95-001516 Pinellas County School Board vs. Deborah A. Edwards
 Status: Closed
Recommended Order on Monday, July 24, 1995.

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Summary: Teacher without appropriate bachelor's degree is not eligible to hold personal service contract to teach but must be offered only year to year employment.





14Petitioner, )


17vs. ) CASE NO. 95-1516




28Respondent. )




37Petitioner, )


40vs. ) CASE NO. 95-1517




50Respondent. )



55A hearing was held in these consolidated cases in Largo, Florida on June 1,

691995, before Arnold H. Pollock, a Hearing Officer with the Division of

81Administrative Hearings.


84For Petitioner: Keith B. Martin, Esquire

90Pinellas County Schools

93Post Office Box 2942

97Largo, Florida 34649-2942

100For Respondents: Robert F. McKee, Esquire

106Kelly & McKee

109Post Office Box 75368

113Tampa, Florida 33675-0638


120The issue for consideration in this case is whether the Pinellas County

132School Board can cancel Respondents' Professional Service Contracts and

141terminate their employment due to their failure to meet certification



154By letters dated March 13, 1995, Dr. J. Howard Hinesley, Superintendent of

166the Pinellas County Schools, advised each Respondent herein that due to changes

178in certification requirements in those individuals' program area, it was

188necessary to recommend to the School Board that their Professional Services

199Contracts to teach in the Pinellas County Schools be cancelled. Notwithstanding

210that proposed action, however, the parties were advised that the School Board

222would continue to employ each Respondent on a year to year basis without a

236Professional Services Contract. In response, each Respondent requested a formal

246hearing, and this hearing ensued.

251At the hearing, the Petitioner presented the testimony of Dr. Seymour

262Brown, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel, and Dr. James Ross, Assistant

272Superintendent for Career, Technical and Adult Education. Respondents each

281testified in their respective behalf and presented the testimony of Jade Moore,

293Executive Director of the Pinellas County Teacher's Association, as well as that

305of Carol D. Kamfferman, a Certification Technician for the Board. Petitioner

316introduced Petitioner's Exhibits 1 through 8, and Respondents introduced

325Respondents' Exhibits A through D. Though admitted into evidence, Respondents'

335Exhibits C and D were not delivered to the Hearing Officer.

346A transcript of the proceeding was furnished, and subsequent to the receipt

358thereof both parties submitted Proposed Findings of Fact which have been ruled

370upon in the Appendix to this Recommended Order.


3811. At all times pertinent to the issues herein the Pinellas County School

394Board, (Board), was the agency responsible for the provision of public education

406from preschool through primary and secondary schooling to vocational and adult

417technical courses in Pinellas County. Respondent Edwards has taught

426agricultural subjects including horticultural service, animal service and small

435and large animal services, among other courses she has taught at Tarpon Springs

448High School since July, 1990. Respondent Corbin, Edwards' brother, has taught

459at Countryside High School since 1989 in the fields of horticulture, small and

472large animal service, and practical skills agriculture for grades 9 - 12.

4842. Neither Respondent Edwards or Respondent Corbin has a Bachelor's degree

495in agriculture or in any other field. Edwards has an Associate of Science

508degree in veterinary technology and has taken courses in agricultural education

519for certification at the University of Florida as well as 20 credit hours at the

534University of South Florida in a course in technical vocational training

545programs she was required to take. She was certified by the State Department of

559Education in horticultural science and agricultural production in 1992.

5683. Respondent Corbin has between 30 and 40 college credit hours. About 2

581years after starting work, when he finished the beginning teacher program and

593the required technical vocational training courses, he was certified by the

604state to teach horticulture and agricultural production. This allowed him to

615teach students in grades 9 - 12, and at the adult technical/vocational level.

6284. According to Dr. Brown, the Assistant Superintendent for Personnel,

638sometime prior to March, 1995 it was reported to him that the School Board had

653two teachers in the agricultural program who were not properly certified. These

665teachers are the Respondents herein. By state law, the Respondents are not

677properly certified at the 9 - 12 grade level, but they can teach at the

692vocational/technical level. Under the provisions of Department of Education

701Rule 6A-4.054, teachers must hold a bachelor's degree in agriculture or a

713master's degree with an undergraduate major in agriculture in order to be

725certified to teach that subject at the 9 - 12 grade level. Neither Respondent

739has that qualification.

