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Luhm v. Board of Trustees of Hot Springs County School District No. 1

May 12, 2009

REBECCA J. LUHM, APPELLANT (PLAINTIFF),
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF HOT SPRINGS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, APPELLEE (DEFENDANT).



Appeal from the District Court of Hot Springs County The Honorable John R. Perry, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Golden, Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, BURKE, JJ.

GOLDEN, J., delivers the opinion of the Court; HILL, J., files a dissenting opinion, in which KITE, J., joins.

[¶1] Rebecca J. Luhm worked for the Board of Trustees of Hot Springs County School District No. 1 (the School District) as a guidance counselor. In 2006, Luhm filed a complaint alleging the School District terminated her from her job with the School District in a manner that violated law. Luhm contended she was a "teacher" as defined by the Wyoming Teacher Employment Law (WTEL), Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 21-1-101 through 114 (LexisNexis 2007), and thus was entitled to its protections. Luhm claimed that her termination was contrary to the spirit and the letter of the WTEL. She sought declaratory relief, asking that the district court declare her to be a continuing contract teacher under state law. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the School District and denied Luhm's motion for summary judgment. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Luhm raises these issues:

1. Was Rebecca Luhm a "teacher" as defined in W.S. § 21-7-102(a)(vii)?

2. May a school district defeat the statutory protections of the Wyoming Teacher Employment Law by requiring forms of contract that are inconsistent with the statutes?

3. May a court judicially amend the Wyoming Teacher Employment Law to narrow the scope of persons protected, in contravention of the statutes?

4. Were there material issues of fact precluding summary judgment?

5. Did the [school] district's refusal to treat Rebecca Luhm as a continuing contract teacher deny her statutory and due process rights?

The School District presents this view of the issues:

1. Was Rebecca Luhm, who was at all times employed as a social worker and guidance counselor, required to be given continuing contract teacher status?

2. Was the [school] district required to give Rebecca Luhm a hearing when her contract was terminated as a result of a financial need to reduce the number of staff employed by Hot Springs County School District No. 1?

3. Are there other reasons in the record for affirming the district court's summary judgment in favor of [the school district]?

FACTS

[¶3] Luhm began working for the School District in 1990. On November 20, 1990, she entered into the following contract with the School District:

OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT HOT SPRINGS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1

THERMOPOLIS, WYOMING

Non-Teaching Contract

THIS AGREEMENT, entered into this 20th day of November, 1990, between the Board of Trustees of Hot Springs County School District No. 1 in the County of Hot Springs and State of Wyoming, and Rebecca Luhm a qualified certified employee of said County.

WITNESSETH: That the said Rebecca Luhm agrees to accept and fulfill the position of Social Worker in the Hot Springs County School District No. 1 in a faithful and efficient manner for the term of 125 days commencing on the 19th day of November, 1990, and agrees further that the Superintendent or Board of Trustees may assign extracurricular activities and/or other subjects than that herein named; and agrees to keep herself qualified, and agrees in all things to observe the rules and regulations of the Board of Trustees of Hot Springs County School District No. 1.

IN CONSIDERATION WHEREOF, said Board of Trustees, Hot Springs County School District No. 1, agrees to pay said employee the sum of eighteen thousand one hundred thirty four and 32/100 dollars ($18,134.32). Payment shall be made for said services in nine equal installments, the first payment of $2,014.88 to be made on December 15th, and the remaining payments of $2,014.93 to be made on the 15th day of each succeeding calendar month except that June, July, and August salary will be paid in full the last working day of this school year.

PROVIDED, that in case said Rebecca Luhm shall be discharged for sufficient cause by the Board of Trustees, Hot Springs County School District No. 1, or shall have her certificate annulled, she shall not be entitled to any compensation from and after such dismissal or annulment, but shall receive her proportionate share of the June, July, and August salary based on the number of days actually worked.

ALL REQUIREMENTS for certification in the State of Wyoming are the sole responsibility of the applicant. According to State Law, a certified employee cannot be paid ...


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