract for the 2011-2012 school year. The Board followed a staff reduction policy in the 2010-2011 Agreement between BEA and the District.
[¶7.] Huth appealed to the circuit court. She argued that the Board utilized the wrong RIF policy in not renewing her contract. Huth contended that the 2010-2011 Agreement contained an updated RIF policy that had not been properly negotiated. Huth contended that a RIF policy relied upon by the District in 2006 (2006 RIF policy) should apply. Under the 2006 RIF policy, the Board would have been required to terminate teachers without continuing ...