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BRENTWOOD BOROUGH SCHOOL DISTRICT APPEAL (07/02/70)

decided: July 2, 1970.

BRENTWOOD BOROUGH SCHOOL DISTRICT APPEAL


Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, No. A-1860 of 1968, in re appeal of Helen M. Spano from decision of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

COUNSEL

Thomas M. Rutter, Jr., with him Edwin J. Martin, and Goehring, Martin, Rutter & Boehm, for appellant.

Eugene J. Reinbold, with him Beck, McGinnis & Jarvis, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Eagen joins in this dissenting opinion.

Author: Cohen

[ 439 Pa. Page 258]

This is an appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County reversing the order of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and requiring the Board of School Directors of Brentwood Borough, appellant, to retain and reinstate Helen M. Spano, appellee, as a professional employee.

On July 11, 1966 the Superintendent of the Brentwood School District interviewed appellee for the position of Curriculum Coordinator which was then vacant. She was offered the job, and a contract was signed which became effective August 1, 1966. Soon thereafter difficulties arose, and relations between Miss Spano and others in the school system became strained. On November 7, 1966 she was asked to resign, and on April 20, 1967 she was suspended by the Superintendent. By a resolution of the School Board adopted September 12, 1967 charges of incompetency and persistent and willful violation of the School Laws of Pennsylvania were brought against appellee as a basis for her dismissal. Hearings on the dismissal began on September 26, 1967 and continued until April 16, 1968 at which time she was discharged.

[ 439 Pa. Page 259]

Miss Spano then took a timely appeal to the Superintendent of Public Instruction pursuant to the Act of March 10, 1949 (Public School Code of 1949), P.L. 30, art. XI, § 1131, 24 P.S. § 11-1131. By opinion and order dated October 11, 1968, the Superintendent found that appellee was a professional employee within the meaning of the Public School Code, dismissed the incompetency charges and sustained the action of the School Board in dismissing appellee for persistently and willfully violating the School Laws of Pennsylvania. Both sides then appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County pursuant to § 1132 of the Public School Code, supra, 24 P.S. § 11-1132. The lower court dismissed appellant's argument that the Superintendent had erred in finding appellee to be a professional employee and in dismissing the incompetency charges. At the same time it agreed with appellee that she had not been given a fair hearing by the School Board, and it ordered the School Board to retain her as a professional employee.

The first question we must answer is whether Miss Spano is a professional employee within the meaning of the Public School Code because if she is not she had no standing under § 1131 and 1132 of that Code to appeal to the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Court of Common Pleas. Appellant argues that appellee is not a professional employee because the position of Curriculum Co-ordinator is a nonmandated position which is not encompassed by the definition of professional employee in § 1101(1), 24 P.S. § 11-1101(1), and that appellee abandoned whatever contractual relationship she had with appellant by not presenting her teaching certificate to the Superintendent before beginning work.

Section 1101(1) of the Code defines the term professional employee, and if an individual desires that designation, he must show that he fits within one of the

[ 439 Pa. Page 260]

    categories created by the legislature. Elias v. Board of School Directors, 421 Pa. 260, 218 A.2d 738 (1966). The section states "[t]he term 'professional employee' shall include those who are certificated as teachers, supervisors, supervising principals, principals . . ." and appellant argues that as the words Curriculum Co-ordinator do not specifically appear Miss Spano can not be a professional employee. Appellant recognizes, however, that appellee has been certified as a teacher, and § 1141 states "'Teacher' shall include all professional employees . . . who devote fifty per centum (50%) of their time, or more, to teaching or other direct educational activities . . ." Construing sections 1101 and 1141 together, an individual is a teacher for purposes of § 1141 if he holds the necessary certificate and devotes at least half his time to teaching or direct educational activities, and he is a professional employee under § 1101 if he is a teacher under § 1141. There is no question that Miss Spano held a teaching certificate, and the court below found that her areas of responsibility included curriculum development, evening classes for adults and the teachers' in-service program which consisted, among other things, of teacher seminars for the improvement of teaching methods. It concluded that she devoted practically all her time to educational activities and there is ample support in the record for that conclusion. Certainly what she was doing qualified as "direct educational activities", and thus she is a teacher under sections 1141 and 1101 and a professional employee entitled to appeal to the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Court of Common Pleas.

In addition, the contract between Miss Spano and the School District is entitled Professional Employee's Contract and states that she is being employed to "serve as a professional employe in the said School ...


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