MOUNT VERNON — The Ohio Revised Code, specifically section 3319.16, lays the legal groundwork for school boards to terminate the contract of teachers employed by the board of education.
Briefly stated, teaching contracts may be terminated for gross inefficiency or immorality; for willful and persistent violations of reasonable regulations of the board of education; or for other good and just cause. Also, the board may suspend a teacher pending final action to terminate his contract if, in its judgment, the character of the charges warrants such action.
That is the action taken by the Mount Vernon Board of Education with regard to Mount Vernon Middle School teacher John Freshwater.
After a teacher has been given notice of the board’s intention to consider the termination of a contract, a teacher may request a hearing, and Freshwater did so. That hearing, a public hearing at Freshwater’s request, is being held before referee R. Lee Shepherd. Sessions have taken place sporadically since Oct. 2, 2008. The school board presented its case during the first seven or eight sessions; Freshwater’s defense has continued for about 10 sessions to date.
The sessions scheduled for July have been canceled at the request of Freshwater’s attorney, Kelly Hamilton, who cited the ORC clause which states: “No hearing shall be held during the summer vacation without the teacher’s consent.” Freshwater’s hearing is tentatively scheduled to resume on or after Sept. 10.
After a hearing by a referee, the code continues, the referee shall file his report within 10 days after the termination of the hearing. The school board, by a majority vote, will then accept or reject the referee’s recommendation. By law, if the decision is against termination of the contract, “the charges and the record of the hearing shall be physically expunged from the minutes, and, if the teacher has suffered any loss of salary by reason of being suspended, he shall be paid his full salary for the period of such suspension.”
If the board decides to terminate the teaching contract, the teacher has 30 days to file an appeal with the county court of common pleas. The court will examine the transcript and record of the hearing and hold additional hearings as it considers advisable, at which time it may consider other evidence in addition to the transcript and record before making a decision. Either the teacher or the board may appeal the court’s decision.