Appeal in case of In the Matter between Ringgold Area School District, Donora Senior High School and Ringgold Education Association.
George B. Stegenga, for appellants.
Daniel R. Delaney, with him Watzman, Levenson & Snyder, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 24 Pa. Commw. Page 267]
The Ringgold Area School District (District) entered into a collective bargaining agreement (agreement) with the Ringgold Education Association (Association) on July 1, 1973 pursuant to the Public Employe Relations Act*fn1 (PERA). A grievance was filed by a Donora Senior High School teacher, represented by the Association, and the grievance was submitted to arbitration. The arbitrator's award was in favor of the grievant and the District has now appealed to this Court pursuant to Pa. R.J.A. No. 2101.
Until September of 1973, the District maintained a practice of granting leaves of absence to teachers for attendance at Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) conferences and meetings without salary, with the District employing a substitute teacher for the school days involved. Beginning in September of 1973, the District, through "Acting Superintendent" Conte,*fn2 entered into an oral arrangement with the Association which provided that no deductions would be made from the salaries of teachers granted leaves of absence for attendance at PSEA conferences and that the Association would reimburse the District for wages paid to the substitute teachers employed to replace such teachers during these leaves of absence.*fn3 This arrangement lasted for one year,
[ 24 Pa. Commw. Page 268]
through the 1973-1974 school year, and thereafter, beginning in September 1974, the District returned to the prior practice, as detailed above. The grievant requested leave in the fall of 1974 for attendance at a PSEA conference and, when her request was granted without pay, instituted this action by filing a grievance.
The issue presented here is whether or not the District could unilaterally return to its prior practice regarding payment to teachers (and substitutes) when it granted leaves of absence for attendance at PSEA conferences.*fn4
It is clear that Pa. R.J.A. No. 2101 provides this Court with subject matter jurisdiction over an appeal from an arbitrator's award made pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. County of Franklin v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 379, 346 A.2d 845 (1975); Community College of Beaver County v. Community College of Beaver County, Society of the Faculty (PSEA/NEA), 17 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 231, 331 A.2d 921 (1975).
[ 24 Pa. Commw. Page 269]
It is especially clear that the standard of review here is the so-called "essence test," which provides that the award of an arbitrator, commissioned pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, must draw its "essence" from that agreement. The arbitrator is restricted to an interpretation and application of the agreement, and the award draws its "essence" from the basic agreement if it is in any way rationally derived therefrom. Only when there is a manifest disregard of the agreement may the reviewing court disturb the award. County of Franklin, Page 269} supra; County of Allegheny v. Allegheny County Prison Employees Independent ...