STATE OF MICHIGAN
STATE TENURE COMMISSION
v Docket No. 14-20
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE
NILES COMMUNITY SCHOOLS,
Attorneys for Appellant: Stanley F. Wruble III
Wruble & Associates
315 North Main Street
South Bend, IN 46601
Attorney for Appellee: Martha J. Marcero
Thrun Law Firm, P.C.
2900 West Road, Suite 400
East Lansing, MI 48826
DECISION AND ORDER ON EXCEPTIONS
On May 28, 2014, appellant Amy Scott filed a claim of appeal concerning the May 5, 2014 decision of appellee Board of Education of the Niles Community Schools to discharge her. Appellee filed an answer to the claim of appeal on June 6, 2014. On July 11, 2014, appellee filed a motion for summary disposition, arguing that appellant had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Mich Admin Code, R 38.155(1)(a). Appellant did not file a written response to the motion. On July 29, 2014, Administrative Law Judge James R. Ward (ALJ) issued an order granting “partial summary disposition” for appellee, finding that the State Tenure Commission did not have the authority to award the specific relief requested in the claim of appeal.
There was a hearing on the claim of appeal on August 11 and August 12, 2014. On December 29, 2014, the ALJ issued a preliminary decision and order (PDO) finding that appellee’s decision to discharge appellant was arbitrary and capricious. The request to discharge appellant was therefore denied and appellee was ordered to reinstate appellant and to pay her lost salary subject to a determination thereof pursuant to Shiffer v Board of Education of the Gibraltar School District, 393 Mich 190 (1974).
Appellee filed exceptions to the PDO and a supporting brief on January 20, 2015. Appellant filed a statement in support of the PDO on January 30, 2015.
We begin our discussion with consideration of appellee’s final exception, which challenges the ALJ’s failure to grant appellee’s motion for summary disposition for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Mich Admin Code, R 38.155(1)(a).
The statement of relief in the claim of appeal filed by appellant on May 28, 2014, was as follows.
Since it may be difficult if not impossible to return to her
former workplace due to the defamatory statements
made by [Niles Community Schools] and its arbitrary and
capricious actions in moving for her dismissal, Scott
demands that she be given two additional years salary, a
positive letter of recommendation from [Niles Community
Schools] admitting fault in its investigation, compensation
for her attorneys fees, costs, applicable interest, and any
other just and proper relief.
Granting partial summary disposition to appellee on July 29, 2014, the ALJ ruled that this Commission has no jurisdiction to award two years’ salary, attorney’s fees, or costs or to order appellee to provide appellant with a positive letter of recommendation. The ALJ nonetheless allowed the matter to proceed to hearing.
In tenure appeals under article IV of the Teachers’ Tenure Act, the ALJ’s authority is limited to granting, denying, or modifying a discharge or demotion decision, and this Commission’s authority is limited to adopting, modifying, or reversing the PDO of the ALJ. MCL 38.104(5)(i) and (m). Here, the ALJ denied the discharge decision and ordered that appellant be reinstated. Although the authority to grant such relief is conferred on the ALJ by the Teachers’ Tenure Act, it was not requested by appellant in her claim of appeal. On the contrary, the only reasonable interpretation of her request for relief is that she was not requesting reinstatement.
The administrative rules of this Commission have the force and effect of law. Turner v Grand Blanc Community Schools Board of Education (13-10). Rule 13 of the Teacher Tenure General Rules, Mich Admin Code, R 38.143, requires that a claim of appeal substantially comply with the form set forth in the rules, including a statement of relief that sets forth clearly and concisely the demands for relief to which the appellant claims entitlement. Teacher Tenure General Rule 25(1)(a), Mich Admin Code, R 38.155(1)(a), provides for the entry of summary disposition when an appellant does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Only the pleadings may be considered when a motion for summary disposition is based on Rule 25(1)(a). Mich Admin Code, R 38.155(2).
Rule 13 is similar to Michigan Court Rule (MCR) 2.111(B)(2) (complaint must contain a demand for judgment for the relief the plaintiff seeks). Also similar to a general court rule is Rule 25(1)(a). See MCR 2.116(C)(8) (summary disposition for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted). In interpreting its administrative rules, this Commission looks to decisions addressing the general court rules. Berlin v Board of Education of the Oak Park School District (90-30) (Decision and order, appellee’s motion for accelerated/summary judgment, March 15, 1991).
Both MCR 2.111(B)(2) and MCR 2.116(C)(8) were discussed by the Court of Appeals in its unpublished decision in Lear Corporation v Butzel Long, PC (Docket No. 258669, issued May 18, 2006). Although the Lear Corporation decision is not precedentially binding under the rule of stare decisis (MCR 7.215(C)(1)), it is instructive and persuasive for our present purposes. See Fryxell v Livonia Public Schools (09-48) (n 5) (Commission adopted as its own the persuasive reasoning contained in a decision that was not precedential).
In Lear Corporation, the plaintiff corporation sought an injunction in circuit court against the defendant law firm’s representation of another corporation. The Court of Appeals found that the plaintiff was asking the circuit court to enforce a Michigan Rule of Professional Conduct (MRPC). Finding that the defendant was entitled to summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8), the Court of Appeals stated as follows.
