Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County in case of Robert T. Hickey v. Board of School Directors of Penn Manor School District, Trust Book 42, page 268, Term 1972.
Gerald E. Ruth, for appellant.
Christopher W. Mattson, with him Barley, Snyder, Cooper & Mueller, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 16 Pa. Commw. Page 321]
On June 23, 1970 Robert T. Hickey entered into a "temporary professional employe's contract"*fn1 with the Penn Manor School District (School District) and he taught art at the Penn Manor Senior High School during the 1970-71 school year. In the course of that year he received seven unsatisfactory ratings from his department head, Mrs. Thelma C. Rutherford, who observed his classroom performance firsthand prior to each rating. Because of these ratings, his contract with the School District was terminated as of June 30, 1971.*fn2
Mr. Hickey requested a hearing before the Board of Directors (Board) of the School District, which was scheduled for August 18, 1971. After a procedural dispute as to which party had the burden of proof, however, neither party offered any evidence at that hearing. Mr. Hickey then brought an action in mandamus in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, alleging his right to a hearing under the
[ 16 Pa. Commw. Page 322]
Local Agency Law, Act of Dec. 2, 1968, P.L. 1133, 53 P.S. § 11301 et seq. That court dismissed preliminary objections filed by the Board and a hearing was subsequently held before the Board on July 12, 1972. Both Mr. Hickey and the School District presented testimony at that hearing, and, by a resolution adopted on October 8, 1972, the Board ordered his employment contract to be terminated. He appealed to the Court of Common Pleas, which then remanded the record to the Board to make findings of fact and to state the reasons upon which it based its dismissal action. The Board then listed nine findings of fact and two reasons for its dismissal action, and Mr. Hickey once more appealed to the Court of Common Pleas which, on January 18, 1974, affirmed the adjudication of the Board. An appeal to this Court has followed.
When a complete record of the proceedings before the local agency has been made and no additional testimony has been taken before the court below, we are required to affirm the action of the local agency unless we find that it was in violation of the constitutional rights of the appellant, or that the agency manifestly abused its discretion or committed an error of law, or that any finding of fact made by the agency and necessary to sustain its adjudication is not supported by substantial evidence. Acitelli v. Westmont Hilltop School District, 15 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 214, 325 A.2d 490 (1974).
Mr. Hickey argues first that the Board's findings of fact and its reasons for its adjudication are not supported by the record. We must hold otherwise. The Board's findings were that Mr. Hickey's instruction was below the students' grade level, that his lessons were not taught in accordance with plans, that his classroom time was poorly budgeted and that his presentation of lessons was confused. It also found
[ 16 Pa. Commw. Page 323]
that he was unwilling to make the necessary adjustments in his teaching methods as requested by his supervisors and that he was reluctant to accept their constructive criticism. These findings were well supported in the record, primarily by the testimony of Mrs. Rutherford, who had observed Mr. Hickey's classroom performance on nine separate occasions from September 21, 1969 to April 5, 1970. She testified in detail about Mr. Hickey's weaknesses as a teacher and about her unsuccessful attempts to assist him in the planning of his lessons. Even though Mr. Hickey testified that he received some satisfactory ratings and that Mrs. Rutherford's criticisms stemmed from a personal dispute with him involving their respective teaching schedules, the testimony of Mrs. Rutherford certainly constituted sufficiently substantial evidence to support the Board's findings. Mr. Hickey asserts, of course, that Mrs. Rutherford did not observe his classes sufficiently to make an intelligent judgment as to his performance. It was for the Board, however, to determine the credibility of the witnesses, and such credibility is a matter now beyond our scope of review. The ...