Articles Posted in School Law

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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.

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Gilda.jpgGeorgia 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.

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Courageous educator Gilda Day files her appeal to the State Board of Education as reported in the Rome News Tribune:

Brief of Appellant Gilda Day v Floyd County Board of Education Final (1)

https://www.scribd.com/doc/155610333/Brief-of-Appellant-Gilda-Day-v-Floyd-County-Board-of-Education-Final-1

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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!!!”

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Today’s front page headline in the Rome Tribune:
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Gilda Day Petition by julie9094

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Gilda Day v Floyd County School District by julie9094

The Rome Tribune featured in the news today that Williams Oinonen LLC filed suit yesterday on behalf of one of the many Floyd County school educator clients, issuing the following statement:

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Most recent photo of Gov. Deal.jpgGovernor Nathan Deal announced today that he was suspending six of DeKalb County school board members. Deal stated that he has appointed a panel to nominate replacements and selected Brad Bryant, a former school board member of DeKalb, to be the liaison.

This decision was based on the recommendation of the State Board of Education. SACS accreditation agency had put the District on probation in December due to a host of governance problems.

For more information, you can read Governor Nathan Deal’s official statement here.

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Williams Oinonen LLC filed suit today on behalf of our client Ms. Denise Davis, a courageous whistleblower and former DeKalb County School District Human Resources Administrator who contends that the DeKalb County Schools unlawfully RIF’d DeKalb County educators throughout the District by failing to comply with the Georgia Reduction in Force statute O.C.G.A. § 20-2-948 and their own District policy.

Specifically, she alleges in her complaint that they circumvented the RIF requirement to consider job performance as the primary factor by eliminating entire positions, then creating new titles that were in effect the same jobs that had been eliminated but were now simply under a different name upon which they selected new hires based on favoritism, friendship, or familial status.

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atkinsonatkinson.jpgSuperintendent Cheryl Atkinson just resigned as Superintendent amid much controversy.

The AJC reports on her resignation stating that the District is currently on probation after SACS the accreditation agency found evidence of fiscal mismanagement and unethical practices.

The recent lawsuit against her was dismissed after our client who had been non-renewed due to a reduction in force was rehired by the District.