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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JERSEY SHORE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT (03/09/76)

decided: March 9, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND CARROLL BITTNER
v.
JERSEY SHORE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order of the Secretary of Education in case of Appeal of Carroll Bittner, from the Decision of the Board of School Directors of the Jersey Shore Area School District, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, No. 234.

COUNSEL

Clyde Carpenter, Jr., with him Carpenter & Carpenter, for appellant.

William A. Hebe, with him Spencer, Gleason & Hebe, for appellee, Bittner.

Edward A. Miller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee, Commonwealth.

William Fearen, with him Cleckner & Fearen, for amicus curiae, Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

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

Author: Wilkinson

[ 23 Pa. Commw. Page 625]

The issue presented by the instant appeal is whether the teacher involved was a professional employee at the time she was notified that her employment was terminated. If she was a professional employee, then admittedly the required procedure to effect her suspension or dismissal was not followed and the decision of the Secretary of Education would be affirmed. If she was not a professional employee, then the Secretary's position was incorrect and his decision must be reversed. After a careful review of the record and the law, we must hold that she was not a professional employee and, therefore, must reverse the Secretary.

This teacher was engaged by the district superintendent to teach in what she described as "the E.S.E.A. reading program, full time." This was described as "a specialized type of reading program funded by the Federal Government." As clearly shown by the teacher's evidence and as found by the Secretary, the teacher did not have a "contract," by which we assume both the teacher and the Secretary mean a "written contract."*fn1 The narrow holding that we make on the complicated facts of this case is that one cannot acquire professional status as a school teacher in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania without having first obtained a written contract to teach, which written contract has been approved by a majority of the school board.

[ 23 Pa. Commw. Page 626]

This case is controlled by our recent decision in Gordon v. Board of Directors of West Side Area Vocational Technical School, 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 616, 347 A.2d 347 (1975), decided on November 14, 1975, well after the Secretary's decision in this case on June 25, 1975. Gordon, by its express language, clearly stands for the proposition that:

"Accordingly, public school teacher contracts must be in writing and approved by a majority of the school board to be valid and enforceable." 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. at 619, 347 A.2d at 349.

Section 1121 of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, ...


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