Texas Supreme Court affirms reassignment of WOS principal

By The SE Texas Record | Jan 27, 2010

AUSTIN � The Supreme Court of Texas won't disturb a decision of West Orange-Cove Consolidated School District Superintendent Taylor Collins to transfer middle school principal Dale Dardeau to an elementary school.

On Jan. 8, the justices denied Dardeau's petition to review district court and appellate court decisions upholding the transfer.

Dardeau alleged violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act, claiming Collins retaliated for a telephone call he made to the Texas Education Agency.

School board members have maintained that Collins removed Dardeau from West Orange-Stark Middle School due to unacceptable academic results.

Collins started as superintendent in 2005. He learned that two previous superintendents had placed Dardeau on growth plans after he exhibited racial insensitivity, according to court documents.

When the Texas Education Agency declared test scores and attendance at West Orange-Stark unacceptable, Collins promised improvements.

He wrote to the Beaumont Enterprise, "The great moral tragedy is that of the 135 African American students who took the test, only 18 percent, or 24 students, passed it."

He wrote that he would provide leadership to achieve justice.

Throughout that summer Collins and school board president Harry Barclay discussed placement options for Dardeau.

Collins and human resources director Margaret DuChamp agreed to assign Dardeau as assistant principal at Anderson Elementary School.

The next day, Dardeau phoned the Texas Education Agency and said he believed 38 fifth graders at West Orange-Stark were socially promoted to sixth grade.

The day after that, Collins reassigned Dardeau as assistant principal of Anderson Elementary.

Dardeau tendered a medical excuse and didn't work the 2005-06 school year, though he drew his full salary.

He sued the school board, and returned for 2006-07 as assistant principal at Anderson.

The school board answered his suit with a summary judgment motion, and Orange County District Judge Buddie Hahn granted it.

The board chose not to renew his contract for 2007-08, and he retired.

Dardeau appealed Hahn's decision, and the Ninth District affirmed Hahn last July.

"While Collins may have been aware of Dardeau's phone call to the TEA on the morning of Aug. 3, 2005, there is nothing in the record to suggest that phone call was significant to Collins or played any part in his decision," Justice Charles Kreger wrote.

"The evidence in the summary judgment record conclusively establishes that Collins began contemplating Dardeau's reassignment when he received the preliminary scores in May 2005 and contemplated that decision for several months," he wrote.

Chief Justice Steve McKeithen and Justice Hollis Horton agreed.

Betsy Bender represented Collins and the school board. Larry Watts and Joe Alford represented Dardeau.

Texas Supreme Court Case No. 09‑0780

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