WAUSAUKEE - An appeals court ruling Thursday is the latest development in a three-year battle between an area school district and a teachers' union.
They are still fighting in court about whether former teacher Kurt Kostelecky's workload was properly reduced. However, Kostelecky is sitting in prison, convicted last summer of sexually assaulting one of his students.
The case between the district and the union is headed back to a Marinette County judge and could be on its way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. And the legal bills keep piling up.
The School District of Wausaukee says taxpayers have spent at least $64,000 in the legal battles between the district, Wausaukee Education Association and former teacher and convicted sex offender Kurt Kostelecky.
In 2009, Wausaukee schools reduced Kostelecky's hours, saying it was a budget move. His union filed a grievance, arguing the district was trying to punish Kostelecky for challenging district policies. The arbitrator ruled in Kostelecky's favor, so the school district appealed.
But before a Marinette County judge could rule on the case, Kostelecky found himself in court for another reason. He was charged with 12 counts for having a sexual relationship with one of his teenage students. By the time Kostelecky was convicted last June, the school district won a court ruling reversing the arbitrator's decision.
Kostelecky, who surrendered his teaching license and resigned, was sentenced in August to 10 years in prison.
You might think that's the end of both cases. But it's not.
Three weeks after the conviction, the teachers' union appealed the circuit court's decision to the state court of appeals. That ruling came Thursday, when the appeals court ruled in favor of the WEA and the arbitrator's original ruling for Kostelecky.
FOX 11 asked the union why it would appeal a case on behalf a teacher convicted of sexually assaulting a student.
While the union didn't directly answer the questions and declined a phone interview, a spokeswoman with the Wisconsin Education Association Council sent FOX 11 a statement from UniServ on behalf of the Wausaukee Education Association.
It says the case is about protecting all employees' rights.
"The school board was in violation of the contract when it came to administering staff reductions," read the statement. "Staff reductions should be administered in a fair and legal manner - and not used as a chance to retaliate against certain employees."
That puts the ball back in the school district's court.
Wausaukee Superintendent Jan Dooley tells FOX 11 in a phone interview that an appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court is possible.
And, just like the union, the district's reasoning isn't about Kostelecky's situation specifically, or even if the district owes him back pay awarded by the arbitrator.
Dooley says the district wants to protect its rights.
So FOX 11 asked Dooley, directly, if the matter was related to the issue of back pay.
"It's... what's important to the school district is the board of education felt very strongly that an error occurred and it occurred in the arbitrator's ruling," said Dooley.
A school board meeting to discuss an appeal to the Supreme Court has not been scheduled.
Neither has the hearing the appeals court ordered before the Marinette County judge to review the case.
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