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Ekanem v. Greenville Public School District Board of Trustees

Court of Appeals of Mississippi, En Banc

October 10, 2017

PATRICIA EKANEM APPELLANT
v.
GREENVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF TRUSTEES APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/28/2016

         WASHINGTON COUNTY CHANCERY HON. MARIE WILSON COURT JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: BRYANT DONLEVY GUY

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: DORIAN E. TURNER

          IRVING, P.J.

         ¶1. The superintendent of the Greenville Public School District (District) recommended the nonrenewal of the employment contract for the 2014-2015 school year of Weddington Math, Science, and Technology Academy teacher, Patricia Ekanem. The Greenville Public School District Board of Trustees (Board) conducted a hearing and upheld the superintendent's recommendation, effectively terminating Ekanem's employment. Ekanem filed a petition with the Washington County Chancery Court for judicial review of the Board's decision. The court affirmed the Board's decision, and Ekanem appealed. We affirm.

          FACTS

         ¶2. Ekanem obtained her teaching certificate in 1997. She taught at various elementary schools in the District, including Akin Elementary School, Webb Elementary School, Darling Achievement Center, and Weddington. Over the course of her employment at these schools, Ekanem was placed on four different improvement plans[1] under three different principals.

         ¶3. Ekanem taught first grade at Weddington during the 2011-2012, 2012-2013, and 2013-2014 school years. During that time period, she was placed on two improvement plans, which targeted multiple areas for improvement. However, the Weddington principal testified before the Board that Ekanem did not show significant improvement as a result of having been placed on these plans. Further, the overall performance of the students in her class during the 2013-2014 school year did not meet the District's benchmarks.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶4. This Court's review of a decision by a chancery or circuit court concerning an agency action invokes the same standard of review that trial courts are bound to follow. Giles v. Shaw Sch. Dist., 203 So.3d 1165, 1169 (¶12) (Miss. Ct. App. 2016). Mississippi Code Annotated section 37-9-113(3) (Rev. 2013) provides the following standard of review for a school board's decision not to renew an employee's 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 any substantial ...

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