AZ schools chief sues state Board of Education

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The ongoing power struggle between the Arizona schools chief and the state Board of Education is headed to court.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas filed a lawsuit late Friday in Maricopa County Superior Court against the Board of Education, its president and executive director.

Douglas is requesting a judge clarify her authority over Board of Education employees.

The Department of Education and the Arizona State Board of Education are separate entities that have historically worked together for the good of Arizona's students.

The Board is made up of 11 members, 10 of which are volunteers appointed by the governor. The 11th is reserved for the Superintendent of Public Instruction, who is Douglas. The board has paid employees, including an executive director.

Douglas and the board have been in conflict since she fired two board executives last February, but Gov. Doug Ducey overturned the firings.

On Monday, 11 board employees left the offices they were leasing from the Department of Education and leased new space at the Capital Tower. The move was approved by the Board during their April meeting with a vote of 9 to 1, Douglas casting the only dissenting vote.

On Wednesday, CBS 5 new has learned all of the board employees received a letter from Douglas ordering them to move back into the office at the Dept. of Education and making it clear they would not have access to the teacher certification data base at their new offices.

When the employees did not respond, Douglas filed a lawsuit along with a motion for a preliminary injunction asking a judge to require they move back or be fired.

According to State Board of Education President Greg Miller, the lack of access to the certification data base in not yet causing a crisis. But if it continues, the duties of the board employees, including those who do background investigations on teacher applicants, will be hindered.

State Board of Education President Greg Miller released the following statement in response to the lawsuit filed by Superintendent Diane Douglas:

"At the direction of the Board, staff secured new office space. The move was done expeditiously in order to prevent disruption to the Board's important work to support Arizona's 1 million public school students. The Superintendent's lawsuit is a distraction from that work. Arizona deserves better. The Board will continue to function as an autonomous constitutional entity and stay focused on the issue of ensuring educational excellence in Arizona public schools."

No date has yet been set for a hearing on Douglas' filings.

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