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I. Facts & Background The facts of this case are undisputed. Owensby is a former full-time teacherfor the BOE and previously taught Math to grades 5-12 in the Mercer County school system. As a result of a reduction in force, in 1995 Owensby was placed on the preferred recall listpursuant to W.Va. Code, 18A-2-2 [1990]. [FOOTNOTE 1] On August 22, 1996, the BOE posted a position for a full-time itinerant mathteacher. The position required a teaching certificate with an endorsement in mathematics,grades 7-12, 9-12 or 5-12. Owensby, who met these qualifications, applied for the position. She was the most senior employee on the preferred recall list. Thirteen people applied forthe position, with at least one applicant who was a regular full-time teacher employed by theBOE. The other applicants included several teachers from the preferred recall list, and atleast one applicant who was neither a present nor a past employee of the BOE. The BOE assessed all of the applicants by applying the second set of criteriaset forth in W.Va. Code, 18A-4-7a [1993]. [FOOTNOTE 2] The BOE concluded that an applicant — one whohad never been employed by the BOE as a full-time teacher — was the most qualifiedcandidate. Owensby filed a grievance pursuant to W.Va. Code, 18-29-1 et seq., contendingthat as a qualified candidate on the preferred recall list, she had preference over anonemployee. The grievance was denied at Levels I through III, but was granted at LevelIV by the administrative law judge of the Grievance Board. The BOE appealed the decisionof the ALJ to the Circuit Court of Mercer County. On September 24, 1998, the circuit courtjudge reversed the ALJ’s decision. Owensby then appealed to this Court. III. Discussion On appeal, Owensby asks us to reverse the decision of the circuit court, and togrant her the contested position. We have previously held that “[w]here the issue on appealfrom the circuit court is clearly a question of law or involving an interpretation of a statute,we apply a de novo standard of review.” Syllabus Point 1, Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie A.L., 194W.Va. 138, 459 S.E.2d 415 (1995). This case requires us to consider two statutory sections, both relating to theemployment of teachers. The BOE contends that when a teaching position is to be filled, andpermanent employees, former employees on the preferred recall list, and nonemployees applyfor the position, the BOE need only apply the hiring criteria set forth in the first paragraphof W.Va. Code, 18A-4-7a [1993]. [FOOTNOTE 3] Conversely, Owensby asserts that W.Va. Code, 18A-4-7a [1993] must be readin conjunction with 18A-2-2 [1990], giving a teacher on the preferred recall list preferenceover a nonemployee. Both W.Va. Code, 18A-4-7a [1993] and 18A-2-2 [1990] relate to theemployment of teachers. [FOOTNOTE 4] We have stated that “[s]tatutes which relate to the same subjectmatter should be read and applied together so that the Legislature’s intention can be gatheredfrom the whole of the enactments.” Syllabus Point 3, Smith v. State Workmen’sCompensation Comm’r, 159 W.Va. 108, 219 S.E.2d 361 (1975). The BOE does not deny that both statutes must be read together. Rather, theBOE contends that because W.Va. Code, 18A-4-7a [1993] was enacted after W.Va. Code, 18-2-2 [1990], deference should be given to the most recent statute. Concerning closely related statutes enacted at different times, we have statedthat: Statutes relating to the same subject matter, whether enacted atthe same time or at different times, and regardless of whetherthe later statute refers to the former statute, are to be read andapplied together as a single statute the parts of which had beenenacted at the same time. Syllabus Point 1, Owens-Illinois Glass Co. v. Battle, 151 W.Va. 655, 154 S.E.2d 854 (1967). In such a case, no preference is given to one statute over the other — rather,they are read together. As we stated in Syllabus Point 5, State v. Snyder, 64 W.Va. 659, 63S.E. 385 (1908): A statute should be so read and applied as to make it accordwith the spirit, purposes and objects of the general system of lawof which it is intended to form a part; it being presumed that thelegislators who drafted and passed it were familiar with allexisting law, applicable to the subject matter, whetherconstitutional, statutory or common, and intended the statute toharmonize completely with the same and aid in the effectuationof the general purpose and design thereof, if its terms areconsistent therewith. (Accord Syllabus Point 1, State ex rel. Simpkins v. Harvey, 172 W.Va. 312, 305 S.E. 268(1983); Syllabus Point 1, State v. White, 188 W.Va. 534, 425 S.E.2d 210 (1992); SyllabusPoint 7, Ewing v. Board of Education of the County of Summers, 202 W.Va. 228, 503 S.E.2d541 (1998)). The BOE asserts that under Ewing v. Board of Education of the County ofSummers, 202 W.Va. 228, 503 S.E.2d 541 (1998), once it is determined that there areapplications for a teaching position from permanent employees, former employees on thepreferred recall list, and nonemployees, a hiring board of education need do nothing morethan utilize the second set of hiring criteria set forth in W.Va. Code, 18A-4-7a [1993]. TheBOE contends that once these hiring criteria are examined, no other statutes are applicable. In Ewing we stated that: Where the candidates for a classroom teaching position includeboth permanent employees of the hiring board of education andnonemployees and/or former employees on the preferred recalllist, the second set of hiring criteria contained in the firstparagraph of W.Va. Code � 18A-4-7a (1993) (Repl. Vol. 1997)should be utilized in selecting the most qualified applicant to fillthe vacant position. Syllabus Point 9, in part, Ewing, supra. In Ewing, the school board hired a teacher on the preferred recall list passingover two teachers who were, at the time the position