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California Education Code Section 44944

44944. (a) This section applies only to dismissal or suspension proceedings initiated pursuant to Section 44934.

(b) (1) (A) In a dismissal or suspension proceeding initiated pursuant to Section 44934, if a hearing is requested by the employee, the hearing shall be commenced within six months from the date of the employee s demand for a hearing. A continuance shall not extend the date for the commencement of the hearing more than six months from the date of the employee s request for a hearing, except for extraordinary circumstances, as determined by the administrative law judge. If extraordinary circumstances are found that extend the date for the commencement of the hearing, the deadline for concluding the hearing and closing the record pursuant to this subdivision shall be extended for a period of time equal to the continuance. The hearing date shall be established after consultation with the employee and the governing board of the school district, or their representatives, except that if the parties are not able to reach an agreement on a date, the Office of Administrative Hearings shall unilaterally set a date in compliance with this section. The hearing shall be completed by a closing of the record within seven months of the date of the employee s demand for a hearing. A continuance shall not extend the date for the close of the record more than seven months from the date of the employee s request for a hearing, except for good cause, as determined by the administrative law judge.

(B) If substantial progress has been made in completing the previously scheduled days of the hearing within the seven-month period but the hearing cannot be completed, for good cause shown, within the seven-month period, the period for completing the hearing may be extended by the presiding administrative law judge. If the administrative law judge grants a continuance under this subparagraph, he or she shall establish a reasonable timetable for the completion of the hearing and the closing of the record. The hearing shall be initiated and conducted, and a decision made, in accordance with Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 11500) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code, and the Commission on Professional Competence shall have all of the power granted to an agency pursuant to that chapter, except as described in this article.

(2) (A) A witness shall not be permitted to testify at the hearing except upon oath or affirmation. Testimony shall not be given or evidence shall not be introduced relating to matters that occurred more than four years before the date of the filing of the notice, except allegations of an act described in Section 44010 of this code or Sections 11165.2 to 11165.6, inclusive, of the Penal Code.

(B) Evidence of records regularly kept by the governing board of the school district concerning the employee may be introduced, but no decision relating to the dismissal or suspension of an employee shall be made based on charges or evidence of any nature relating to matters occurring more than four years before the filing of the notice, except allegations of an act described in Section 44010 of this code or Sections 11165.2 to 11165.6, inclusive, of the Penal Code.

(c) (1) The hearing provided for in this section shall be conducted by a Commission on Professional Competence, unless the parties submit a statement in writing to the Office of Administrative Hearings, indicating that both parties waive the right to convene a Commission on Professional Competence and stipulate to having the hearing conducted by a single administrative law judge. If the parties elect to waive a hearing before the Commission on Professional Competence, the hearing shall be initiated and conducted, and a decision made, in accordance with Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 11500) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code, and the administrative law judge conducting the hearing shall have all the powers granted to a Commission on Professional Competence pursuant to that chapter, except as described in this article.

(2) If the parties elect not to waive a hearing before a Commission on Professional Competence, one member of the commission shall be selected by the employee, one member shall be selected by the governing board of the school district, and one member shall be an administrative law judge of the Office of Administrative Hearings who shall be chairperson and a voting member of the commission and shall be responsible for assuring that the legal rights of the parties are protected at the hearing.

(3) The governing board of the school district and the employee shall select Commission on Professional Competence members no later than 45 days before the date set for hearing, and shall serve notice of their selection upon all other parties and upon the Office of Administrative Hearings. Failure to meet this deadline shall constitute a waiver of the right to selection, and the county board of education or its specific designee shall immediately make the selection. If the county board of education is also the governing board of the school district or has by statute been granted the powers of a governing board, the selection shall be made by the Superintendent, who shall be reimbursed by the school district for all costs incident to the selection.

(4) Any party who believes that a selected Commission on Professional Competence member is not qualified may file an objection, including a statement describing the basis for the objection, with the Office of Administrative Hearings and serve the objection and statement upon all other parties within 10 days of the date that the notice of selection is filed. Within seven days after the filing of any objection, the administrative law judge assigned to the matter shall rule on the objection or convene a teleconference with the parties for argument.

(5) (A) The member selected by the governing board of the school district and the member selected by the employee shall not be related to the employee and shall not be employees of the school district initiating the dismissal or suspension. Each member shall hold a currently valid credential and have at least three years experience within the past 10 years in the discipline of the employee.

(B) For purposes of this paragraph, the following terms have the following meanings:

(i) For an employee subject to dismissal whose most recent teaching assignment is in kindergarten or any of the grades 1 to 6, inclusive, discipline means a teaching assignment in kindergarten or any of the grades 1 to 6, inclusive.

(ii) For an employee subject to dismissal whose most recent assignment requires an education specialist credential or a services credential, discipline means an assignment that requires an education specialist credential or a services credential, respectively.