MRPC 1.0(b) precludes plaintiff from requesting the
circuit court to impose injunctive relief to force
defendants to comply with the MRPC. Moreover, in order
to state a proper claim, a plaintiff must state “[a]
demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks.”
MCR 2.111(B)(2). Because plaintiff only sought
injunctive relief, and it cannot request injunctive relief
from the circuit court to enforce [sic] a violation of the
MRPC, plaintiff failed to state a proper claim for relief.
Accordingly, the circuit court should have dismissed
plaintiff’s complaint under MCR 2.116(C)(8).
See also the unpublished decision of the Court of Appeals in Beatty v Detroit Police Department (Docket No. 179309, issued August 9, 1996), where the Court found that summary disposition was properly entered for the defendant in the plaintiff’s suit for damages under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. MCL 15.240. In that case, the Court ruled that “[a]ny claim plaintiff may have made for compensatory damages was waived by his failure to specifically include such damages in his complaint’s request for relief. MCR 2.111(B)(2).”
We find persuasive the reasoning of the Court of Appeals in the Lear Corporation and Beatty decisions. This Commission’s authority is limited to the exercise of powers granted to it by the Legislature. Bush v Board of Education of the Zeeland Public Schools (93-35) (Decision and order, appellee’s motion for summary/accelerated judgment, March 25, 1994). We are vested only with such powers as are necessary to carry out and enforce the provisions of the Teachers’ Tenure Act. MCL 38.137. Our authority does not include the power to award monetary damages for general costs and attorney’s fees. Hogan v Traverse City Board of Education (87-16) (Decision and order, appellee’s motion for accelerated judgment, March 11, 1988); Gayed v Detroit Public Schools (09-34); Flower v Lake Orion Community Schools (96-13). The ALJ thus properly dismissed appellant’s request for such relief. In addition, the Legislature did not confer on this Commission the authority to order equitable relief. Board of Education of Benton Harbor Area Schools v Wolff, 139 Mich App 148, 156-157 (1984). In Wolff, for example, the Court of Appeals found error in this Commission’s award of equitable relief in the form of ordering the controlling board to take affirmative steps to offer specialized training to the involved teacher. Similarly, the ALJ properly ruled in this case that this Commission has no authority to order appellee to provide appellant with a positive letter of recommendation and admit fault in the investigation that led to the filing of the tenure charges. We also find, under the facts of this case, that appellant’s failure to specifically claim entitlement to reinstatement in her claim of appeal constituted a waiver of any claim for such relief.
When summary disposition is sought based on Rule 25(1)(a), parties are entitled to an opportunity to amend their pleadings unless amendment would not be justified. Mich Admin Code, R 38.155(4). In this case, however, appellant filed no motion to amend her claim of appeal.
For these reasons, we find that the ALJ erred in failing to grant summary disposition to appellee and dismiss the claim of appeal. The ALJ’s consideration of the motion for summary disposition was limited to the pleadings that had been filed at that time. Mich Admin Code, R 38.155(2). When the ALJ ruled on the motion, appellant had not requested relief that was within the authority of the ALJ and this Commission to grant. Appellant thus failed to state a proper claim for relief and appellee was entitled to summary disposition in its favor pursuant to Rule 25(1)(a). For this reason, we grant appellee’s final exception.
Our resolution of appellee’s final exception renders it unnecessary to address its remaining exceptions.
For the foregoing reasons and based on the record, we order the following.
Appellee’s final exception is granted.
Summary disposition is entered for appellee and the claim of appeal is dismissed.
David Campbell, Chairperson
Nancy Danhof, Secretary
Patrick McKennon, Member
R. Stephen Olsen, Member
Absent: Karen K. Leslie, Member
March 4, 2015
 As noted, nor did appellant file a written response to the motion for summary disposition.
 Our resolution of this exception would be the same even if such resolution could be based on review of the entire hearing record.
When the charges were filed, appellant was the district’s director of instruction and assessment, and her annual salary was $73,000. (Exhibit R-1). In her October 3, 2014 post-hearing brief (pp 20-21), she requested “reassignment as a visiting teacher (excluding those limited number of schools where there is an apparent lack of respect factor) at [her] salary of $73,000 per year.” According to appellant, that remedy would “address any remaining issues in this case.”
The Teachers’ Tenure Act does not require a school district to create a particular position for a tenured teacher. Further, it is well settled that this Commission has no authority to order that a teacher be reinstated to a particular position. See Scott v Board of Education of Lansing School District (02-4) (Teachers’ Tenure Act does not create a right to any particular work assignment; a district can assign a tenured teacher to any position for which the teacher is certified); Biondo v Grosse Pointe Public Schools (09-23) (Teachers’ Tenure Act creates no right to a particular position). See also Bush, supra (Commission has no authority to order a teacher’s transfer). In addition, the Teachers’ Tenure Act expressly provides that, if a tenured teacher is employed other than as a classroom teacher and his or her contract of employment in that other position ends, “[T]he salary in the position to which the teacher is assigned shall be the same as if the teacher had been continuously employed as an active classroom teacher.” MCL 38.91(7). Thus, even if appellant’s post-hearing request could be considered, it is clear that she did not request relief that was within this Commission’s authority.