NC Gen Stat 150b-51 Case Example

In Rainey v. N.C. Dep't of Pub. Instruction, 181 N.C. App. 666, 640 S.E.2d 790 (2007), the Court reversed a superior court order affirming a Final Decision by the State Board of Education. Id. at 676, 640 S.E.2d at 797. Madeline Davis Tucker (petitioner) achieved certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (the National Board) in 2000. N.C. Gen. Stat. 115C-296.2(b) requires the State to "pay a significant salary differential to teachers who attain national certification from the National Board." N.C. Gen. Stat. 115C-296.2(a) (2005). After petitioner received her certification, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (respondent) informed her that she would not receive the National Board salary increase. Rainey, 181 N.C. App. at 669, 640 S.E.2d at 793. Petitioner appealed respondent's decision by filing a petition for a contested case hearing in 2002. Id. at 669, 640 S.E.2d at 793. At the administrative hearing, respondent argued that petitioner was not a "teacher" for purposes of the statute and thus was not entitled to the salary increase for "teachers." Id. at 669-70, 640 S.E.2d at 793. The administrative law judge (ALJ) reversed respondent's decision and ordered that petitioner receive the salary increase. Id. at 670, 640 S.E.2d at 793-94. The State Board of Education (the State Board) did not adopt the ALJ's decision and affirmed respondent's original decision. Id. at 670, 640 S.E.2d at 794. Petitioner appealed to the superior court, which affirmed the State Board's decision. Id. at 670, 640 S.E.2d at 794. Petitioner then appealed to this Court, which reversed the superior court. Id. at 676, 640 S.E.2d at 797. In reaching our decision, the Court applied N.C. Gen. Stat. 150B-51(c), which was added to the North Carolina Administrative Procedures Act in 2000. Id. at 670, 640 S.E.2d at 794. That section states, in relevant part: In reviewing a final decision in a contested case in which an administrative law judge made a decision, in accordance with G.S. 150B- 34(a), and the agency does not adopt the administrative law judge's decision, the court shall review the official record, de novo, and shall make findings of fact and conclusions of law. In reviewing the case, the court shall not give deference to any prior decision made in the case and shall not be bound by the findings of fact or the conclusions of law contained in the agency's final decision. N.C. Gen. Stat. 150B-51(c)