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Dr. Ronald J. Wynn v. Board of Education of School District No. 159

May 17, 2011

DR. RONALD J. WYNN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 159, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On July 26, 2010, plaintiff Dr. Ronald J. Wynn ("Dr. Wynn") filed a complaint against defendant Board of Education of School District 159 ("Board") asserting claims for a declaratory judgment that the employment agreement between Dr. Wynn and the Board is valid and enforceable (Count I); breach of express contract (Count II); breach of implied-in-fact contract (Count III); violation of due process pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count IV); and violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act, 5 ILCS 120/2.02(a) (Count V). Currently before the court is the Board's "Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint" (Dkt. No. 23). For the reasons explained below, the Board's Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The following are the relevant facts of this case viewing the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to Dr. Wynn. See Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011).

The Board is the elected governing body of Elementary School District 159 ("District"), which is located in Matteson, Cook County, Illinois. (Compl. ¶ 3.) In or around March 2008, the Board voted to hire Dr. Wynn as the Superintendent for the District (id. ¶ 17), and in April 2008, Dr. Wynn and the Board entered into an employment contract ("Contract") for a period of three years, commencing July 1, 2008, and terminating July 30, 2011 (id. ¶ 8).

Paragraph 10 of the Contract addresses Dr. Wynn's performance goals: This Contract is a performance-based contract. Student performance and academic improvement goals shall be established by the mutual agreement of the Superintendent and the Board, and shall be as approved and determined by the Board, by July 1, of every year of this contract, with the exception of this first contract year, for the 2008-2009 contract year, the Superintendent and Board shall establish goals no later than October 1, 2008. Said goals, once approved and determined by the Board, shall be incorporated into and made a part of this Contract. The Superintendent shall meet all of said goals during such time period as the Superintendent and the Board may agree. All of said goals shall be linked to student performance and academic improvement within the School District. The foregoing goals shall be used by the Board to measure the performance and effectiveness of the Superintendent, along with such other information as the Board may determine. This Agreement may not be extended unless all then-applicable goals have been attained. (Contract ¶ 10 (attached asEx. A to Compl.) (emphasis added).)

Dr. Wynn scheduled three meetings with the Board to develop his performance goals. (Compl.¶ 26.) Those meetings were held in August, October, and December 2009. (Id.) The Board eventually approved the goals for Dr. Wynn on or about January 13, 2010. (Id. ¶ 27.) At the same time the Board approved Dr. Wynn's goals, the Board adopted a "Resolution Authoring Issuance of Notice of Intent Not to Renew Superintendent's Contract," which addressed Dr. Wynn's Contract with the Board. (Id. ¶ 28; see also id. at Ex. B.) Then, on or about January 28, 2010, Dr. Wynn submitted to the Board a notice of his request for an annual performance evaluation and his annual and long-term goals and objectives. (Id. ¶ 29; see also id. at Ex. C.)

On or about January 27, 2010, Dr. Wynn received a letter from the Board's counsel stating:

Pursuant to action of the Board of Education of Elementary School District No. 159, Cook County, Illinois and the Superintendent's Contract ("Contract") governing your employment by the Board, this is to notify you that, to the extent that you have attained all applicable performance goals, it is the intent of the Board not to renew the Contract for either the 2010-11 contract year or the 2011-12 contract year. (Compl. ¶ 30; id. at Ex. D.) Dr. Wynn then proceeded to perform the second year of his employment with no formal action by the Board to extend the term of the Contract. (Id. ¶ 31.)

On January 29, 2010, Dr. Wynn requested a meeting with the Board to discuss the Board's decision not to renew the Contract for either the 2010-2011 or the 2011-2012 contract years (id. ¶ 32), and he appeared before the Board on February 25, 2010 (id. ¶ 33). During that meeting, Dr. Wynn and his counsel addressed both the Board's claim that Dr. Wynn did not have a valid multi-year Contract and the Board's assertion that it could terminate Dr. Wynn's Contract at the end of the 2009-2010 Contract year. (Id. ¶ 33.) Dr. Wynn additionally expressed to the Board his ability and willingness to perform his duties under the Contract (id.), and the Board did not raise any performance deficiencies with Dr. Wynn (id.).

In a letter dated March 5, 2010, the Board's counsel provided Dr. Wynn with a list of "Causes for Dismissal if Not Remedied" and a list of "Directives to Remedy." (Id. ¶ 34; see also id. at Ex. F.) Then, on or around March 18, 2010, the Board voted to suspend Dr. Wynn indefinitely (id. ¶ 35); the Agenda for the Board's March 18, 2010 meeting did not list Dr. Wynn's employment as an agenda item (id.). The Board scheduled a dismissal hearing for April 19, 2010, but later rescheduled the hearing for April 28, 2010. (Id. ¶¶ 37, 39.)

On or around March 24, 2010, the Board approved a "Written Notice of Charges for the Dismissal of Dr. Ronald J. Wynn as Superintendent of Schools for Elementary School District Number 159," which stated, inter alia, that "by his conduct, Dr. Wynn has violated the terms and conditions of his employment contract thereby providing good and just cause for his dismissal." (Id. ¶ 36; id. at Ex. G.)

In a letter dated April 1, 2010, Dr. Wynn received a copy of a "Bill of Particulars for the Dismissal of Dr. Ronald J. Wynn as Superintendent of Schools for Elementary School District Number 159" from the Board's counsel. (Id. ¶ 38; id. at Ex. H.) On or around April 26, 2010, the Board continued the dismissal hearing of Dr. Wynn indefinitely. (Id. ¶ 40.) Then, in a letter dated April 29, 2010, counsel for the Board notified Dr. Wynn's counsel that the Board had rescinded Dr. Wynn's suspension and was "requiring him to return to work on Monday, May 3, 2010." (Id. ¶ 41; id. at Ex. I.) According to the letter, Dr. Wynn would be returning to work "in an administrative capacity"--not as the Superintendent--but he would continue receiving the same salary and benefits under his Contract. (Id. ¶ 41; id. at Ex. I.)

During a June 9, 2010 meeting, the Board voted to non-renew Dr. Wynn's Contract for the 2010-2011 school year (id. ¶¶ 45-47), and the Board's counsel informed Dr. Wynn's counsel of that decision in a letter dated June 11, 2010 (id. ¶ 46; id. at Ex. K). Before the June 9, 2010 vote, Dr. Wynn was not notified that the Board would be taking such an action with respect to his employment at the June 9, 2010 meeting. (Id. ¶ 47.) Nor was Dr. Wynn's employment an agenda item for the June 9, 2010 meeting. (Id.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While "detailed factual allegations" are not required, "labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must "include sufficient facts 'to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. College Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Justice v. Town of Cicero, 577 F.3d 768, 771 (7th Cir. 2009)). In ...


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