Here is Gilda Day’s Response Brief in her case before the Georgia Court of Appeals. Many Floyd County Association of Educator members have wished to see it. For easier viewing, click on the brief and you can view it on the Scribd webpage:
Georgia Education Lawyer Julie Oinonen is representing DeKalb County teachers and Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) members in a suit against DeKalb County School District. The lawsuit alleges strong-arm bully tactics by the school district. See the Courthouse News article on it here.
Good Georgia Lawyer contends that this issue is part of the ongoing war on teachers and public education that is driving educators out of the profession and further destroying teacher morale. Each year, educators move to different parts of Georgia transferring to other school districts for any number of reasons such as professional career opportunities, financial, health, or family reasons. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit had to move due to very important family needs. They notified their principals and gave the earliest possible notice. Then they helped find new hires to replace their position, thus causing absolutely no financial loss to the School District.
The District bullied the teachers by threatening their teaching certification which all teachers need to keep in good standing in order to teach and maintain gainful employment to provide for their families. The District claimed that it was a sanctionable action by the PSC (the Professional Standards Commission, the regulatory body for teacher certification.) The trouble is that wasn’t true and the District knew it. Paul Shaw, Director of the PSC had already advised them that for teachers to resign prior to June 1st would not be considered a sanctionable violation of the code of ethics.
Floyd County Board of Education Terry Williamson was sued this week for alleged violations of Georgia law. If you have information concerning this matter, please contact Williams Oinonen LLC at 404-654-0288.
To read the lawsuit you may view here:
The Georgia State Department of Education’s recent ruling that charter systems must comply with the Fair Dismissal Act was an enormous victory for Gilda Day and every educator throughout Georgia. Nevertheless, Northwest Georgia Superintendent Jeff McDaniel and his Floyd County local board’s choice to appeal this statewide decision by arguing that no civil right applies single-handedly places at risk the rights of all Georgia educators in threatening to strip vital constitutional protections throughout the state.
The key to the State Board of Education teacher victory was the State Board’s interpretation of the charter school statute, specifically the term “civil rights.” An excerpt from the actual decision states: “[, the] Local Board contends that since the Fair Dismissal Act, O.C.G.A. § 20-2-940 et seg., is within Title 20, that it is not subject to the Fair Dismissal Act. The Local Board’s assertion is without merit. O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2065(b)(5) provides that charter systems are “[s]ubject to all federal, state, and local rules, regulations, court orders, and statutes relating to civil rights.” The Fair Dismissal Act provides due process rights to certain school employees, which is a civil right. Thus, O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2065(a) cannot be read so broadly as to violate the due process rights of school employees who are entitled to due process.”
Mike McGonigle, Legal Services Director of the Georgia Association of Educators says the importance of this decision cannot be overemphasized in this new environment of charter-mania and he points out that GAE led the fight against the initial removal of fair dismissal and for its eventual restoration. “What fair dismissal means is the right for teachers, administrators, and support professionals to simply teach children in a learning environment that is free from the fear of retaliation and at-will termination. Contrary to what opponents have always said, fair dismissal does not provide lifelong employment opportunities for incompetent educators. Without fair dismissal protection, teachers are at will employees who could be subjected to reprimand and dismissal based on false or frivolous, unsubstantiated complaints or decisions. Fair dismissal does not protect bad teachers. On the contrary, it protects good teachers from discriminatory, biased reprimands, and unfair treatment,” he said.
Many blog posts advise you to make sure that (1) you feel comfortable with the lawyer you choose and that (2) the lawyer you choose has sound experience and understanding in the area you need representation in. While all that is true, there is one area that also demonstrates the quality of representation you will be obtaining to handle your case: your lawyer’s willingness and ability to handle an appeal of your case in front of a higher court.
Foremost, you may not read a lot of blog posts that talk about handling an appeal of your case in front of higher courts, because that means something may have went wrong with your case in the lower court. But here’s the reality: when you are going up against cities, school districts; law enforcement officials; public officials; big corporations; and hospitals–whether you win or lose at the lower court (trial court), one party is going to appeal, or threaten to appeal the loss, to the higher court (Appeals Court).
Georgia Education Lawyer was proud to represent our courageous educator, Ms. Gilda Day. Ms. Day won her appeal before the State Board of Education reversing the Floyd County Local Board of Education’s decision to non-renew her. This case has regularly drawn the attention of the front page of the Rome Tribune and can be reviewed here.
Ms. Day’s appeal was drafted by Ms. Julie Oinonen and her partner Mr. Mario Williams of Williams Oinonen LLC. “Providing teachers with procedural due process is a constitutional right and essential to maintain quality teachers in an increasingly difficult and underpaid profession” said Oinonen. “Under the Constitution, the government cannot take away life, liberty or a property interest without due process—it is a constitutional right that not even charter systems are permitted to waive. What due process does is provide teachers with a fair hearing: the right to notice and opportunity to be heard so that a superintendent or administrator cannot unfairly or indiscriminately fire a teacher without just cause, for discriminatory purposes, or simply a personal vendetta. Gilda Day’s courage and bravery has resulted in a victory for teachers throughout our state and a win for Georgia public education that is increasingly under attack by big money, outside interests who seek corporate takeover of our Georgia public schools.”
“Today’s State Board decision stating that charter schools and systems cannot waive the Fair Dismissal Act is a huge win for all teachers,” stated Mike McGonigle, general counsel for the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE). McGonigle was referring to the reversal of the Floyd County Board of Education’s decision that fair dismissal due process rights could be waived by charter schools.
Courageous educator Gilda Day files her appeal to the State Board of Education as reported in the Rome News Tribune:
A Fulton County school district former employee resolved their dispute today with the school district. Williams Oinonen LLC was gratified to be able to represent our client and obtain a successful outcome. Said our client:
“Julie Oinonen became a driving force that fought for my rights and maximum protection under the fullest extent of the law. She was a glimmer of hope in a time of desperation, and a voice of relief in a complicated predicament. She worked with me to provide services that fit my budget, and kept me informed every step of the way. I am truly grateful for all that she has done to protect my career and to preserve my future. Thank you, Julie!!!”