7425. When Dr. Brown found out about the problem, he consulted with his staff

756and then informed the Superintendent of the situation. Dr. Brown also contacted

768the State Board of Education to see if these Respondents could stay in their

782current positions. The response received from the State Board of Education

793indicated the teachers could be considered "out of field" teachers, in

804accordance with Rule 6A-1.0503, F.A.C., but would need to take a minimum of 6

818semester hours of college credit each year to obtain a bachelor's degree in


8326. After receiving that information, Dr. Brown met with both Respondents

843and advised them of the situation and what they had to do. At that time the

859indication he received from them was that they would not consider going to

872school for 6 credits each year because, as they indicated, this was not their

886fault. According to Dr. Brown, neither Respondent had taken the required

897courses this year, and it is his position that though they may be retained as

912teachers, they cannot be offered a Personal Services Contract unless they do.

924All that would be available to them would be a year to year appointment.

9387. It is quite evident that the 1989 change to the certification rule

951which creates the problem in this case, that of requiring a teacher in the field

966of agriculture to have a degree in that area, was not widely publicized, and

980even high ranking members of the Board staff in Pinellas County were not

993actively aware of its existence for several years after it was promulgated.

10058. Of the two Respondents, Mr. Corbin was hired prior to 1989, and

1018Respondent Edwards was hired after 1989. Both were offered and received

1029Personal Service Contracts after the rule was changed and, in fact,

1040notwithstanding the Board's letter of March 13, 1995, indicating the intention

1051to remove the Personal Service Contract of each, by letter dated in April, 1995,

1065each Respondent was advised of the issuance of a Personal Service Contract for

1078the 1995-1996 school year.

10829. This creates a problem for the Board in that, under Florida law, if a

1097program is not properly staffed with properly certified instructors, the state

1108funding for that program can be reduced, and this could, in this case, amount to

1123a substantial amount of money lost to the Board.

113210. Dr. Brown considers both Respondents to be excellent teachers whom the

1144Board would like to keep, and he would like to see them participate in the

1159program which would allow them to remain as certified teachers by taking the 6

1173credit continuing education courses per year. This would be difficult for both

1185Respondents, however. First, the courses to be taken must be approved by the

1198Board as leading to a degree in the teacher's area of expertise. In this

1212regard, Dr. Brown does not know if any of the courses that would qualify for the

1228Respondents are available within a 100 mile radius of Pinellas County. By the

1241same token, he also does not know if the Board would provide financial or time

1256help to the Respondents in the event the courses were available.

126711. Another possibility would be for the Respondents to take courses at

1279the University of Florida on Friday nights and Saturdays over a period of time,

1293or during the summer. In that regard, however, Respondent Edwards' inquiry of

1305the University clearly indicates it is not easy to get the required courses at

1319the time when they are needed and Respondents are available. Someone trying to

1332work toward a degree on such a part time basis could take an unreasonably

1346extended period of time to get all the core and prerequisite courses to those

1360which lead toward the degree in the specialty. Notwithstanding this, Dr. Ross

1372is not aware of any instance where the Board has ever waived the requirement for

1387courses because courses were not available locally.

139412. The current situation came as a great surprise, specifically to Mr.

1406Corbin. In March, 1992, he was called in by his Vice-Principal, Mr. Moore, and

1420told he was unqualified to teach horticulture. At that same time, however, he

1433was advised as to what he had to do to come up to certification standards, and

1449he took the required courses. As he understood it, that was all that was

1463necessary. With the courses he took at this point, and all the TVT courses he

1478had taken previously, he believed he was in good standing to receive his

1491Personal Services Contract which, in fact, he did receive in April, 1994.

150313. However, he first learned of the instant crisis on March 13, 1995 by a

1518copy of a letter to his Principal from Dr. Brown advising that Mr. Corbin's

1532Personal Service Contract was being cancelled. There was no explanation and no

1544reason given then, and Mr. Corbin got no answer to his questions as to the

1559reason for this action. As a result, he sought the assistance of the union.

