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In re a Part of Lewis & Clark Pub. Sch. Dist. #161 of Ward v. State Bd. of Pub. Sch. Educ. of North Dakota

Supreme Court of North Dakota

February 18, 2016

In the Matter of the Annexation of a Part of Lewis & Clark Public School District #161 of Ward, Mountrail, Renville and McLean Counties to Garrison Public School District #51 of McLean and Ward Counties (Johnson, and others Petition), Plaintiffs, Dwight Johnson, & Darin Vangsness, Appellants
v.
State Board of Public School Education of the State of North Dakota, Ward County Superintendent of Schools, Garrison Public School District #51, Lewis and Clark Public School District #161, Defendants, State Board of Public School Education of the State of North Dakota and Lewis and Clark Public School District #161, Appellees

Appeal from the District Court of McLean County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable James S. Hill, Judge.

Robert S. Rau, Minot, N.D., for appellants.

Rachel A. Bruner-Kaufman, Bismarck, N.D., for defendant and appellee Lewis & Clark Public School District.

Douglas A. Bahr, Office of the Attorney General, Bismarck, N.D., for defendant and appellee State Board of Public School Education of the State of North Dakota.

Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J., Carol Ronning Kapsner, Lisa Fair McEvers, Daniel J. Crothers, Dale V. Sandstrom. Opinion of the Court by VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

OPINION

Page 41

VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

[¶1] Dwight Johnson and Darin Vangsness appealed from a judgment affirming the State Board of Public School Education's decision to deny their petition for annexation of property from one school district to another. Because the Board acted in accordance with the law, did not violate Johnson and Vangsness's constitutional

Page 42

rights or their rights to a fair hearing, and its decision is supported by a preponderance of the evidence, we affirm the judgment.

I

[¶2] Johnson and Vangsness filed a petition with the McLean and Ward county committees requesting annexation of a part of the Lewis and Clark School District #161 of Ward, Mountrail, Renville, and McLean Counties (" Lewis and Clark" ) to the Garrison School District #51 of McLean and Ward Counties (" Garrison" ). The creation of Lewis and Clark in the early 2000s has been the subject of prior litigation. See, e.g., Brandvold v. Lewis and Clark Pub. Sch. Dist. #161, 2011 ND 185, 803 N.W.2d 827. Johnson and Vangsness own land that was transferred to Lewis and Clark, and they sought annexation of property to Garrison. The McLean and Ward county committees approved the petition. The petition was then submitted to the State Board of Public School Education (" Board" ) for approval. Proponents and opponents of the petition testified and presented other evidence. Johnson, Vangsness and others, including the superintendent of Garrison, testified in favor of the annexation petition. The superintendent of Lewis and Clark and the president of its school board testified in opposition to the petition.

[¶3] Following the hearing, the Board unanimously voted to deny the petition. The Board's written findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order denying the petition for annexation comprise 18 pages. Johnson and Vangsness appealed to the district court, which affirmed the Board's decision.

II

[¶4] Johnson and Vangsness argue the Board erred in denying their petition for annexation.

[¶5] The Board is an administrative agency. See N.D.C.C. § 28-32-01(2); New Town Pub. Sch. Dist. No. 1 v. State Bd. of Pub. Sch. Educ.,2002 ND 127, ¶ 5, 650 N.W.2d 813. " Although a district court's analysis of an appeal from a decision by an administrative agency is entitled to respect if the court's reasoning is sound, when an administrative agency's decision is appealed from the district court to this Court, we review the agency's decision and the record compiled before the agency rather than the district court's decision and findings." Sutherland v. N.D. Dep't of Human Servs.,2004 ...


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