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Department of Education

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Appeal Decisions

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BOOK: 26 
MONTH-YEAR: September - 2010
IN RE: Closing of Emerson Hough Elementary Building
APPELLANT: Jennifer Mouchka
APPELLEE: Newton Community School District
KEYWORDS: Building closing, abuse of discretion
DETAILS: Appellants seek reversal of the March 22, 2010 Board of Directors of the Newton Community School District to close one of the districts five elementary attendance centers, the Emerson Hough Elementary School.
  This is one of two building closing appeals decided by the State Board of Education on September 16, 2010;  both are the first appeals to be decided by the State Board since the ''Barker rules'' were voided by the Iowa Supreme Court.  Local school boards have explicit authority from Iowa Code sections 279.11, 279.39, and 280.3 to determine how many attendance centers (schools) to operate, where those attendance centers are to be located, and which students are to be assigned to each attendance center.  Therefore, the correct legal standard of review is for ''abuse of discretion.''  Under this standard of review, the State Board may not overturn the decision of a local school board unless the local boards decision was contrary to the law, irrational, and unreasonable.  The State Board cannot analyze whether the decision of the local board was the best decision the local board could have made.
  The local school board had to choose between two elementary schools to close one of them.  Many reasons existed that would have justified closing either school.  Because substantial, credible reasons exist that support the decision of the local board to close the Emerson Hough building, the Districts motion of summary judgment must be granted.
OUTCOMES: This Board can not disturb the local board decision absent a showing of abuse of discretion by that board.  Upon detailed review of the proof submitted, we have found that no genuine issue of material fact has been shown to overcome the Districts motion for summary judgment. For the foregoing reasons, the Districts Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED in its entirety and the decision made by the Board of Directors of the Newton Community School District on March 22, 2010 to close Emerson Hough Elementary School as a attendance center is AFFIRMED