Montgomery ISD v. Davis

Decision Date15 July 1999
Citation994 S.W.2d 435
Parties(Tex.App.-Beaumont 1999) MONTGOMERY INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT v. JOANNE DAVIS, APPELLEE NO. 09-97-459 CV
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

Before Burgess, Stover and Farris,* JJ.

OPINION

DAVID FARRIS, Justice (Assigned).

The Montgomery Independent School District appeals an order reversing its board's decision to not renew a teacher's contract. The board's decision followed a hearing conducted by an independent examiner who recommended that the contract be renewed. The trial court reversed the board's decision and ordered the teacher reinstated. There are two issues at the core of this appeal: could the board determine that one of the examiner's findings of fact was actually a Conclusion of law that it could ignore, and could the board make and rely upon additional fact findings of its own? We hold that the board could do neither and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Joanne Davis had taught at the Montgomery Junior High School for four years when, in 1996, the district's Board of Trustees decided to adopt the superintendent's recommendation and not renew her contract. The board gave five reasons for not renewing Davis's contract:

"Failure to fulfill duties or responsibilities;

Insubordination or failure to comply with official directives;

Failure to comply with Board policies or administrative regulations;

Failure to maintain an effective working relationship, or maintain good rapport, with parents, the community, or colleagues, and

A significant lack of student progress."

The superintendent notified Davis of the board's decision, and she requested a hearing under Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 21.207 (Vernon 1996).

The board declined to conduct a hearing choosing instead to have it conducted by a certified hearing examiner assigned by the Commissioner of Education. See Tex Educ.Code Ann. §§ 21.251-.260 (Vernon 1996). Following a hearing the examiner issued a written recommendation under Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 21.257 (Vernon 1996), including his findings of fact and Conclusions of law. Finding of fact 17 and Conclusion of law 4 are significant. The examiner's finding of fact 17 stated, "Joanne Davis did not fail to maintain an effective working relationship or maintain good rapport with parents, the community, or colleagues." The examiner's Conclusion of law 4 determined that the district had failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, each of the five reasons the board had given for not renewing Davis's contract and recommended she be retained.

Despite the examiner's recommendation the board decided to not renew Davis's contract. To warrant its decision the board deemed the examiner's finding of fact 17 as a Conclusion of law that it could disregard and entered its own findings of fact. The board rejected part of Conclusion of law 4 determining that the district had not proved that Davis failed to maintain an effective working relationship, or maintain good rapport, with parents, the community, or colleagues. The board adopted its own Conclusion of law: The administration proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Davis failed to maintain an effective working relationship, or maintain good rapport, with parents, the community, or colleagues.

The board made three additional fact findings that it characterized as undisputed: Davis had referred to students as "little shits" at school, during the school day, and in the presence of other educators; there were more requests for transfers from Davis's classes than from any other teacher at the school; and there were more complaints concerning Davis's classes than any other teacher's classes at the school. The district argues that the examiner left out of his findings undisputed testimony as to each of the board's additional findings.

Following his statement of finding of fact 17 the examiner included a three page Discussion of the evidence supporting his Conclusion while addressing most of the occurrences that the board had cited in support of its assertion that Davis failed to maintain an effective working relationship, or maintain good rapport, with parents, the community, or colleagues.

In his Discussion the examiner addressed both the transfers and complaints but not the reference to students. The Discussion noted that the number of transfers was not unreasonable; that Davis had accomplished a reduction of parent complaints and requests for transfers according to a professional growth plan signed by Davis and the principal, Paul Hatch; and that there was overwhelming evidence that Davis had maintained constant contact with parents and students.

The examiner noted that evidence of Davis's failure to maintain good rapport with colleagues was inconsistent with earlier evaluations of Davis by Hatch. The examiner suggested that the problem was primarily a problem between Hatch and Davis, that Hatch was at least partially at fault, that Hatch was no longer principal, and that Davis had not had difficulty in maintaining rapport with other principals. In that regard the examiner also mentioned, "clearly arbitrary and capricious actions" by...

To continue reading

Request your trial
3 cases
  • Interest of Davis
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • October 12, 2000
    ...evidentiary fact findings. See De Llano v. Moran, 160 Tex. 490, 333 S.W.2d 359, 360 (1960); Montgomery Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Davis, 994 S.W.2d 435, 438 (Tex. App.-Beaumont 1999, pet. granted); Posner v. Dallas County Child Welfare, 784 S.W.2d 585, 587 (Tex. App.-Eastland 1990, writ denied). ......
  • Goodie v Houston ISD
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • October 18, 2001
    ...of fact. Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 21.257 (Vernon 1996). Such findings are equivalent to a jury's verdict. Montgomery Ind. Sch. Dist. v. Davis, 994 S.W.2d 435, 438 (Tex. App. Beaumont 1999), aff'd, 34 S.W.3d 559 (2000). The board was not authorized to reject or change a finding made by the hea......
  • Montgomery ISD v. Davis
    • United States
    • Texas Supreme Court
    • December 7, 2000
    ...the Board's decision. The trial court reversed the commissioner's decision, and the court of appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. 994 S.W.2d 435. We hold that, when reviewing a hearing examiner's recommendation under Education Code § 21.259, a school board cannot make additional fin......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT