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SPRINGFIELD SCHOOL DISTRICT v. PAUL J. SHELLEM (11/26/74)

decided: November 26, 1974.

SPRINGFIELD SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT,
v.
PAUL J. SHELLEM, APPELLEE. PAUL J. SHELLEM, APPELLANT, V. SPRINGFIELD SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLEE



Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, in case of Paul J. Shellem v. Springfield School District, No. 5820 of 1973.

COUNSEL

D. Barry Gibbons, with him Gibbons, Buckley and Smith, for Springfield School District.

Joseph L. Monte, Jr., with him Eckell, Sparks, Vadino, Auerback and Monte, for Paul J. Shellem.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Kramer.

Author: Kramer

[ 16 Pa. Commw. Page 308]

This matter involves cross appeals, consolidated for determination, from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, dated January 29, 1974 ordering that the appeal of Paul J. Shellem (Shellem) to that court from an adjudication of the Springfield School District (School District) be heard de novo before the court below.

In September 1969 the School District engaged Shellem as a "long-term substitute" to teach mathematics for the school year 1969-70 at a salary of $7,170. No written contract was executed between the parties but, as a condition of employment, Shellem was to obtain teaching credits by attendance at a college which would certify his enrollment. The School District agreed to reimburse Shellem for one-half the tuition cost upon completion of the credits. Shellem soon encountered difficulties with the school administration and in December 1969 his teaching performance was rated as "unsatisfactory." On January 21, 1970 Shellem was notified that he should resign or face dismissal. Shellem requested a hearing but he was informed by the School District that the charges and proof against him would be presented at a private meeting and that he would not be permitted to bring witnesses or an attorney. The private meeting was held on January 29, 1970 and Shellem was dismissed shortly thereafter. Shellem filed an action in mandamus to compel his reinstatement as a teacher and to recover money damages for the breach of his contract of employment. In the mandamus action the

[ 16 Pa. Commw. Page 309]

    lower court held that Shellem had not been provided a hearing pursuant to section 514 of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. ยง 5-514, and ordered that Shellem be reinstated to his job and reimbursed for unpaid salary and tuition costs. On appeal this Court agreed that Shellem was entitled to a hearing. We also held that the lower court erred by reinstating Shellem and that proper procedure required that the case be remanded back to the School District for the purpose of holding the hearing to which Shellem was entitled.*fn1

As a result of the order of this Court, the School District by letter dated March 2, 1973, notified Shellem and his counsel that a hearing would be held on March 12, 1973. The notice also set forth eight specific reasons or specifications for Shellem's dismissal, all of which were generally referred to as "neglect of duty."*fn2 A hearing was held before the entire Board of School Directors and a complete transcript of the proceedings was taken and prepared by a court reporter. After

[ 16 Pa. Commw. Page 310]

    the hearing, the Board issued its adjudication in which it discussed each of the eight charges in some detail, and in which it concluded that Shellem's conduct amounted to "gross neglect of duty." The adjudication ordered that Shellem "be dismissed from employment as of the date of his severance in January of 1970."

Shellem then took a timely appeal to the court below in which he argued, in the alternative, (1) that the court should reverse because there was not substantial evidence in the record to support the School District's action or (2) that the court should grant a hearing de novo because he had not received a fair and impartial hearing mandated by the due process laws of the Constitution. After argument and without receiving any additional ...


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