Appeals from the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County in cases of Frank Lucostic v. Brownsville Area School District, No. 770 September Term 1970 and Tony Tassone v. Brownsville Area School District, No. 761 September Term, 1970.
A. J. Kuzdenyi, for appellant.
Thomas A. Waggoner, with him David E. Cohen, for appellees.
Judges Kramer, Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
The Secretary of Education of the Commonwealth upheld the demotions in rank and salary of professional employes Frank Lucostic and Tony Tassone by the Board of School Directors of the Brownsville Area School District. The Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County ordered the reinstatement of Messrs. Lucostic and Tassone to positions and salaries commensurate with those they had formerly enjoyed.
Prior to June 18, 1970, Lucostic and Tassone were assistant supervising principals of the Brownsville school system. Mr. John Caputa was supervising principal and Mr. George Alberts was also an assistant supervising principal. Mr. Leonard Golembiewski was assistant high school principal.
Brownsville Area School District was created in 1966 by merger of three or more existing districts. In July 1969 its financial condition was such that, upon application of its Board of Directors, the Fayette County Court adjudicated it a distressed district and appointed a special Board of Control pursuant to Sections 691 and 692 of Article VI of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, added December 16, 1959, P.L. 1842, §§ 2 and 3, 24 P.S. §§ 6-691 and 6-692. The Board of Control suggested to the Board of School Directors that the latter should, among other things, reorganize the administrative staff. After a series of meetings, the Board of School Directors determined that the three highest positions in the district should be those of superintendent and two assistant superintendents, rather than the former arrangement of supervising principal and three assistant supervising principals. Under the law, superintendents are elected for terms of four years whereas supervising principals are professional employees and enjoy the benefits of tenure, which, as we will later mention, have been closely pursued by the administrators of the Brownsville School District. The office of superintendent is one of greater power and responsibility than that of supervising principal, and requires higher qualifications, and may be held only by persons whose eligibility is certified by the Department of Public Instruction. Although Messrs. Lucostic and Tassone were veteran educators neither was certified to serve as a superintendent or assistant superintendent. After notice and
a hearing at which most of the evidence in this case was taken, the Board of School Directors did create the new positions of superintendent and assistant superintendents and, in convention, filled them with the only three persons on its existing staff qualified to hold those offices, George Alberts, who became superintendent, and John Caputa and Leonard Golembiewski, who were elected assistant superintendents. There were thus no places at the top for Messrs. Lucostic and Tassone. The Board created the post of vice-principal of the high school for Mr. Lucostic with a reduction of salary and demoted Mr. Tassone to teacher at a substantially decreased salary but at a high rate of compensation for a classroom teacher in the Brownsville system.
Section 1151 of Article XI of the Public School Code of 1949, 24 P.S. § 11-1151, provides: "The salary of any district superintendent, assistant district superintendent or other professional employe in any school district may be increased at any time during the term for which such person is employed, whenever the board of school directors of the district deems it necessary or advisable to do so, but there shall be no demotion of any professional employe either in salary or in type of position, except as otherwise provided in this act, without the consent of the employe, or, if such consent is not received, then such demotion shall be subject to the right to a hearing before the board of school directors and an appeal in the same manner as hereinbefore provided in the case of the dismissal of a professional employe." The cases which have arisen under this provision establish the following ...