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Columbia Circuit judge dismisses case filed by former elementary school teacher

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - A former teacher at Otto Petersen Elementary School filed a lawsuit in July against the Scappoose School District board of directors alleging the board did not follow protocol to dismiss her. After a nearly month-long review by a Columbia County judge, the case is being tossed out.
After a nearly month-long review of a lawsuit filed against the Scappoose School District board of directors by a former fourth-grade teacher, a Columbia County Circuit Court judge has ruled to dismiss the case.

In July, Erika Reardon, a former fourth-grade teacher at Otto Petersen Elementary School, filed a lawsuit against the Scappoose School District board of directors alleging the board did not follow proper protocol to terminate her earlier this year.

Reardon had been hired in 2014 as a probationary teacher. Probationary teachers are required to have their contracts renewed on a one-year basis during the first three years of employment. Her contract was not renewed for the 2017-18 school year.

The core of the lawsuit alleged Reardon was not notified prior to a Feb. 13 school board meeting that her name would be included on a list of teachers whose contracts should not be renewed for the 2017-18 school year. In June, Reardon was granted a hearing in front of the school board to protest the nonrenewal before filing suit.

Columbia Circuit Judge Jenefer Grant filed a sum-

mary judgement for dismissal of the case Monday, Nov. 20.

"While I understand that there are school boards who make a point of supplying written notification of nonrenewal to probationary teachers prior to formalizing that decision, this appears to be at most a practice standard, and not a right enshrined in statute," Grant stated in her decision.

Grant noted that Oregon Revised Statutes pertaining to the procedures for nonrenewal of teaching contracts offer no specific language indicating notice should be given prior to a school board decision to vote on non-renewals.

The statutes are meant to give "notice that a probationary teacher contract will not be renewed the following school year, as opposed to notice that the school board will be deciding at a meeting not to renew the contract," Grant states in the letter.

Legal counsel for the Scappoose School District filed a motion to dismiss the case in August. The motion outlines an argument that the school district fulfilled its obligations to notify her of her contract nonrenewal by March 15, which met the notice stipulation under state law, and argued the board has full legal authority to terminate any employee "for any cause it may deem in good faith sufficient" according to her contract.

After several legal motions were filed in the court by both sides, Grant heard the case

in late October and recently filed her summary judgment.

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