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Cleveland Sch. Dist. v. Fisher

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 24, 2015

CLEVELAND SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT
v.
LESTER FISHER, APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/19/2013

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: BOLIVAR COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WATOSA MARSHALL SANDERS. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: REVERSED THE SCHOOL BOARD'S JUDGMENT AND RENDERED A JUDGMENT FOR THE APPELLEE.

         FOR APPELLANT: JAMIE FERGUSON JACKS.

         FOR APPELLEE: DANIEL ELLIS MORRIS.

         BEFORE IRVING, P.J., ROBERTS AND MAXWELL, JJ. LEE, C.J., GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES, ISHEE, CARLTON, MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ., CONCUR. IRVING, P.J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN THE RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. JAMES, J., DISSENTS WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

          OPINION

Page 460

         ROBERTS, J.

         [¶1] The Cleveland School District decided that it would not renew Lester Fisher's employment as the principal of H.M. Nailor Elementary School. After Fisher's requested nonrenewal hearing, the Cleveland School District Board of Trustees (the Board) upheld Fisher's nonrenewal based on a number of reasons. The Bolivar County Chancery Court reversed the Board's decision and awarded Fisher attorney's fees. The Board appeals. We find that substantial evidence supported the Board's decision declining to renew Fisher's employment. It follows that the chancellor erred when she reversed the Board's decision. Accordingly, we reverse the chancellor's judgment and render a judgment for the Board.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶2] Fisher began his employment as the principal of Nailor Elementary School during August 2001. During March 2010, Superintendent Jackie Thigpen informed Fisher that the school district would not be renewing his employment. Fisher requested a nonrenewal hearing. His hearing took place over several days during May 2010. After the hearing, the Board upheld Fisher's nonrenewal because: (1) Nailor had the lowest " Quality of Distribution Index" (QDI)[1] rating in the district; (2) there were consistent problems with student records; (3) Nailor's library was inadequate; (4) Fisher was not properly overseeing the " Reading to Read" program; and (5) Nailor was not clean enough. Fisher argued that his nonrenewal was retaliatory because he would not consent to a magnet school's use of grant funds that he had helped procure solely for Nailor. However, the Board rejected Fisher's argument.

         [¶3] Fisher appealed the Board's decision. The chancellor found that there was no evidence to support any of the Board's reasons for terminating Fisher. The chancellor discussed Fisher's claim that his nonrenewal was retaliatory. Although the chancellor seemed to agree with Fisher's allegation, the chancellor did not go so far as to find that the Fisher's employment was not renewed because he would not consent to another school's use of grant funds that were intended for Nailor. In any event, the chancellor reversed the Board's judgment and rendered a judgment for Fisher. The Board appeals and claims that the chancellor erred.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         [¶4] " When this Court reviews a decision by a chancery or circuit court concerning an agency action, it applies the ...


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