A judge has ruled the Dickson County Education Association’s contract with the school board is in effect until 2013 and ordered the board to resume negotiations on teacher salaries and benefits. Following a hearing on March 29, Chancellor George Sexton granted the DCEA’s motion for a summary judgment in the lawsuit filed by the teachers’ union after the school board broke off negotiations last year without an agreement on annual “reopeners,” such as pay raises. While the judge has not yet signed the order, Sexton’s ruling upholds the DCEA’s contention that it has a valid contract with the school board through 2013. Board attorney Jack Garton had argued that the text of the contract gave an expiration date of 2011, which DCEA attorney Richard Colbert said was a typographical error and that the cover page contained the correct dates for the contract. The school board’s own minutes from its vote on the contract state it is effective through 2013. According to a draft order submitted by Colbert last week, Sexton also found that the Tennessee General Assembly drafted its new Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act to “avoid constitutional infirmity” by not creating any impairment to existing contracts. As a result, the finding of a valid contract would render the DCEA’s challenge to the constitutionality of PECCA a moot point, according to the draft order. The school board cited the new collaborative conferencing act in cutting off negotiations, which the DCEA claims amounted to breach of contract. The draft order submitted for the judge’s signature orders the school board to cease and desist in its refusal to engage in negotiations and orders the board to reopen discussions on salary and benefit issues not only for the current fiscal year but the 2012-13 contract year as well. Attorney Courtney Wilbert of the firm representing the DCEA said the organization is “very pleased” with the judge’s decision and hopes both parties will resume negotiations soon. School board Chairman Tim Potter said the board will meet in an executive session with Garton tonight to review the judge’s ruling and discuss the possibility of an appeal.