was posted, permanent employees. Oneof the permanent employees filed a grievance, arguing that permanent employees should begiven preference over those on the preferred recall list. We held that no such preference needbe given, and that the hiring board correctly utilized the hiring criteria set forth in W.Va.Code, 18A-4-7a [1993]. Therefore, as between permanent employees and former employeeson the preferred recall list, a hiring board is not bound to prefer one over the other –provided the board utilizes the hiring criteria contained in W.Va. Code, 18A-4-7a [1993]. In the present case, neither a permanent employee nor a teacher on thepreferred recall list was hired. Instead, the BOE hired an applicant who was a nonemployee. In Ewing we did not apply W.Va. Code, 18A-2-2 [1990] as we must in this case. In this casethe challenge is between an applicant from the preferred recall list and anonemployee. The pertinent section of W.Va. Code, 18A-2-2 [1990] outlines the proceduresfor placing teaching employees on the preferred recall list once they have been laid off dueto a reduction in force. The Legislature, realizing that such reductions do occur, provideda mechanism to rehire laid off teachers on a preferred basis. The statute states that once ateacher is dismissed “based on [a] lack of need,” the teacher “shall be placed upon apreferred list in the order of their length of service with that board, and no teacher shall beemployed by the board until each qualified teacher upon the preferred list, in order, shall behave been offered the opportunity for reemployment in a position for which they arequalified[.]” Id. (Emphasis added.) The language of W.Va. Code, 18A-2-2 [1990] is clear and unambiguous. If ahiring board could hire an applicant who is neither a full time employee of the hiring boardnor on the preferred recall list, when there are teachers on the preferred recall list whopossess the proper qualifications for the position, then the statutes establishing the preferredrecall list would be meaningless. In order to give meaning and effect to W.Va. Code, 18A-2-2 [1990], we holdthat where the candidates for a classroom teaching position include permanent employees ofthe hiring board of education, former employees who are on the preferred recall list, andnonemployees, the second set of hiring criteria contained in the first paragraph of W.Va.Code, 18A-4-7a [1993] should be utilized in selecting the most qualified applicant to fill thevacant position. However, no nonemployee shall be employed for a teaching position by ahiring board of education until each qualified permanent employee applicant and eachqualified teacher on the preferred recall list shall have been offered the opportunity forreemployment in a position for which they are qualified pursuant to W.Va. Code, 18A-2-2[1990]. Applying both statutes to the case before us, we find that the circuit court erredand we therefore reverse. III. Conclusion For the foregoing reasons, the September 24, 1998 order of the Circuit Courtof Mercer County is reversed and this case is remanded with instructions that the circuit courtdirect the Mercer County Board of Education to place the appellant in the position inquestion with back pay and benefits. Reversed and Remanded. :::FOOTNOTES::: FN1 W.Va. Code, 18A-2-2 [1990] provides in pertinent part: [I]n case of . . . [dismissals pursuant to a reduction in force], theteachers so dismissed shall be placed upon a preferred list in theorder of their length of service with that board, and no teachershall be employed by the board until each qualified teacher uponthe preferred list, in order, shall have been offered theopportunity for reemployment in a position for which they arequalified[.] FN2W.Va. Code, 18A-4-7a [1993] provides, in pertinent part: If one or more permanently employed instructional personnelapply for a classroom teaching position and meet the standardsset forth in the job posting, the county board of education shallmake decisions affecting the filling of such positions on thebasis of the following criteria: Appropriate certification and/orlicensure; total amount of teaching experience; the existence ofteaching experience in the required certification area;specialized training directly related to the performance of the jobas stated in the job description; receiving an overall rating ofsatisfactory in evaluations over the previous two years; andseniority. Consideration shall be given to each criterion witheach criterion being given equal weight. If the applicant withthe most seniority is not selected for the position, upon therequest of the applicant a written statement of reasons shall begiven to the applicant with suggestions for improving theapplicant’s qualifications. FN3See supra note 14. FN4W.Va. Code, 18A-4-7a [1993] is titled “Employment, promotion and transfer ofprofessional personnel; seniority.” W.Va. Code, 18A-2-2 [1990] is titled “Employment ofteachers; contracts; continuing contract status; how terminated; dismissal for lack of need;released time; failure of teacher to perform contract or violation thereof.”
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS OF WEST VIRGINIA September 1999 Term No. 25978 THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE COUNTY OF MERCER, Petitioner below, Appellee, v. PATRICIA OWENSBY, Respondent below, Appellant. Appeal from the Circuit Court of Mercer County Honorable David W. Knight Civil Action 97-CV-489-K REVERSED AND REMANDED Submitted: October 19, 1999 Filed: December 13, 1999 Kathryn Reed Bayless, Esq.William B. McGinley, Esq. Bayless & McFadden, L.L.P.Charleston, West Virginia Princeton, West VirginiaAttorney for Appellant Attorney for Appellee CHIEF JUSTICE STARCHER delivered the Opinion of the Court. JUDGE JOHN S. HRKO, sitting by special assignment. JUSTICE SCOTT did not participate in the decision of the Court.
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