Appeals court sides with educator over school board

by Walter Pierce

"While the LPSB may have discretion ... that discretion simply does not extend to allow it to offer a contract for a term of less than two years."

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal has reversed a Lafayette district court judge's ruling in favor of the Lafayette Parish School Board and sided with an assistant principal whose 2-year contract renewal was cut in half at the recommendation of Superintendent Burnell Lemoine.

The ruling sends the case of Sherry Julian-Robinson versus LPSB back to district court in Lafayette for further proceedings.

According to the court ruling, Julian-Robinson, a tenured teacher in the Lafayette Parish School System, was promoted to assistant principal of Live Oak Elementary in 2006 - a position in which she currently remains. The initial promotional contract was for two years, a time period prescribed by state law. Her contract was renewed for two years in 2008, again for the state minimum of two years. However, during the 2009-2010 school year - one year into that second renewal, according to the appellate court's ruling - Lemoine recommended the contract renewal be for only one year "as a result of several areas listed as need[ing] improvement' on her performance evaluation for that year."

The school board acquiesced to Lemoine's recommendation and cut the contract renewal in half. Julian-Robinson took the board to court, but Judge Thomas Duplantier sided with the board.

The three judges on the 3rd Circuit panel led by Chief Judge Ulysses Thibodeaux unanimously disagreed:

While the LPSB may have discretion in negotiating contract lengths for terms between two and four years, that discretion simply does not extend to allow it to offer a contract for a term of less than two years. Any new, renewal, or other following contract should have been for two to four years as mandated by [state law].

Accordingly, Mrs. Julian-Robinson has clearly stated a cause of action against LPSB and the trial court was incorrect in ruling otherwise. Therefore, we hereby reverse the decision of the trial court and remand this case for further proceedings in accordance with our rulings.

Read the full 3rd Circuit ruling here.