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Tab-N-Action, Inc. v. Monroe City School Board

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 23, 2018

TAB-N-ACTION, INC., DBA EXCELLENCE ACADEMY Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
MONROE CITY SCHOOL BOARD Defendant-Appellee

          Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 20171802 Honorable B. Scott Leehy, Judge

          OFFICE OF ANTHONY J. BRUSCATO By: Anthony J. Bruscato Counsel for Appellant

          ROUNTREE LAW OFFICES By: James A. Rountree EDDIE M. CLARK & ASSOCIATES, L.L.C. By: Eddie M. Clark THE LAWRENCE LAW FIRM, L.L.C. By: L. Douglas Lawrence HAMMONDS, SILLS, ADKINS & GUICE By: Jon K. Guice Justin N. Myers Tyrell T. Manieri, III Counsel for Appellee

          Before STONE, STEPHENS, and MCCALLUM, JJ.

          STEPHENS, J.

         Tab-N-Action, Inc. d/b/a Excellence Academy appeals the judgment of the Fourth Judicial District, Parish of Ouachita, State of Louisiana, in favor of the Monroe City School Board. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         FACTS

         Tab-N-Action, Inc. d/b/a Excellence Academy ("Excellence Academy") is a Louisiana nonprofit corporation with its purpose to operate a type 1 charter school in the city of Monroe, Louisiana. Type 1 charter schools, like Excellence Academy, are authorized by a local school board, in this case Monroe City School Board ("MCSB" or "school board"). The MCSB and Excellence Academy entered into the charter school operating agreement effective July 1, 2013, and Excellence Academy began operation in the 2013-14 school year, serving grades six through eight.

         Louisiana's charter school statutes, La. R.S. 17:3992(A)(1) and La. R.S. 17:3998(B), dictate the procedure for extending, renewing, or revoking a school's charter, and it was under that statutory mandate the MCSB approached Excellence Academy's charter extension. Due to delays in reporting by the Louisiana Department of Education, the MCSB's ability to perform its evaluation was delayed into the 2016-17 school year- Excellence Academy's fourth year of operation. The MCSB sought proposals from independent, third-party companies to perform the extension evaluation, and the consulting firm TenSquare LLC ("TenSquare") was chosen to conduct the review.

         TenSquare performed an extension review and in April 2017 submitted a report to the MCSB recommending that Excellence Academy's charter not be extended for a fifth year based on unsatisfactory findings in the financial and organizational areas. Thus, at the April 11, 2017, open meeting, the MCSB voted against the extension of the school's charter in a 5-2 vote. Effectively, there would be no 2017-18 school year for Excellence Academy.

         Excellence Academy filed suit in federal court, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, which was granted in part and denied in part. The federal court ordered the MCSB to refrain from taking further action in the revocation of the charter until Excellence Academy was allowed adequate opportunity to contest the TenSquare report. The federal court ordered a hearing be held for this purpose no later than June 7, 2017. The hearing was held by the MCSB on June 6, 2017, and again the board voted on whether to extend the school's charter for a fifth year. The vote not to extend the school's charter was 4-1-1.

         Excellence Academy then filed a mandamus lawsuit in the Fourth Judicial District Court, alleging that the MCSB had a duty to extend the charter but disregarded that duty when it relied on TenSquare's report. Further, Excellence Academy argued that the school board was required to give Excellence Academy notice of nonrenewal prior to January 31, 2017, which the MCSB did not do. It sought the issuance of a writ of mandamus ordering the MCSB to extend the school's charter for a fifth year. In response, the MCSB filed various exceptions, which it requested be considered prior to the merits of Excellence Academy's petition.

          At the July 27, 2017, hearing on the matter, the trial court sustained the MCSB's (1) exception of improper cumulation of actions, dismissing Excellence Academy's claim for damages without prejudice; and, (2) exception of no cause of action for mandamus, dismissing the petition with prejudice. However, the trial court did allow Excellence Academy's amendment to its petition asserting a claim for specific performance by ordinary proceeding. Thus, Excellence Academy immediately amended its petition, filing a second supplemental and amended petition, making essentially the same claims as in the petition for mandamus. At the same hearing, Excellence Academy called several witnesses in support of continuing the school's charter. Court was recessed and reconvened on July 31, when additional witnesses were called on the school's behalf.

         At the conclusion of Excellence Academy's case, the MCSB filed its motion for involuntary dismissal, which the trial court took under advisement. Ultimately, the trial court granted the motion finding that the MCSB acted within its discretion and fulfilled its obligation under the charter contract and Excellence Academy failed to establish its claims. A final ...


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