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New Public School District # 8 v. State Board of Public School Education

Supreme Court of North Dakota

August 17, 2016

New Public School District # 8, Appellant
v.
State Board of Public School Education, Appellee and Kristi L. Gutierrez, Respondent

         Appeal from the District Court of Williams County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Paul W. Jacobson, Judge.

          Amy L. De Kok (argued) and David R. Phillips (appeared), for appellant.

          Christopher S. Joseph, Office of the Attorney General, for appellee.

          OPINION

          Sandstrom, Justice.

         [¶ 1] New Public School District #8 appeals from a judgment affirming the State Board of Public School Education's decision approving annexation of certain real properties to the Williston School District. New Public School District argues the State Board erred in approving the petition for annexation because the property to be annexed was not contiguous to the Williston School District before the petition was heard. We affirm.

         I

         [¶ 2] On January 21, 2015, the State Board approved annexation of property owned by Halliburton Energy Services to the Williston School District. The Halliburton property is adjacent or contiguous to the Williston School District. The annexation of the Halliburton property was to become effective on July 1, 2015.

         [¶ 3] In February 2015, Kristi and Derek Gutierrez and Sharyn Silverio jointly petitioned to annex to the Williston School District their properties which were part of the New Public School District. At that time, neither the Silverio property nor the Gutierrez property was contiguous to the Williston School District. The Silverio property is adjacent to the Halliburton property, and the Gutierrez property is adjacent to the Silverio property. The Gutierrez family has two school-age children.

         [¶ 4] On March 26, 2015, the Williams County Reorganization Committee held a hearing on the annexation petition. Kristi Gutierrez testified in support of the petition, and the superintendent of the New Public School District testified against it. After the hearing, the County Committee approved the petition, stating the children's distance to school, busing, inconvenience to the family, the parents' and students' wishes, and the parents' voting rights were all reasons supporting the annexation. The County Committee also noted annexation was the only way the children would be able to attend the Williston School District.

         [¶ 5] The Gutierrez-Silverio annexation petition was submitted to the State Board for final approval and a hearing was held on May 18, 2015. Kristi Gutierrez and the New Public School District superintendent testified. The State Board approved the petition, finding various relevant factors supported annexation, including that the Gutierrez family had been told their home was located in the Williston School District when they purchased the home, the home builder had said the children would attend the neighborhood school located in the Williston School District, there was no other way the children would be able to attend school in the Williston School District, annexation would allow the petitioners to vote and run for office in the Williston School District, and the Williston School District supported annexation. The State Board found the annexation petition met the statutory requirements of N.D.C.C. §§ 15.1-12-03 and 15.1-12-04, including that the property will be contiguous to the Williston School District on July 1, 2015, the effective date of annexation.

         [¶ 6] New Public School District appealed the State Board's decision, arguing the annexation petition did not meet statutory requirements, because the subject property was not contiguous to the Williston School District before or at the time of the county committee hearing. The district court affirmed the State Board's decision.

         [¶ 7] The district court had jurisdiction under N.D. Const. art. VI, § 8, and N.D.C.C. §§ 15.1-12-05(13), 27-05-06, and 28-32-42. New Public School District's appeal to this Court was timely under N.D.R.App.P. 4(a) and N.D.C.C. § 28-32-49. This Court has jurisdiction under N.D. Const. art. VI, §§ 2 and 6, and N.D.C.C. § 28-32-49.

         II

         [¶ 8] The State Board is an administrative agency, and we review its decision as we review decisions by other administrative agencies. In re Lewis & Clark Pub. Sch. Dist. #161, 2016 ND 41, ¶ 5, 876 N.W.2d 40. We review the agency's decision and the record compiled before the agency, rather than the district ...


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