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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Ector County Independent School District (ECISD) employed Helen O’Neal as a teacher under a contract for a term of two years. In addition to her teaching duties, she was paid a stipend each year to perform additional duties as a coach. In March 2001, ECISD gave O’Neal notice of the decision to terminate her from her coaching duties. O’Neal filed a grievance with the principal at the school that employed her. The principal denied the grievance for being untimely filed. She appealed the principal’s decision to ECISD’s board of trustees. The board upheld the principal’s decision. O’Neal appealed the board’s decision to the commissioner of education. The commissioner held that O’Neal’s appeal should be dismissed for failure to exhaust local remedies and for mootness. O’Neal appealed the commissioner’s decision to the district court in Travis County. The district court reversed the commissioner’s decision. The district court held that the provisions of Chapter 21 of the Texas Education Code applied to O’Neal’s claims. The district court also held that her grievance was timely filed. The district court remanded the case to the commissioner of education for further proceedings consistent with the judgment of the court. Other than a proposed recommendation, the commissioner took no further action on the case since it was remanded. Before the four-year statute of limitations expired, O’Neal filed this claim in Ector County District Court. Ector County Independent School District filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting that O’Neal did not exhaust her administrative remedies; therefore, the trial court did not have jurisdiction over her claims. The trial court granted the plea, and O’Neal appealed from that judgment. O’Neal argued that the trial court erred in dismissing her suit for lack of jurisdiction and that abatement would be the proper remedy until the administrative appeal is final. O’Neal also contended that the statute of limitations on her breach of contract claim should be equitably tolled while she exhausts her administrative remedies. In the alternative, she contended that she has exhausted her administrative remedies and should be allowed to pursue the cause in the trial court. HOLDING:Affirmed. Until the commissioner issues a final ruling on the pending grievance, O’Neal has not exhausted her administrative remedies, the court held. O’Neal may not circumvent the process with an independent breach of contract action, the court stated. Consequently, the court stated, a court may not remedy O’Neal’s jurisdictional impediment until the commissioner issues a decision; thus, abatement was improper. The court also held that it lacked jurisdiction to decide whether to equitably toll the statute of limitations in favor of O’Neal. OPINION:Strange, J.; Wright, C.J., and McCall and Strange, J.J.

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