157314. Approximately 7 to 10 days after receipt of the letter, Mr. Corbin was

1587advised by Dr. Brown that his only alternative, if he wanted to continue

1600teaching at Countryside, was to take the courses that would be required for an

"1614out of field" teacher. At this point, Mr. Corbin inquired about the

1626availability of courses and found that a Bachelor's degree in Agricultural

1637Science is available only at the University of Florida. There are no courses

1650offered locally that would help him. He did not, however, check with the

1663University of Florida to see what the availability of the courses was there.

167615. Mr. Corbin works from 6:45 AM to 3:00 PM each day at school. He also

1692has a personal lawn maintenance business and he does a lot of extra volunteer

1706work for the school helping out at school fairs, banquets and other similar

1719functions. He has taught summer school off and on. He claims that if he had

1734been aware of the change in the requirements in 1990 when they first went into

1749effect, he would have chosen another career instead of staying with agriculture.

1761He asserts he might well have gone on to get his undergraduate degree and a law

1777degree, but at this time it is too late for that.

178816. Mr. Corbin realizes that if he wishes to continue his Personal Service

1801Contract he must take the required courses as an "out of field" teacher.

1814Otherwise he would be no more than an "appointee" to his position on a year to

1830year basis. This would be a very tenuous and stressful position to be in. Such

1845a person serves at the pleasure of the Principal, and Mr. Corbin does not want

1860to be in that situation. However, even though he checked on the local

1873availability of courses and found there were none to help him, he did not check

1888what courses were available at the University of Florida, and he asserts at this

1902time that if any were available he could take during the summers, he would do


191817. Ms. Edwards first learned of the certification problem when she was

1930advised by an official at the School Board that in order to teach animal science

1945for grades 9 - 12 she had to take a course at Seminole Education Center. She

1961was also told that she would be teaching "out of field", and in order to

1976continue with a Personal Services Contract "out of field" she had to take the

1990additional 6 credit hours per year. She was not aware of the implementation of

2004the 1989 rule change which requires the bachelor's degree. Had she known at any

2018time up until March, 1995 when she first learned of it, she claims she probably

2033would have worked toward a Bachelor of Science degree so she could teach in

2047veterinary technology. The requirements for this would be 120 more hours which

2059she could get only at the University of Florida. The credit hours she earned

2073working toward her Associate degree will not transfer.

208118. After Ms. Edwards received the March 13, 1995 letter, she inquired and

2094found she could not get the 6 credit hours she needed for this year before the

2110end of the school year. The advisor at the University of Florida gave her a

2125list of courses she could possibly take locally, but she was given no guarantee

2139they would be transferable toward a degree program.

214719. Ms. Edwards is currently enrolled in a 3 hour math course but does not

2162know if it will go toward certification. She contends Dr. Brown did not tell

2176her anything about teaching without a contract, but she would not agree to doing

2190that as an appointee. She feels it would be tenuous and she wants the security

2205of a contract.


221120. The Division of Administrative Hearings has jurisdiction over the

2221parties and the subject matter in this case. Section 120.57(1), Florida


223321. The Pinellas County School Board by this action seeks to cancel the

2246Respondents' professional services contracts because they no longer meet the

2256certification requirements for their program areas, which requirements were

2265changed in 1989 by the Florida Legislature. The Board has the burden of proof

2279to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that it has complied with the

2293applicable provisions of the Florida Statutes.

229922. Section 231.26(3)(a)1, Florida Statutes, requires that in order to be

2310awarded a professional services contract:

2315...the member must hold a professional

2321certificate as prescribed by s. 231.17 and

2328the rules of the State Board of Education.

233623. One of the requirements for qualification to hold a professional

2347services contract, under Chapter 231, Florida Statutes, is a bachelor's or

2358higher degree from an accredited institution of higher learning, but such degree

2370shall not be required in areas approved in rule by the State Board of Education

2385as a non-degreed area. (See Section 231.17(1)(c)3, Florida Statutes.

