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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: After 39 years with the Laredo Independent School District, Antonio Gutierrez was notified by letter on April 2, 1998, that his position of “Assistant Superintendent of Risk Management/Facilities Assessment” was being eliminated in favor of the position of “Director of Risk Management,” effective July 1. Gutierrez was told in the letter that his new salary would not be less than his current salary. Gutierrez was told to sign an employment contract by April 15, which he did. The contract did not set Gutierrez’s salary, but stated that it would be set according to a compensation plan adopted by the board of trustees. Gutierrez received another letter on June 12, notifying him that the annual salary for his new position was $66,587, down $33,885 from his prior salary of $100,472. Gutierrez notified the board by letter that he considered the reduction in salary to be a breach of contract and that he was resigning. The letter stated that it superseded the April letter. Gutierrez sued the school district in June 2002. LISD filed its original motion for summary judgment on Jan. 31, 2003, and filed an amended motion on March 24, just seven days before the hearing scheduled for the first motion. Among the grounds asserted by LISD was that Gutierrez was first required to exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit. The trial court granted summary judgment on all grounds in both motions. HOLDING: Affirmed; motion for rehearing denied. The court acknowledges there are three exceptions to the general requirement that school disputes be first addressed through the administrative process: 1. when the party will suffer irreparable harm; 2. where the claims are for a violation of constitutional or federal statutory rights; 3. where the cause of action involves pure questions of law and the facts are undisputed; and 4. where the Commissioner of Education lacks jurisdiction. Here, Gutierrez concedes that the commissioner has jurisdiction the district had procedures in place for resolving salary grievances but he argues that all three of the first exceptions apply to his case. Irreparable harm means that an award of damages at a later date will not adequately compensate an aggrieved party. Gutierrez will not suffer irreparable harm because he could be compensated by an award at a later date. Alternatively, Gutierrez argues that the exhaustion requirement does not apply because the board acted without authority when it changed the terms of the employment offer after the statutory deadline for renewing Gutierrez’s contract. The court agrees that under Education Code �21.206, the board has to notify a teacher 45 days in advance as to whether it will renew his contract. The court rules, though, that the 45-day period refers to decisions to renew or cancel, not to decisions on the specific terms of the contract. Gutierrez also argues that his case involves a pure question of law: the validity of the contract. He says that because there was no meeting of the minds on the salary issue, the contract was invalid. The court determines that the April and June letters did create an ambiguity, such that the intent of the parties could not be ascertained. Discerning the intent of the parties involves questions of fact, not law. On motion for rehearing, Gutierrez argues that the district failed to establish that the board had not delegated the authority to determine the terms of employment with the district to the superintendent. The court finds the record lacks any evidence of this, but if there were, the authority of the superintendent is another disputed issue of fact, not law. OPINION: L�pez, C.J.; L�pez, C.J., Angelini and Marion, JJ.

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