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Dunn-Wright v. Arkansas State Bd. of Educ.

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

March 4, 2015

BETTYE DUNN-WRIGHT APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, THIRD DIVISION. NO. 60CV-12-3315. HONORABLE JAY MOODY, JUDGE.

McKissic & Associates, PLLC, by: Jackie B. Harris, for appellant.

Kendra Clay, Staff Attorney, Arkansas Department of Education, for appellee.

KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge. ABRAMSON and HOOFMAN, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 668

KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge

This matter involving appellant Dr. Bettye Dunn-Wright and appellee Arkansas State Board of Education (hereinafter referred to as the " State Board" ) comes before this court for the third time. It arose from the State Board's order, entered on June 11, 2012, which removed Dr. Dunn-Wright from her position as superintendent of the Dollarway School District (hereinafter referred to as the " School District" ). The State Board's removal of Dr. Dunn-Wright resulted from its decision to reconstitute the leadership of the School District based on the School District's failure to meet standards for accreditation for

Page 669

two consecutive school years. Dr. Dunn-Wright timely filed a petition for review in Pulaski County Circuit Court, raising multiple issues challenging the State Board's decision.

In the review before the circuit court, the State Board filed a motion to dismiss Dr. Dunn-Wright's petition for judicial review. On January 24, 2013, the circuit court entered an order granting the State Board's motion with respect to some of Dr. Dunn Wright's claims, including her constitutional claims and her assertion that the State Board's decision was inconsistent with its prior decisions in similar cases. The circuit court dismissed the above claims on the grounds that they had not been raised before the State Board. However, the circuit court ordered the parties to brief the remaining issues, which included a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the State Board's decision that the School District had violated accreditation standards for the 2011--12 school year. The case would then be set for oral argument. Dr. Dunn-Wright appealed from the January 24, 2013 order of partial dismissal, but we dismissed that appeal on June 26, 2013, because some of her claims remained unresolved and there was no final order from which to appeal.

After each party submitted trial briefs on the remaining issues and oral argument was held, the circuit court entered an order affirming the State Board's decision to reconstitute the School District and remove Dr. Dunn-Wright as superintendent. Dr. Dunn-Wright subsequently filed her second appeal with this court, appealing from both the circuit court's January 24, 2013 order of partial dismissal and the December 31, 2013 order affirming the State Board's decision. We ordered rebriefing because the addendum was deficient. See Dunn-Wright v. Ark. State Bd. of Educ., 2014 Ark.App. 669. In compliance with our instructions, Dr. Dunn-Wright has now filed a substituted brief and addendum in conformance with our rules, and the case is ripe for decision.

For the purpose of an introduction, a general description of the events is helpful. The School District had a history of violations with the State Board off and on for several years. The applicable statute provides that in the event a school district is on probation for two consecutive years, the State Board is required to take action it deems necessary to remedy the violations. The School District was on probation for the 2010--11 school year for allowing a certain teacher to teach classes for which the teacher was not certified (sometimes referred to herein as the year-one violation). Then, in early 2012, the Department of Education determined that the School District was again in violation of state regulations because the School District had allowed certain students to graduate with insufficient transcripts (sometimes referred to herein as the year-two violation.) Because the School District was in violation of the state regulations for two consecutive years, the State Board removed the School District's school board and terminated the superintendent as allowed by the applicable statute. The appellant herein, Dr. Dunn-Wright, was the superintendent of the School District who was terminated by the State Board.

Although Dr. Dunn-Wright lists five points on appeal, she effectively raises only four arguments. One of appellant's arguments is that the State Board's decision to remove her as superintendent was not supported by substantial evidence. Her remaining arguments are that she was denied her constitutional right to due process, that the State Board's ...


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