State ex rel. Waldeck v. Goedken, No. 21

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtCALLOW
Citation84 Wis.2d 408,267 N.W.2d 362
Decision Date30 June 1978
Docket NumberNo. 21,No. 76-518
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin ex rel. Doctors Edward WALDECK and Harold Ripple and Merle Waldeck, Arlene Ripple, Patrick Corcoran and Carol Corcoran, as representatives of a larger class of electors and taxpayers of the Joint Common School District, commonly referred to as the Elmbrook School District, in Waukesha County, Plaintiffs-Respondents, v. Ronald E. GOEDKEN, Superintendent of Schools, The Board of Education for Joint Common School District, and Joan J. Philosophos, its school district clerk, Defendants-Appellants.

Page 362

267 N.W.2d 362
84 Wis.2d 408
STATE of Wisconsin ex rel. Doctors Edward WALDECK and Harold
Ripple and Merle Waldeck, Arlene Ripple, Patrick Corcoran
and Carol Corcoran, as representatives of a larger class of
electors and taxpayers of the Joint Common School District
No. 21, commonly referred to as the Elmbrook School
District, in Waukesha County, Plaintiffs-Respondents,
v.
Ronald E. GOEDKEN, Superintendent of Schools, The Board of
Education for Joint Common School District No. 21,
and Joan J. Philosophos, its school
district clerk, Defendants-Appellants.
No. 76-518.
Supreme Court of Wisconsin.
Argued June 5, 1978.
Decided June 30, 1978.

[84 Wis.2d 410] Walter S. Davis, Milwaukee, for appellants; Dianne S. Cauble, Davis, Kuelthau, Vergeront, Stover & Leichtfuss, S. C., Milwaukee, on briefs.

Edward Rudolph, Elm Grove, on brief for respondents.

CALLOW, Justice.

This is a class action brought by certain electors and taxpayers of the Elmbrook School District to determine whether the power to close the Leland Elementary School and convert the school premises to other [84 Wis.2d 411] educational uses resides with the Annual Meeting of the electors or with the School Board. The action is also brought to compel the District Clerk to call a Special Meeting of the electors to vote on whether to close the Leland Elementary School.

The Elmbrook School District (Joint Common School District No. 21) is a joint common school district embracing the city of Brookfield, part of the city of New Berlin, the town of Brookfield, and the village of Elm Grove. Until 1976 the District operated two high schools, three junior high schools, ten elementary schools, and two special education schools. The official student enrollment in the District during the 1975-76 school year was 10,460; 4,553 of those students were in the elementary schools. The District's annual budget for the

Page 363

1975-76 school year was $18,892,478. Two of the District's elementary schools, Leland School and Tonawanda School, were located in Elm Grove.

Faced with a projection of declining general state aids through 1979 and a declining student enrollment, particularly in the elementary schools, the School Board, at a regularly convened meeting on November 25, 1975, voted to close the Leland Elementary School in September, 1976, and to use the premises in part as a special education school and in part as a faculty resource library, administrative office area, a media center, and a storage area. At this meeting, the Board also resolved to formulate a plan to reassign the children who would otherwise attend Leland School.

The Leland Elementary School consists of a building, which has been extensively improved, and approximately eight acres of land. The school has been operated uninterruptedly as an elementary school for over fifty years. In 1975-76, 509 students were enrolled in the Leland School.

Sec. 120.08(2)(a), Stats., provides that upon the written request of 3 per cent of the heads of families or one [84 Wis.2d 412] hundred electors, whichever is less, residing in a school district, the district clerk shall call a special meeting of the electors. Under sec. 120.08(2)(c), Stats., a special meeting can exercise all the powers of the annual meeting, except the power to elect school board members. Pursuant to these statutes on March 11, 1976, 220 electors of the Elmbrook District requested a special meeting to determine whether to keep open the Leland Elementary School during the forthcoming 1976-77 school year and whether to appoint an Electors Study Committee to study the necessity of closing any district elementary schools in the foreseeable future.

Sec. 120.08(2)(a), Stats., authorizes the district clerk to reject a request for a special meeting on a subject beyond the power of the special meeting to transact. Pursuant to this statute, on March 15, 1976, upon the advice of the District's counsel, the District Clerk rejected the electors' request of the special meeting to decide whether to keep open the Leland School as beyond the power of the special meeting.

As a result, on May 6, 1976, the plaintiffs commenced this action seeking a writ of mandamus to compel the calling of the meeting, declaratory and injunctive relief, and money damages. The complaint alleges that at no time prior to the decision of the School Board to close Leland School was an annual or special meeting held at which the residents of the District could vote on whether to close Leland School. The complaint prays for a declaratory judgment finding that without such authorization by the electors the Board's decision to close Leland School and redistrict its students exceeded its powers under the school statutes. The complaint also prays that the District Clerk be compelled to call a special meeting for the purposes of voting on the plan to close Leland School and that the Board be enjoined from carrying out its plan until the citizens of the District have voted to approve it.

