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Michael Neily v. Manhattan Beach Unified School District

January 27, 2011

MICHAEL NEILY, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
MANHATTAN BEACH UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, David P. Yaffe, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BS122074)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bigelow, P. J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Affirmed.

A former school district employee filed a petition for writ of traditional mandate (Code Civ. Proc., § 1085) to compel the district to reinstate him as a high school baseball coach. The primary issue in this case is whether the district had a mandatory duty under the Education Code to classify the petitioner as a "probationary" employee and not, as it did, as a "temporary" employee. The issue interests the parties because a "probationary" employee is afforded more employment protections under the Code than is a "temporary" employee. The trial court ruled that the district had properly classified the petitioner as a temporary employee, and denied his petition. We affirm.

FACTS

In January 2002, the Manhattan Beach Unified School District (the District) hired Michael Neily, a "certificated" teacher, as the varsity baseball coach at Mira Costa High School (MCHS). Beginning in January 2003, the District employed Neily as a full-time teacher in addition to his duties as MCHS's baseball coach. In June 2004, the District relieved Neily of his duties as a full-time teacher, but continued his employment as the baseball coach at MCHS. On June 15, 2009, MCHS's principal, Julie Ruisinger, advised Neily "of an intent to terminate his services" as the school's baseball coach.

On June 17 and 19, 2009, Neily submitted letters to the District indicating that the correspondences should be considered the initiation of a "grievance" against the District. On June 22, 2009, the District's deputy superintendent in charge of human resources, Janet Schwabe, informed Neily by letter that he was not permitted to file a grievance because he was not a member of the Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association. In the same letter, the District further stated that Neily had been employed as a " 'walk on coach,' " and as such, the District considered him to have been a " 'temporary athletic team coach' " within the meaning of California Code of Regulations, title 5, section 5590, subdivision (a). The District advised Neily that "[t]emporary employees -- including coaches" were employed by the District on a "year-to-year basis," and that they "serve[d] at the will of the principal and district." The District's letter closed by advising Neily that his "services to serve [sic] as the Mira Costa High School varsity boys baseball coach [were] not required for the 2009-2010 school year."

On August 10, 2009, Neily filed a verified petition for writ of traditional mandate. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1085.) Neily's petition alleged that the District had unlawfully classified him as a temporary employee, and that the District had a mandatory duty under the Education Code to classify him as either a probationary or substitute employee. Neily further alleged that, regardless of classification, the school year ended on June 18, 2009, and that the District did not notify him of termination until after June 18, 2009, meaning the notice of termination had been untimely under the Education Code.

On August 11, 2009, Neily filed a motion for judgment on his petition. Neily's evidence in support of his claims consisted entirely of his references to his own verified petition and the supporting exhibits attached to his petition, which established the facts summarized above. On September 8, 2009, the District filed its opposition to Neily's petition and motion. The District's evidence in opposition to Neily's petition consisted of a declaration from Deputy Superintendent Schwabe. Putting aside her statements of law and legal conclusions, Schwabe's declaration otherwise established the following facts: "Neily was released from his position as a full-time certificated employee of the District in June 2004. Thereafter, he became a . . . baseball coach only. . . . [¶] . . . [¶] Between June 2004 and June 2009, . . . Neily served as a . . . baseball coach only."*fn1

At trial on September 22, 2009, the trial court denied Neily's petition, ruling that a baseball coach is classified as a temporary employee under Education Code section 44919, subdivision (b), and that, as a temporary employee, Neily could be given notice of termination "at any time before the end of the school year." (Citing Kavanaugh v. West Sonoma County Union High School Dist. (2003) 29 Cal.4th 911, 918 (Kavanaugh).) The court then cited Education Code section 37200, which provides that the school year ends on the last day of June. It noted that Neily admitted he had been given notice of termination prior to June 30, 2009, all of which meant that notice of termination was timely.

On October 23, 2009, the trial court entered judgment denying Neily's petition for writ of traditional mandate.

Neily filed a timely notice of appeal.

DISCUSSION

I. Probationary or Temporary ...


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