The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld a Wright County district court ruling that an elementary principal could not be fired in the middle of her contract even though the school district suffered budget problems.
Cynthia Martinek agreed to a two-year contract as an elementary principal with the Belmond-Klemme School District in July of 2005. The contract had a provision that Martinek could be fired or demoted for "good and just" causes.
In May of 2006,the school district served Martinek with a notice it was considering terminating her effective at the end of the current school year, listing four reasons — declining enrollment; budget restrictions; reduction of positions; and realignment of school organization. The district said it had to cut $500,000 due to rapidly declining enrollment.
The Wright County district court noted that had the termination decision occurred at the end of the contract term, there is no question the dismissal would have been legitimate. However, it determined that because the contract was being terminated mid-term, the school district had to prove the termination was related to her job performance.
The Iowa Supreme Court upheld that ruling, saying there was no allegation of Martinek’s professional shortfalls. The High Court says it recognizes that a school board is an elective body free to exercise its own discretion in deciding which positions to terminate. However, because the termination was based on budgetary concerns is not supportable under the Iowa Code.