[84 Wis.2d 413] In a memorandum opinion dated May 19, 1976, the trial court declared that the power to terminate the operation of Leland School as an elementary school resides in the annual or special meeting of the electors. Therefore, the court granted the peremptory writ of mandamus and temporarily enjoined the Board from carrying out its plan to close Leland School until after a special meeting was held.

After the trial court granted the plaintiffs the relief sought for in their complaint, the special meeting requested was held, and on June 7, 1976, the citizens of the District voted to support the Board's decision to close the Leland Elementary School. Thus the controversy which gave rise to this case is moot. Though as a general rule this court will not consider questions which have become moot due to a change in circumstances, this court will decide a moot question if it is of great public importance. Milwaukee Professional Firefighters, Local

Page 364

215, IAFF, AFL-CIO v. Milwaukee, 78 Wis.2d 1, 253 N.W.2d 481 (1977). State ex rel. Renner v. Department of Health & Social Services, 71 Wis.2d 112, 237 N.W.2d 699 (1976); State ex rel. Ellenburg v. Gagnon, 76 Wis.2d 532, 251 N.W.2d 773 (1977) (Per Curiam); Mueller v. Jensen, 63 Wis.2d 362, 217 N.W.2d 277 (1974); State v. Seymour, 24 Wis.2d 258, 261, 128 N.W.2d 680 (1964). The respective powers of the school board and the annual meeting of the electors with respect to the closing of a school is at present an issue of great public concern. Therefore, although this particular case is now moot, we will reach the merits of the controversy.

To determine whether the School Board has the power to close Leland Elementary School, we must construe the scope of the powers granted to the Board and to the electors under Chapter 120, Stats. That chapter divides the governance of the affairs of the Elmbrook Common School District between those two bodies.

[84 Wis.2d 414] Sec. 120.10, Stats., gives nineteen certain specific powers to the annual meeting. The annual meeting, for example, votes the taxes to operate and...

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8 practice notes
  • Lindsey v. Lindsey, No. 86-1776
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • July 15, 1987
    ...division orders. The express mention of one matter means that similar matters are excluded. See State ex rel. Waldeck v. Goedken, 84 Wis.2d 408, 420, 267 N.W.2d 362, 367 (1978). Therefore, we conclude that the legislature did not intend sec. 767.265(1) to apply to property division Next, Be......
  • Racine Unified School Dist. v. Thompson, No. 80-2202
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • May 19, 1982
    ...courts will not entertain moot questions, they will do so if it is of great public importance. State ex rel. Waldeck v. Goedken, 84 Wis.2d 408, 413, 267 N.W.2d 362, 363 (1978). Clearly, the questions of what measure of due process is required at an expulsion hearing and what powers of revie......
  • Will v. State, No. 76-366-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 30, 1978
    ...order giving the defendant ninety days to pay the fine, as modified, to permit further application by the defendant, if necessary, for a [84 Wis.2d 408] modification in the sentence or the terms of the sentence on the grounds that he still is unable to Order modified and, as modified, affir......
  • Hahner v. Board of Ed., No. 1
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • February 28, 1979
    ...436, 440-41, 31 N.W.2d 772, 32 N.W.2d 190, 192 (1948). 3 76 Wis.2d 532, 535, 251 N.W.2d 773 (1977). 4 State ex rel. Waldeck v. Goedken, 84 Wis.2d 408, 413, 267 N.W.2d 362 (1978); State v. Seymour, 24 Wis.2d 258, 261, 128 N.W.2d 680 5 Mueller v. Jensen, 63 Wis.2d 362, 367, 217 N.W.2d 277 (19......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Lindsey v. Lindsey, No. 86-1776
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • July 15, 1987
    ...division orders. The express mention of one matter means that similar matters are excluded. See State ex rel. Waldeck v. Goedken, 84 Wis.2d 408, 420, 267 N.W.2d 362, 367 (1978). Therefore, we conclude that the legislature did not intend sec. 767.265(1) to apply to property division Next, Be......
  • Racine Unified School Dist. v. Thompson, No. 80-2202
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • May 19, 1982
    ...courts will not entertain moot questions, they will do so if it is of great public importance. State ex rel. Waldeck v. Goedken, 84 Wis.2d 408, 413, 267 N.W.2d 362, 363 (1978). Clearly, the questions of what measure of due process is required at an expulsion hearing and what powers of revie......
  • Will v. State, No. 76-366-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 30, 1978
    ...order giving the defendant ninety days to pay the fine, as modified, to permit further application by the defendant, if necessary, for a [84 Wis.2d 408] modification in the sentence or the terms of the sentence on the grounds that he still is unable to Order modified and, as modified, affir......
  • Hahner v. Board of Ed., No. 1
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • February 28, 1979
    ...436, 440-41, 31 N.W.2d 772, 32 N.W.2d 190, 192 (1948). 3 76 Wis.2d 532, 535, 251 N.W.2d 773 (1977). 4 State ex rel. Waldeck v. Goedken, 84 Wis.2d 408, 413, 267 N.W.2d 362 (1978); State v. Seymour, 24 Wis.2d 258, 261, 128 N.W.2d 680 5 Mueller v. Jensen, 63 Wis.2d 362, 367, 217 N.W.2d 277 (19......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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