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JAMES C. GORDON v. BOARD DIRECTORS WEST SIDE AREA VOCATIONAL TECHNICAL SCHOOL (11/14/75)

decided: November 14, 1975.

JAMES C. GORDON, ET AL., APPELLANTS,
v.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF WEST SIDE AREA VOCATIONAL TECHNICAL SCHOOL, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County in case of James C. Gordon, Joseph Long, Richard Stroud, William Sheridan, David T. Trachtenberg, Stanley F. Fidrych, and Joseph Wazenski v. Board of Directors of West Side Area Vocational Technical School, No. 5387 of 1973.

COUNSEL

Peter J. O'Brien, for appellants.

Patrick J. Toole, with him Herbert L. Winkler, for appellee.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer and Wilkinson, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson.

Author: Wilkinson

[ 21 Pa. Commw. Page 617]

This is an appeal by seven school teachers (appellants) from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County. The court sustained preliminary objections of the Board of Directors of West Side Area Vocational Technical School (appellee) to appellants' amended complaint and entered judgment for appellee. We affirm.

On June 27, 1973, appellants instituted suit in assumpsit against appellee to recover wages allegedly due them as teachers of the West Side Area Vocational Technical School (Vo-Tech). Preliminary objections to the original complaint were sustained. An amended complaint was then filed in which appellants alleged that they were employed under oral contract as full-time adult education vocational instructors at Vo-Tech during the 1971-72 and 1972-73 school years. Appellants further averred that during the summer of 1972, they were unable to teach when Vo-Tech was closed by appellee following the flood of June of that year. Pursuant to Section 1153 of the Public School Code of 1949 (School Code), Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 11-1153, appellants claimed they were entitled to recover wages lost during that period.

Preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to the amended complaint were filed by appellee in which

[ 21 Pa. Commw. Page 618]

    it asserted that appellants did not have a valid cause of action since their employment contracts were not in writing and since they failed to aver facts establishing approval of such contracts by the school board. Following a hearing, at which appellants' counsel was precluded from presenting argument for filing his brief untimely under a local court rule, the court below sustained the objections.

Appellants appeal therefrom on two grounds: (1) that neither written contracts nor averments of approval of such contracts by the school board are necessary to establish a valid cause of action; and (2) that they were deprived of a fundamental right to be heard in opposition to the preliminary objections at the hearing thereon. We reject both contentions.

Section 1153 of the School Code, 24 P.S. § 11-1153, provides:

"When a board of school directors is compelled to close any school or schools on account of contagious disease, the destruction or damage of the school building by fire or other causes, the school district shall be liable for the salaries of the teachers of said school or schools for the terms for which they were engaged. Whenever a teacher is prevented from following his or her occupation as a teacher, during any period of the school term, for any of the reasons in this section specified, the school district shall be liable for the salary of such teacher for such period, at the rate of compensation stipulated in the contract between the district and the teacher, in addition to the time actually occupied in teaching by such teacher." (Emphasis added.)

It is clear that the liability of a school district under Section 1153 is dependent upon its contracts with its teachers.*fn1 The ...


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