239424. Rule 6A-4.054, F.A.C., dealing with specialization requirements for

2403certificates in agriculture for grades 6 through 12, provides two options for

2415certification. These are:

2418(1) Plan One. A bachelor's or higher degree

2426with an undergraduate or graduate major in

2433agriculture which includes at least thirty (30)

2440semester hours in the major with credit in animal

2449science, plant science, agricultural mechanics,

2454and food and resource economics, or

2460(2) Plan Two. A bachelor's or higher degree

2468with thirty (30) semester hours in agriculture

2475to include the areas specified below:

2481(a) Three (3) semester hours in soil science.

2489(b) Three (3) semester hours in agricultural


2497(c) Three (3) semester hours in food and

2505resource economics.

2507(d) Three (3) semester hours in animal science.

2515(e) Three (3) semester hours in agronomy.

2522(f) Three (3) semester hours in ornamental


2530(g) Three (3) semester hours in entomology.

253725. Section 231.36(3)(a)3(e), Florida Statutes, makes it mandatory for a

2547school board to renew an existing professional services contract every year

2558unless it is cancelled in a proceeding affording the teacher due process. In

2571the instant cases, neither Respondent possesses even the initial bachelor's

2581degree in agriculture required by the Rule of the State Board of Education.

2594Both Respondents have some college credits within the required discipline, but

2605neither has completed all or a major portion of the requirements for a degree in

2620that area.

262226. Prior to the 1989 change in the certification rule, teachers who did

2635not possess the college credentials were permitted to teach agriculture in the

2647sixth to twelfth grades. Respondent Corbin was hired before 1989 but Respondent

2659Edwards was hired after that. Both Respondents held continuing contracts, and

2670both Respondents were renewed yearly until recently, when the situation, which

2681inadvertently had been allowed to exist improperly, was discovered. At that

2692point, each Respondent was advised of the requirements which would allow them to

2705continue to hold the continuing contracts they held. Included in this was that

2718they each earn six semester hours toward a bachelor's degree before the

2730beginning of the 1995-1996 school year.

273627. There is little doubt that it is extremely difficult to acquire the

2749required semester hours in the requisite subject matter in the

2759Hillsborough/Pinellas County area. None of the colleges in this area offers

2770appropriate courses. The required courses are available at the University of

2781Florida, but this is a substantial distance to travel, and there is no guarantee

2795that the specific courses desired will be available at a time convenient to

2808either Respondent.

281028. An alternative to termination of employment does exist and this

2821alternative was offered to each Respondent. Since the requirements of the

2832statute and rule apply only to professional services contracts, both Respondent

2843could, and would, be employed by the Board under year to year contracts. Both

2857respondents consider this an unacceptable situation, however.

286429. Respondents urge that because the requirements changed while both were

2875teaching in the Pinellas County school system, and because neither was advised

2887they were teaching in an ineligible status until March, 1995, even though the

2900Board knew of the change as early as March, 1992, the Board is now equitably

2915estopped from terminating their contracts. Both contend that had they been

2926advised of the situation when the disqualification became known to the Board,

2938they would have pursued alternative career options. Mr. Corbin, for example,

2949asserts he would have pursued a career in the law notwithstanding the fact he

2963has only 30 to 40 college credits which would go toward a bachelor's degree.

2977Ms. Edwards would still need 120 credit hours to get her bachelor's degree in

2991veterinary technology.

299330. The Respondents' reliance on equitable estoppel is not well placed.

3004Neither has shown that he or she acted in reliance of a representation made by

3019the Board to his or her detriment. Both continued to work for the Board in the

3035position they held until the fact of their lack of appropriate credentials was

3048discovered. Only Ms. Edwards even looked into the opportunity to earn the

3060required credentials, and neither took advantage of the opportunity to continue

3071their employment under an annual contract until they could earn the required


308431. Further, the Board has established that it has afforded the

3095Respondents substantial due process. It has offered them the opportunity to

3106remain employed under professional services contracts while they pursue the

3116annual six hours toward the required degree status or take year to year

3129contracts. Both refused. When, without any viable alternative available to it,

3140the Board thereafter advised Respondents their professional services contracts

3149were not to be renewed, they were offered the opportunity for formal hearing.

3162Little more can be done to afford due process.


