Brighton Independent School Dist., Washington County v. County Bds. of Ed. of Keokuk, Jefferson and Washington Counties

Decision Date04 April 1961
Docket NumberNo. 50228,50228
Citation108 N.W.2d 510,252 Iowa 734
PartiesBRIGHTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, WASHINGTON COUNTY, et al., Appellees, v. COUNTY BOARDS OF EDUCATION OF KEOKUK, JEFFERSON AND WASHINGTON COUNTIES, Iowa, and the State Department of Public Instruction, State of Iowa, Appellants.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Norman A. Erbe, Atty. Gen., Theodor W. Rehmann, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Baumert & Gerard, Sigourney, for appellants.

Swisher & Swisher, Iowa City, Willard M. Freed, Gowrie, for appellees.

HAYS, Justice.

Appeal under Rule 332, R.C.P., from a ruling upon points of law under Rule 105, R.C.P., 58 I.C.A. Only a skeleton statement of fact is required.

In 1959 a petition for the organization of a school district to be known as the Lake Darling Community School District, embracing land in Washington, Keokuk and Jefferson Counties, Iowa, was duly filed. The required notices were given. On the date set the county boards of education of the three counties met, as a single board, to hear objections and pass upon the petition. A motion to approve the petition, subject to a slight deletion, was defeated by a vote of 9 to 5. The joint boards recessed for a few days. Upon reconvening a motion to approve the petition, subject to deletions, was defeated by a vote of 9 to 5. The joint boards then adjourned. While there is something said in the arguments about the chairman of said joint boards stating that the petition was dismissed, nothing in the record shows any formal action in that respect.

The matter was taken to the State Department of Public Instruction, under Section 275.16, Code 1958 as amended, I.C.A. This Department, after a hearing, ruled as a matter of fact the petition had been dismissed by the joint boards, affirmed the decision of the joint boards and dismissed the petition.

Appeal was taken to the district court, Section 275.16, where rulings upon points of law were made, which rulings are now here for review by this Court. The two law points ruled upon, and here questioned, are: (1) Does failure to approve the petition constitute a dismissal thereof under Section 275.16, where no further action is taken? (2) Does the Court have the authority to reinstate a petition, on appeal under Chapter 275, which has in fact no further legal standing? The court's answer to each question was no.

I. Appellants urge one proposition as error. Error in holding the failure of the joint county boards to approve the petition does not constitute a dismissal as a matter of law on appeal under Section 274.16, therefore, the State Department lacked jurisdiction.

Section 275.16, Code 1958 as amended, I.C.A. so far as material here, provides: '* * * The joint boards acting as a single board shall determine whether the petition conforms to county plans or, if the petition requests a change in county plans, whether such change should be made, and shall have the authority to change the plans of any or all the county boards affected by the petition, and it shall determine and fix boundaries for the proposed corporation as provided in section 275.15 (as will in its judgment be for the best interests of all parties concerned, having due regard for the welfare of adjoining districts) or dismiss the petition. The county superintendent shall at once publish this decision * * *.

'In case a controversy arises from such meeting, the county board * * * may bring the controversy to the state department of public instruction, as provided in section 275.8, within twenty days from the publication of this order * * *. The state department shall have the authority to affirm the action of the joint boards, to vacate, to dismiss all proceedings or to make such modification of the action of the joint boards as in their judgment would serve the best interest of all the counties. * * *' (Italics ours.)

Brief point (1) of appellant's brief is: A decision by the joint boards is not a condition precedent to the state department's jurisdiction on a petition for reorganization under section 275.16, Code 1958 as amended, I.C.A. We do not agree.

The entire school structure in this state is statutory including the right of appeal. Likewise, the power of the State Department to entertain a controversy or an appeal from county or joint county boards and the extent of authority to act thereon are statutory. While statutes dealing therewith should be liberally construed with a view to promoting the purpose of the statute, Board of Education In and For Franklin County v. Board of Education In and For Hardin County, 250 Iowa 672, 95 N.W.2d 709, such liberality does not go to the extent of ignoring the words of the statute nor of adding words thereto.

A fair, and we think proper, analysis of Section 275.16 leads to the conclusion that when and only when the joint boards have reached a final decision, may the State Department enter into the controversy. Under this section, the legislature has placed the initial creation of a proposed reorganization of a school district with the county board, section 275.15, or joint county boards, section 275.16, as applicable, and made in their mandatory duty to 'establish or dismiss'. This view is strengthened by two other provisions in the section. The County Superintendent shall at once publish this decision, i. e., 'established' or 'dismissed'. It also provides 'In case a controversy arises from such meeting * * * may bring the controversy to the state department * * * within twenty days from the publication of this order' (italics added). Until a final decision is reached by the board or joint boards there is nothing to publish. If this matter is to go before the state department, the time limit for taking is there dates from the date of the publication of the decision by the County Superintendent. Clearly it was not the intent of the statute that any or all intermediate rulings or order of the boards, over which there was some dissention, might go to the state department, allowing twenty days time after such ruling for the State Department to assume jurisdiction. Also, attention is called to the difference in the terms used in Sections 275.8 and 275.16 relative to the taking of a controversy to the State Board. Section 275.8, provides 'In the case of controversy over the planning of joint districts, the matter shall be submitted to the state...

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7 cases
  • Turnis v. Board of Ed. In and For Jones County, 50290
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • May 2, 1961
    ...to determine the intention of the members at that time. As bearing on this matter, see Brighton Independent School District, Washington County et al. v. County Boards et al., Iowa, 108 N.W.2d 510, and citations. When the stay order was released, a new notice was given and a hearing was held......
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  • Board of Ed. of Green Mountain Independent School Dist. v. Iowa State Bd. of Public Instruction
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    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • April 9, 1968
    ...body created by statute and enjoys only such powers as the legislature has given it. Brighton Independent School District v. County Board of Education, 252 Iowa 734, 737, 108 N.W.2d 510; Springville Community School District v. Iowa Department of Public Instruction, 252 Iowa 907, 914, 109 N......
  • Board of Ed. of Audubon County v. Joint Bd. of Ed. of Audubon, Cass, and Shelby Counties
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    • April 13, 1972
    ...light on this question, Anderson v. Hadley, 245 Iowa 550, 63 N.W.2d 234; Brighton Independent School Dist. v. County Boards of Education of Keokuk, Jefferson, and Washington Counties, 252 Iowa 734, 108 N.W.2d 510, and Turnis v. Board of Education of Jones County, 252 Iowa 922, 109 N.W.2d An......
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