"Scheduling conflicts in the practice of law are a daily fact of life," said Mr. Bennett, adding that getting five board members together to hear the appeal is no easier. The law does not require hearing officers to be lawyers.
The teacher also can appeal the county board's decision to the State Board of Education, which can further delay the process.
Teachers are the only unionized school employees entitled to pay while they are suspended.
Some suspended school cafeteria and maintenance workers have gone on welfare waiting for their cases to be resolved, said Jim Pickens, president of Local 1693 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The local represents 1,300 blue-collar workers.
"People don't have the money in the bank to see them through the months and months this can drag on," Mr. Pickens said.
In recent years, two dozen or more blue-collar workers have been suspended annually. Most cases take about six months to conclude -- though some have taken more than a year.
"We have had people who quit. They have had to give up on the system and get another full-time job and make a commitment to another employer," Mr. Pickens said.
While his union tries to get the same terms as the teachers union, Mr. Pickens said he might be amenable to a compromise that sets a schedule and penalizes each side for delays.
Mr. Foster, the school board's vice president, said that to cut back on the school system's financial burden, fired employees should not be paid -- even if they appeal.
"My concern is not just the numbers, it's more what it's costing the students in terms of continuity in the classroom," he said.
"Our substitutes are highly qualified, but if a teacher is pulled mid-semester, there's a lack of continuity. We need to have a fair balance, and right now I'm not sure that's what we've got."