No. 25818 -- Hancock County Board of Education v.
Charles Hawken and Wilmon B. Culley, II v. Charles Hawken
McGraw, J., dissenting:
Though I am by no means a strict
constructionist in all cases, I feel that the majority opinion fails to follow the
explicit directive of the Legislature in this case. Even a cursory examination of W. Va.
Code § 18A-4-8 (1996) reveals that our Legislature took great care in crafting very
specific rules for the hiring of school service personnel. Exactly what each job is, and
exactly what the salary ranges are, is laid out in page after page of detailed
instructions. They did this for an obvious reason, to prevent boards of education from
pre-ordaining a favored friend or relative for a particular job. The Code
states very clearly:
The purpose of these tests shall be to provide county boards of education a uniform
means of determining whether school service personnel employees who do not hold a
classification title in a particular category of employment can meet the definition of the
classification title in another category of employment as defined in section eight of this
* * *
Achieving a passing score shall conclusively demonstrate the qualification of an applicant for a classification title.
W. Va. Code § 18-4-8e (1996)(emphasis added).
The board of education is the source of
many good jobs in a given county, and in some of our poorer counties, it may offer some of
the best work available. For some West Virginians, getting a job through the board of
education for themselves or their spouse is the only way that they can raise a family in
the community where they grew up. Losing that job, or being forever stuck in a low-paying
position despite years of seniority, can mean economic devastation for a family.
Historically, boards of education have
often been guilty of home cookin' by hiring friends or members of an extended
family. As is the case in much of our State, you often have to know someone in
order to be hired at all. That is why the Legislature was so specific, both in the
creation of finely delineated categories, and by establishing tests. The purpose is to
level the playing field for all applicants, and to ensure a measure of predictability and
fairness in the hiring process.
I do not mean to suggest that our
boards of education cannot be trusted to discharge their duties in a fair and just manner;
however, I feel that much mischief may result by granting the board members carte
blanche to tinker with the job classifications laid out so meticulously by our
Legislature, and I, therefore, respectfully dissent.
I am authorized to state that Chief Justice Starcher joins in this dissent.