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Laramie Cnty. Sch. Dist. No. One ex rel. Bd. of Trs. v. Kinstler

Supreme Court of Wyoming

November 12, 2015

LARAMIE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NUMBER ONE ex rel. BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF LARAMIE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NUMBER ONE, a Wyoming Governmental Entity, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
KORT KINSTLER, Appellee (Plaintiff)

Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County. The Honorable Catherine R. Rogers, Judge.

For Appellant: Robert C. Jarosh and Traci L. Lacock of Hirst Applegate, LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Appellee, Pro se.

Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

OPINION

DAVIS, Justice.

[¶1] The Board of Trustees of Laramie County School District No. One (District)[1] appeals from a summary judgment granted to a teacher, Kort Kinstler, in his suit to recover salary and the value of benefits allegedly owed to him following a decision not to reemploy him at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. We reverse and vacate the award.

ISSUE

[¶2] This appeal turns on a single question of statutory construction, which we restate as follows:

Do the phrases " notice of recommendation of termination" and " notice of termination" in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 21-7-106 refer to two separate documents to be issued by the District, or did the legislature intend those phrases to be used interchangeably to designate a single document?

FACTS

[¶3] During the 2011 to 2012 school year, Kinstler was a continuing contract teacher[2]

Page 820

who had worked for the District for approximately ten years. On March 30, 2012, the District Superintendent gave him written notice that he had recommended that Kinstler be terminated for " [u]nsatisfactory performance and incompetence in the area of creating an appropriate classroom environment." [3] Five days later, Kinstler formally requested a hearing. During a conference call with the hearing officer on May 10, the parties waived the 45-day statutory deadline for commencing the hearing, and subsequently the initial settings for the hearing and a prehearing conference had to be continued to allow Kinstler more time to find an attorney.

[¶4] As a result of his attorney's participation in another conference call on June 11, 2012, the hearing officer scheduled a prehearing conference for August 6, with the hearing to begin a week later. Although the attorney Kinstler retained withdrew on or about June 25, a two-day hearing took place as scheduled on August 13 and 14, with Kinstler representing himself. On September 4, 2012, the hearing officer issued findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a recommendation that the District accept the superintendent's proposal that Kinstler be terminated.

[¶5] The Board of Trustees voted to accept the recommendation at a meeting on September 17, 2012, and District administration advised Kinstler of this the following day by letter. He did not seek judicial review of that decision. Kinstler was paid his normal salary from August 15, 2012 (the date he would have started to work) through the date that the Board acted on the recommendation to terminate him.

[¶6] Nearly a year later, on September 12, 2013, Kinstler sued the District, claiming that it failed to pay him the full salary[4] and retention bonus he was due at the time of his termination. The District filed a timely answer to his complaint, and the ...


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