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Robey v. Cleveland Sch. District

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 6, 2014

WALTER ROBEY, SR., APPELLANT
v.
CLEVELAND SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: BOLIVAR COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/05/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. CATHERINE FARRIS-CARTER. TRIAL COURT AFFIRMED THE CLEVELAND SCHOOL DISTRICT'S NONRENEWAL OF APPELLANT'S EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT.

FOR APPELLANT: JON M. MOONEY JR.

FOR APPELLEE: ELIZABETH LEE MARON, JAMIE FERGUSON JACKS, LINDSEY NICOLE OSWALT.

BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ISHEE AND MAXWELL, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING, P.J., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELL, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 231

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

GRIFFIS, P.J.

¶1. Walter Robey appeals the decision by the Cleveland School District Board of Trustees not to renew his employment contract as principal of East Side High School. Robey argues that the decision should be reversed because it was arbitrary and capricious, was not supported by substantial evidence, and was in violation of his constitutional and statutory rights. We find no error and affirm.

FACTS

¶2. In July 2008, Robey was employed by the Cleveland School District as principal of East Side High School. In February 2011, Robey was advised that the

Page 232

Board would not renew his employment contract for the upcoming 2011-2012 school year.

¶3. Dr. Jackie Thigpen, the superintendent of the Cleveland School District, gave the Board five reasons for the recommendation: Robey's failure to follow district policy regarding out-of-state travel, his failure to follow district policy regarding school-activity requests, his failure to follow district financial-procedures policy, his failure to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals for his school, and the failure to maintain a clean learning environment.

¶4. As required by the Mississippi Education Employment Procedures Law (EEPL), the Board notified Robey of its decision in writing. Robey requested and was granted a hearing. At the hearing, Robey was represented by counsel. He testified along with four other witnesses. Several documents were offered into evidence. Thereafter, the Board upheld Thigpen's nonrenewal recommendation.

¶5. On appeal to the chancery court, Robey challenged the Board's decision. The chancellor affirmed the Board's decision of nonrenewal. As to the procedural issues presented, the chancellor determined that any defects in providing the required notice, under Mississippi Code Annotated section 37-9-113(4) (Rev. 2012), constituted " harmless error." As to the substantive legal issues, the chancellor determined that the Board's nonrenewal decision was supported by the evidence in the record. It is from this decision that Robey now appeals.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶6. When this Court reviews a decision by a chancery or circuit court concerning an agency action, we apply the same standard of review that the lower courts are bound to follow. Hinds Cnty. Dist. Bd. of Trs. v. R.B. ex rel. D.L.B., 10 So.3d 387, 394 (¶ 17) (Miss. 2008). Further, Mississippi statutory law sets the standard of review of a school board's decision not to renew an employment contract:

The scope of review of the chancery court in such cases shall be limited to a review of the record made before the school board or hearing officer to determine if the action of the school board is unlawful for the reason that it was: (a) Not supported by substantial evidence; (b) Arbitrary or capricious; or (c) In violation of some statutory or constitutional right of the employee.

Miss. Code Ann. § 37-9-113(3) (Rev. 2012). Uncorroborated hearsay is not substantial credible evidence. Noxubee Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Givens, 481 So.2d 816, 820 (Miss. 1985).

ANALYSIS

1. Whether the Board violated Robey's statutory rights and his due-process rights.

¶7. Robey argues that the conduct of the Board in regard to his nonrenewal hearing was clearly erroneous and violated his statutory rights and his due-process rights. Particularly, Robey argues that the Board's one-day delay in ...


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