AZTEC — A district court judge has once again ruled that a former Central Consolidated School District teacher is entitled to a discharge hearing before the school board.
District Judge Karen Townsend backed up her previous decision after listening to about two hours of arguments and testimony on Monday.
It is the same decision that Townsend issued on Jan. 30 in response to a petition filed by former Shiprock High School teacher April Baisan, the National Education Association of New Mexico and the Central Consolidated Educational Association against CCSD and Superintendent Don Levinski.
Baisan was placed on paid administrative leave last fall after detaining a student and not allowing her to use the restroom during a school lockdown, causing the student to urinate on herself in the classroom.
"Ms. Baisan is heartened by the court's decision. She's never sought publicity in this case, she's only sought for her right for the story (to be) told in a fair matter," said Jerry Todd Wertheim, an attorney representing Baisan and the union, after the court recessed.
CCSD spokesman James Preminger said the school district upholds a teacher's right to due process and respects Townsend and the court.
"But there appears to be some confusion in the law in that the school board, comprised of elected officials who are the governoring (sic) board of the district, had voted not to hear the case and thus put it back to the superintendent to hear," he wrote in an email.
On Nov. 19, school board members voted three in favor, two opposed to decline a discharge hearing and to have Levinski continue to handle the matter.
Preminger added that a hearing was scheduled with Levinski but it was not attended by Baisan or by a union representative.
"They wanted the school board to hear it, not the superintendent," he said. "Further the teacher — who was on administrative leave with full pay — had taken a job in another school district, which we had treated as the teacher's resignation."
Lorena Olmos, attorney for the school district, argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the petition and asked that it be dismissed because when it was filed in January, Baisan was no longer an employee.
Olmos said that when the verified petition was filed on Jan. 27, Baisan was already employed by another school district in the state and she did not inform CCSD officials of the new employment and that information was not contained in the petition.
The school board can only hold hearings for CCSD employees and Baisan lost that right when she accepted employment elsewhere, she said.
Olmos also maintained that Levinski was within his right to terminate Baisan and to hold the discharge hearing because it had been approved by the school board.
Levinski sat next to district human resources director George Schumpelt in court. Also in attendance were Shiprock High School principal Rick Edwards, the female student and her parents.
Wertheim argued that Baisan's initial request for a school board hearing was submitted on her behalf by the union on Nov. 6 and she continually made such requests.
He reiterated that Baisan, who was in attendance, wants the due process afforded to her as a CCSD employee.
As for Baisan's new employment, which started Jan. 6, Wertheim said, "She needed to survive. She needed to make a living."