3172Based on the foregoing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, it is,


3186RECOMMENDED THAT the Pinellas County School Board terminate the

3195professional services contracts of the Respondents, Deborah Edwards and Richard


3206RECOMMENDED this 24th day of July, 1995, in Tallahassee, Florida.


3217ARNOLD H. POLLOCK, Hearing Officer

3222Division of Administrative Hearings

3226The DeSoto Building

32291230 Apalachee Parkway

3232Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1550

3235(904) 488-9675

3237Filed with the Clerk of the

3243Division of Administrative Hearings

3247this 24th day of July, 1995.


3257The following constitutes my specific rulings pursuant to

3265Section 120.59(2), Florida Statutes, on all of the Proposed Findings of

3276Fact submitted by the parties to this case.


32871. - 16. Accepted and incorporated herein.

329417. & 18. Accepted but not relevant to any issue herein.

330519. Accepted and incorporated herein.

331020. Irrelevant to any issue herein as a Finding of Fact.


33241. - 16. Accepted and incorporated herein.


3333Keith B. Martin, Esquire

3337Pinellas County Schools

3340P.O. Box 2942

3343Largo, Florida 34649-2942

3346Robert F. McKee, Esquire

3350Marguerite Longoria Robinson, Esquire

3354Kelly & McKee, P.A.

33581718 East 7th Avenue

3362Suite 301

3364P.O. Box 75638

3367Tampa, Florida 33675-0638

3370J. Howard Hinesley, Ed.D.

3374Superintendent of Schools

3377Pinellas County

3379301 Fourth Street S.W.

3383P.O. Box 2942

3386Largo, Florida 34649-2942


3395All parties have the right to submit written exceptions to this Recommended

3407Order. All agencies allow each party at least 10 days in which to submit

3421written exceptions. Some agencies allow a larger period within which to submit

3433written exceptions. You should consult with the agency which will issue the

3445Final Order in this case concerning its rules on the deadline for filing

3458exceptions to this Recommended Order. Any exceptions to this Recommended Order

3469should be filed with the agency which will issue the Final Order in this case.

Select the PDF icon to view the document.
Date: 08/28/1995
Proceedings: Final Order filed.
Date: 08/23/1995
Proceedings: Agency Final Order
Date: 08/23/1995
Proceedings: Recommended Order
Date: 08/07/1995
Proceedings: Respondents` Exceptions to Hearing Officer`s Recommended Order filed.
Date: 07/31/1995
Proceedings: Letter to Marguerite Robinson from Keith B. Martin (cc: HEARING OFFICER) Re: Final Order(s) filed.
Date: 07/24/1995
Proceedings: Recommended Order sent out. CASE CLOSED. Hearing held 06/01/95.
Date: 06/30/1995
Proceedings: Respondent`s Proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law Together With Proposed Order filed.
Date: 06/28/1995
Proceedings: (Petitioner) Proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Supporting Memorandum w/cover letter filed.
Date: 06/15/1995
Proceedings: Transcript of Proceedings w/cover letter filed.
Date: 06/01/1995
Proceedings: CASE STATUS: Hearing Held.
Date: 06/01/1995
Proceedings: CASE STATUS: Hearing Held.
Date: 05/22/1995
Proceedings: Petitioner`s Notice of Serving Answers to Respondents` Interrogatories; Petitioner`s Response to Respondents` First Request for Production of Documents w/cover letter filed.
Date: 05/10/1995
Proceedings: Respondents` Notice of Service of Interrogatories; Respondents` First Request for Production of Documents filed.
Date: 04/17/1995
Proceedings: Notice of Hearing sent out. (hearing set for 6/1/95; 1:00pm; Clearwater)
Date: 04/17/1995
Proceedings: Order Consolidating Cases sent out. (Consolidated cases are: 95-1516& 95-1517)
Date: 04/13/1995
Proceedings: Joint Response to Initial Order filed.
Date: 04/04/1995
Proceedings: Initial Order issued.
Date: 03/29/1995
Proceedings: Agency referral letter; Request for Administrative Hearing, Letter Form; Agency Action letter filed.

Case Information

Date Filed:
Date Assignment:
Last Docket Entry:
Clearwater, Florida

Related DOAH Cases(s) (2):

Related Florida Statute(s) (1):

Related Florida Rule(s) (2):