Coughlin has 10 days to appeal Staples-Motley decision for termination | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Coughlin has 10 days to appeal Staples-Motley decision for termination

Posted: March 14, 2012 - 8:17pm

Kevin Coughlin has a window to appeal the Staples-Motley School District’s decision to terminate his position within the district.

Coughlin was placed on paid administrative leave on Feb. 6. Mark Schmitz, school superintendent, said the district placed Coughlin on the leave after receiving a complaint on Feb. 3.

While Schmitz said he couldn’t reveal information about reasons for the leave at this time, the incident or allegation leading to the complaint was of a substantial enough nature to set an investigation in motion. Coughlin was place on leave until the investigation was completed. Schmitz said the district hired an outside legal firm to do the investigation. In December, the school board conducted a closed session to go through the investigation’s findings. Monday’s closed session preceded the board’s discussion to propose the termination.

Schmitz said Coughlin has 10 days to appeal and ask for arbitration after receiving a certified letter from the school district. There was a previous closed session meeting about Coughlin for a separate incident in December. Schmitz said he couldn’t go into details about that incident because the teacher’s contract in place has an open-ended time line for the grievance process. While Coughlin hasn’t filed a grievance or an appeal for the December incident, Schmitz said he could do so. In union negotiations, Schmitz said they have a tentative agreement for a 30-day window for a grievance.

Schmitz said no other teachers are on paid administrative leave.

While Schmitz declined to characterize the nature of the complaint against Coughlin, he said the school district takes all complaints seriously. Since the complaint led to an investigation, which led to a proposed termination, Schmitz said it is a logical conclusion that the complaint had merit. The school district has its own policy standards and code of ethics for employees.

Coughlin, a Staples-Motley High School social studies teacher and tennis coach, has been employed with the district since the early 1990s. If there isn’t an appeal, the termination would go into effect at the end of the 10 days.

Schmitz said the district wants its decisions to be clear to residents but has to wait until the time for any legal challenges has passed. Schmitz said they are consulting with legal resources to make what they are releasing is allowed by law. Schmitz said he’s been in administration since 1999 and has been the Staples-Motley district superintendent for seven years.

“This is the first time, ever, we’ve had to go through this,” Schmitz said.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz.