- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - A months-long battle between the state Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas showed no signs of abating Friday as the board voted to have its executive director fill two vacant staff positions over the strong opposition of the schools chief.

The board has been engaged in a prolonged battle with Douglas over its independence.

Douglas contends she’s in charge of board staff, but a judge refused to intervene last month and said the board oversees its staff. Douglas plans to appeal that ruling.

Douglas last month refused to recommend potential candidates to fill the two positions, a duty she’s given by law. Board members pushed ahead amid concerns that its mission to investigate teachers who may not belong in the classroom was being compromised.

“I’m very concerned about the fact that we’re not keeping up with teachers who really ought not to be in the classroom,” board vice president Reginald Ballantyne said as he brought the matter up for a vote. “I’m making this motion so there’s absolute clarity regarding the scope of Ms. Thompson’s authority as the executive director of the state Board of Education. We’ve just kind of (got to) get on with things.”

The vote was 7-1 to order executive Christine Thompson to move ahead with the hiring of an investigator aide and a new deputy director. Douglas, a board member by virtue of her elected post, opposed the move.

Speaking of herself in the third person, Douglas said she might consider recommending new hires but would not allow that duty to be delegated to the board’s employees.

“Certainly the department superintendent was willing to begin … and open the process to properly advertise for the positions,” Douglas said. “But for that authority to be delegated by this board away from the superintendent is not a legal action - and I do not believe can even be a legal motion to be presented to this board.”

Board President Greg Miller said that was not the case.

“Both our legal counsel and also the current Superior Court position is that we have every bit of the responsibility to move forward this way,” he said.

That brought even more objections from Douglas and a quick rebuttal from Miller.

“I oppose, I oppose again for the record, this is not a legal and lawful action under the statutes of Arizona,” Douglas said.

“That’s your interpretation, not currently the court’s,” Miller said.

The dispute between Douglas and the board has been brewing since February, when Douglas fired Thompson and her then-deputy in moves that were blocked by Gov. Doug Ducey. Both Douglas and Ducey are Republicans who took office in January.

The board voted in April to move its staff to offices outside Douglas’ Department of Education building. That prompted Douglas to sue and seek to make board staff members return to the Department of Education building or be fired.


Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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