Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County in case of Deborah Ann English v. North East Board of Education, No. 58-E of 1974.
Michael E. Dunlavey, J.D., with him Orton & Nygaard, for appellant.
George Levin, with him Shamp, Levin, Arduini and Hain, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
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The Court of Common Pleas of Erie County reversed an adjudication of the North East Board of Education (Board) which terminated the employment of Miss Deborah Ann English as a temporary professional employee. The lower court ordered that she be reinstated and the Board has appealed that order to this Court.
Miss English was hired by the North East School District (School District) as a temporary professional employee for a 185-day period on January 29, 1974. During the course of the succeeding semester she was formally observed twice by Mr. Donald Edwards, her school's principal, and twice on separate occasions by Mr. Glen Muirhead, the School District's superintendent. Mr. Edwards also, of course, had the opportunity to observe her informally from time to time. On June 10, at the end of the semester, Miss English was rated as unsatisfactory by both her principal and the superintendent. She was then afforded a hearing before the Board, held on June 26, to determine whether or not she could continue to teach in the School District. At the hearing, both the principal and the superintendent testified as to their reasons for giving her an unsatisfactory rating and her attorney was permitted to cross-examine them. She presented evidence on her own behalf and testified for herself as well. The Board, after considering the evidence, issued its adjudication approving the unsatisfactory rating of Miss English and discharging her.
Miss English appealed to the lower court pursuant to the provisions of the Local Agency Law.*fn1 Prior to the
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disposition of that appeal, however, she also filed a complaint in the Federal District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania alleging denial of her civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a denial of due process of law. On November 6, Judge Weber of the Federal Court issued an order, accompanied by an opinion, granting the Board's motion for summary judgment in that action without prejudice to any rights Miss English might still assert under state law. On January 24, 1975, the court below, without taking any additional evidence, reversed the Board on the basis that its adjudication was unsupported by substantial evidence, and it ordered Miss English reinstated as a temporary professional employee.
We cannot accept the lower court's conclusion as to the substantiality of the evidence supporting the Board's adjudication. The major complaint voiced by the principal and the superintendent was that Miss English failed to assert sufficient control over the students in her classroom. The principal stated that on April 17, 1974, two of her students came to his office without her permission and asked him to help restore order in the classroom. He did so, at which time she admitted that she was having a difficult time with the children. Subsequently, on April 23, 1974, he formally observed her classroom performance and concluded that "her room was in confusion, her preparation for the lesson was ineffective and the students were alienated from her." He also observed her "screaming and shouting" at the children when he happened to be walking by her classroom or trying to reach her by intercom. He testified further that: "Her children were consistently not under control, shouting and refusal (sic) to do work and leaving the room without permission." The superintendent's testimony confirmed the principal's opinion as to her lack of control. His first-hand observation was that "[t]here was a general lack of interest and attention on the part of the students," and that Miss English's "continued and unnecessarily loud
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attempts at corrections indicated an obvious lack of control." Both witnesses attributed her unsatisfactory rating to a number of other reasons, as well, including her lack of preparation and latenesses. We need not elaborate on those reasons here, but the failure of Miss English to maintain adequate classroom control is ...