Wyoming Court Upholds Certification Standards

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The Wyoming State Supreme Court has affirmed the State Board of Education's authority to set certification requirements for teachers and administrators in the state.

The court's ruling upheld the state division of certification's 1980 decision to deny an Oregon man the superintendency of a Wyoming school district because he did not meet the necessary licensing requirements for superintendents in the state.

The case was the first major test of Wyoming's state certification standards for teachers and administrators, which have existed in their current form since 1978.

'Scope of its Powers'

Overturning a decision issued in March by a trial judge, the state high court ruled unanimously that the state board "acted within the scope of its powers" when it said that Larry W. Barber, an educational psychologist who was an assistant superintendent in Eugene, Ore., when the suit was filed in 1980, did not meet state certification standards.

And in doing so, the court for the first time affirmed that the state board is, in the language of the opinion, "responsible for all aspects of certification of teachers and school administrators when a dispute over the applicable rule arises."

"This is the first legal statement of the board's authority in this area," said Dennis A. Donohue, director of the accreditation services unit in the Wyoming State Department of Education.

Fremont County District Judge W.J. Nicholas had reversed the state board's denial of certification, calling the rules the decision was based on "arbitrary and capricious." The judge also said that the state superintendent of public instruction, not the state board of education, has final authority over certification disputes.

Mr. Barber, who is now an employee of Phi Delta Kappa, the education honorary society headquartered in Bloomington, Ind., said of the decision: "I believe that there has not been fair treatment of myself and others. I really have never been given an opportunity to give my case to the board."

Mr. Barber's lawyer was unavailable for comment. Mr. Barber declined to speculate on the possibility of an appeal or on how the decision might affect a companion suit filed in federal district court in Wyoming in which he claims civil-rights violations.

Certified in 15 States

From the beginning, Mr. Barber said, the state suit was designed to ''get someone to give me a fair hearing" on his right to certification as a superintendent. He says he is currently certified in 15 states.

To be certified as a superintendent in Wyoming, one must first qualify for teacher certification and then have earned an additional 60 graduate hours, including 30 in educational administration, and have taken special courses in such areas as school law, administration, and finance.

In the spring of 1980 the Fremont County School District No. 25, which encompasses Riverton, Wyo., decided to hire Mr. Barber as superintendent. He applied to the state board for formal certification in June of 1980.

Mr. Barber asked the state board to grant an exception to the requirements. Under Wyoming law, such exceptions can be granted by the state board for a period of one year, provided that the candidate remove the "deficiencies" in his training, Mr. Donohue said.

But based on an independent hearing officer's review, the request was denied, partially because Mr. Barber could not meet the requirements in one year.

Mr. Barber felt he should have been allowed to plead his case directly before the state board, but the supreme court has said that the use of an independent hearing examiner in such cases is proper.

Vol. 01, Issue 42

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