(iii) For an employee subject to dismissal whose most recent teaching assignment is in any of the grades 7 to 12, inclusive, discipline means a teaching assignment in any of grades 7 to 12, inclusive, in the same area of study, as that term is used in Section 51220, as the most recent teaching assignment of the employee subject to dismissal.

(d) (1) The decision of the Commission on Professional Competence shall be made by a majority vote, and the commission shall prepare a written decision containing findings of fact, determinations of issues, and a disposition that shall be, solely, one of the following:

(A) That the employee should be dismissed.

(B) That the employee should be suspended for a specific period of time without pay.

(C) That the employee should not be dismissed or suspended.

(2) The decision of the Commission on Professional Competence that the employee should not be dismissed or suspended shall not be based on nonsubstantive procedural errors committed by the school district or governing board of the school district unless the errors are prejudicial errors.

(3) The Commission on Professional Competence shall not have the power to dispose of the charge of dismissal by imposing probation or other alternative sanctions. The imposition of suspension pursuant to subparagraph (B) of paragraph (1) shall be available only in a suspension proceeding authorized pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 44932 or Section 44933.

(4) The decision of the Commission on Professional Competence shall be deemed to be the final decision of the governing board of the school district.

(5) The governing board of the school district may adopt from time to time rules and procedures not inconsistent with this section as may be necessary to effectuate this section.

(6) The governing board of the school district and the employee shall have the right to be represented by counsel.

(e) (1) If the member selected by the governing board of the school district or the member selected by the employee is employed by any school district in this state, the member shall, during any service on a Commission on Professional Competence, continue to receive salary, fringe benefits, accumulated sick leave, and other leaves and benefits from the school district in which the member is employed, but shall not receive additional compensation or honorariums for service on the commission.

(2) If the member selected is a retired employee, the member shall receive pay at the daily substitute teacher rate in the school district that is a party to the hearing. Service on a Commission on Professional Competence shall not be credited toward retirement benefits.

(3) If service on a Commission on Professional Competence occurs during summer recess or vacation periods, the member shall receive compensation proportionate to that received during the current or immediately preceding contract period from the member s employing school district, whichever amount is greater.

(f) (1) If the Commission on Professional Competence determines that the employee should be dismissed or suspended, the governing board of the school district and the state shall share equally the expenses of the hearing, including the cost of the administrative law judge. The state shall pay any costs incurred under paragraphs (2) and (3) of subdivision (e), the reasonable expenses, as determined by the administrative law judge, of the member selected by the governing board of the school district and the member selected by the employee, including, but not limited to, payments or obligations incurred for travel, meals, and lodging, and the cost of the substitute or substitutes, if any, for the member selected by the governing board of the school district and the member selected by the employee. The Controller shall pay all claims submitted pursuant to this paragraph from the General Fund, and may prescribe reasonable rules, regulations, and forms for the submission of the claims. The employee and the governing board of the school district shall pay their own attorney s fees.

(2) If the Commission on Professional Competence determines that the employee should not be dismissed or suspended, the governing board of the school district shall pay the expenses of the hearing, including the cost of the administrative law judge, any costs incurred under paragraphs (2) and (3) of subdivision (e), the reasonable expenses, as determined by the administrative law judge, of the member selected by the governing board of the school district and the member selected by the employee, including, but not limited to, payments or obligations incurred for travel, meals, and lodging, the cost of the substitute or substitutes, if any, for the member selected by the governing board of the school district and the member selected by the employee, and reasonable attorney s fees incurred by the employee.

(3) As used in this section, reasonable expenses shall not be deemed compensation within the meaning of subdivision (e).

(4) If either the governing board of the school district or the employee petitions a court of competent jurisdiction for review of the decision of the Commission on Professional Competence, the payment of expenses to members of the commission required by this subdivision shall not be stayed.

(5) If the decision of the Commission on Professional Competence is reversed or vacated by a court of competent jurisdiction, either the state, having paid the commission members expenses, shall be entitled to reimbursement from the governing board of the school district for those expenses, or the governing board of the school district, having paid the expenses, shall be entitled to reimbursement from the state. If either the governing board of the school district or the employee petitions a court of competent jurisdiction for review of the decision to overturn the administrative law judge s decision, the payment of the expenses of the hearing, including the cost of the administrative law judge required by this paragraph, shall be stayed until no further appeal is sought, or all appeals are exhausted.

(g) The hearing provided for in this section shall be conducted in a place selected by agreement among the members of the Commission on Professional Competence. In the absence of agreement, the place shall be selected by the administrative law judge.

(Amended by Stats. 2015, Ch. 303, Sec. 89. Effective January 1, 2016.)

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Last modified: September 9, 2016