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Martinez v. United ISD, Dkt. No. 030-R10-03-2015 (Comm’r Educ. Nov. 23, 2015).

Facts:  The man worked for United ISD as an assistant principal for 12 years and was employed as an educator for 21 years.  Starting in the fall of 2013, the assistant principal had difficulties with his building principal and he filed grievances concerning those difficulties.  On May 9, 2014, he and the district entered into a settlement agreement concerning the grievances.  In return for resigning effective January 23, 2015 and other consideration, the man dismissed the grievances and provided other consideration.  The May 9, 2014 settlement agreement stated in part:  “This agreement is the final agreement between the District and Employee and it controls the contractual employment relationship between the parties hereto after the date of this Agreement… This Agreement may be modified or terminated only in writing, executed by all the parties hereto.”  On May 26, 2014, the man signed a One-Year Term Contract with the district for the 2014-2015 school year.  The contract was signed by the district’s board president.  The term contract for the 2014-2015 school year stated in part:  “9.3  Entire Agreement: All existing agreements and contracts, both verbal and written, between the parties regarding the employment of the Employee are superseded by this Contract.  This contract, and any addenda, constitutes the entire agreement between the parties.”  On January 20, 2015, Human Resources contacted the man about leaving the district, and he argued that the settlement agreement was superseded by the 2014-2015 term contract.  The district then barred him from working for the district after January 23, 2015.  The man appealed to the Commissioner of Education, arguing that his resignation as part of a settlement agreement was superseded by the 2014-2015 term contract.

Ruling:  The Commissioner agreed with the assistant principal and held that the 2014-2015 contract was valid and enforceable.  According to the Commissioner, the settlement agreement by its own terms could be terminated or modified in a writing executed by both parties.  The term contract, which was executed after the settlement agreement (1) was executed, (2) was a writing, and (3) was signed by both parties.  Further, the term contract contained a “merger clause” that made clear that any existing contracts were superseded by the term contract.  The settlement agreement, therefore, was superseded by the term contract.  Because the 2014-2015 term contract was a valid term contract, the man continued to be employed by the district.  Thus, he was entitled to a position in the same professional capacity for the 2015-2016 school year as he was employed for the 2014-2015 school year, and he was entitled to any pay and benefits under the 2014-2015 that he had not received.

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