(From left) Martha Owen and Shelley Potter wait at the elevator to go to the fourth floor.
(From left) Martha Owen, San Antonio Alliance attorney, and Shelley Potter, San Antonio Alliance president, wait at an elevator in June 2018 before requesting a temporary injunction against SAISD over Democracy Prep at Steward Elementary. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The 4th Court of Appeals on Wednesday dismissed a San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel lawsuit against San Antonio Independent School District over the district’s agreement with Democracy Prep at Stewart Elementary.

Last May, members of the Alliance filed the lawsuit against Superintendent Martinez and district trustees in their official capacity to try to stop the agreement with Democracy Prep. The lawsuit sought a temporary injunction against the “takeover” of Stewart Elementary School, according to a press release from the Texas State Teachers Association.

The Alliance’s lawsuit alleged that SAISD violated State law by entering into a contract with Democracy Prep “without consulting with the campus staff about the provisions of the contract.”

In June, Bexar County District Judge Karen Pozza denied the Alliance’s request for a temporary injunction and denied a motion by SAISD and Democracy Prep to dismiss the suit.

Democracy Prep began operating at Stewart on July 1 and is set to complete a full school year as the academic calendar winds to a close. Still, the lawsuit continued to the 4th Court of Appeals.

On Wednesday, the 4th Court of Appeals dismissed the underlying lawsuit after deciding that Superintendent Martinez and trustees did not violate a part of the Education Code on which the Alliance based their argument.

District trustees and the superintendent argued the consultation would only be required if the contract was between a school district and an open-enrollment charter school, which Democracy Prep is not.

“In resolving this dispute, we are bound by the plain language of the governing statutes,” Justice Beth Watkins writes in the 4th Court opinion.

SAISD spokesperson Leslie Price told the Rivard Report in an email that the district was “pleased that the Court of Appeals confirmed that the Board’s action in entering into an agreement with Democracy Prep at the Stewart campus was proper and legal. The district was confident that it followed the law.”

Alliance President Shelley Potter said she was disappointed by the dismissal and felt that, although the court said SAISD wasn’t obligated to consult with staff, that was not the spirit of the law.

“While the court accepted the district’s argument that it didn’t have to consult with staff, we still disagree with the district’s approach and their tactics in the situation because we don’t think it serves the parents, or the students, or the teachers well,” Potter said.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.