Appeal, No. 196, Jan. T., 1955, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Jan. T., 1953, No. 160, in case of Mary Nealon Wilchenski v. School District of Borough of Throop et al. Order reversed.
Ernest D. Preate, for appellant.
Michael R. Shehadi and Lewis F. Adler, with them John J. Sirotnak, for appellees.
Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO
Mary Nealon Wilchenski, teacher in the School District of Throop, Lackawanna County, was suspended because of a decrease in student enrollment. She filed a Bill of Complaint asserting that she had seniority rights superior to those of four other teachers who had been retained, namely, James V. Jordan, Esther Weinstein, Henry S. Muto and Catherine Heasley. The Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County found that Miss Wilchenski had been illegally suspended because she was in fact senior in service to Esther Weinstein and thus ordered her reinstatement. The Court, however, found, in addition, that James V. Jordan and Henry S. Muto enjoyed superior seniority rights to the plaintiff and that Mrs. Catherine Heasley had equal service rights to those of the plaintiff.
Miss Wilchenski appealed from this adjudication because she wished to protect her position against possible
future suspensions. It was not only prudent but proper for the plaintiff to do this because otherwise it might later well be argued against her claims of superior status that she had conceded the equal status of Mrs. Heasley and the superior status of Jordan and Muto. After the adjudication in question, Jordan was retired by the School District, so that we are called upon here only to determine as against Miss Wilchenski, the seniority status of Henry S. Muto and that of Catherine Heasley.
As to Muto, he was employed as a teacher in 1920 and taught continuously until June, 1929. In August of that year his contract of employment was not renewed because he failed to receive a majority vote of the School Board, due to the fact that a relative was serving on the Board. He was then appointed Superintendent of Buildings of the School District, whereupon he withdrew all contributions made by him to the State Retirement Fund. In January, 1930, his teacher's contract was renewed and he has been in service since then.
Did Muto's absence from the schoolroom between June, 1929 and January, 1930, constitute a break in service of such character as to require a re-beginning so far as seniority rights are concerned? The lower Court answered this question in the negative. Law and precedent indicate the contrary. The School Code specifically provides that the bridge of seniority is not broken when it is supported by the piers of sabbatical and military leaves. Mr. Muto's absence, however, cannot be legally upheld. No statute supplies the necessary buttress, and precedent is against it. In the case of Halko v. Foster, 374 Pa. 269, we declared that Halko lost his seniority rights when he was absent for a ...