Appeal from the Order of the Secretary of the Department of Education in case of In Re: Appeal of Ruth Lesley, a professional employe, from a decision of the Board of School Directors of the Oxford Area School District, Chester County, Pennsylvania, No. 247.
C. Richard Morton, for appellant.
Edward A. Miller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
Alexander A. DiSanti, with him Richard, Brian, DiSanti & Hamilton, for intervening appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.
[ 24 Pa. Commw. Page 423]
This is an appeal from an order of the Secretary of Education (Secretary) requiring the Oxford Area School District to reinstate a teacher as a professional employee and grant her a sabbatical leave of absence for health reasons for the 1974-75 school year.
The facts are not disputed. On May 24, 1974, Ruth Lesley, a tenured teached with some ten (10) years experience in the Oxford Area School District, was involved in a shoplifting incident at a local supermarket. Upon learning of this, the District Superintendent investigated the matter and met with Mrs. Lesley to discuss the incident. After she admitted concealing merchandise, the Superintendent suggested that she resign. Mrs. Lesley agreed and started to write a resignation letter, but decided to wait and submit one later. At this time, she was suspended from teaching duties.
Instead of submitting a letter of resignation, Mrs. Lesley requested a sabbatical leave for restoration of health as provided in Section 1166 of the Public School Code of 1949*fn1 (Code). The Superintendent confirmed that this request would be acted upon. However, no action was taken, nor was a formal application ever submitted, due to the fact that the School Board of Directors (Board), upon the Superintendent's recommendation, had decided to proceed with a hearing on charges of incompetency and immorality based on the shoplifting incident.
The hearing was held on September 10, 1974. Since the hour was late when the hearing concluded, the Board postponed making a decision. On September 16, 1974, the Board held a private session to deliberate what action to take. The Superintendent, who had testified at the hearing as a witness for the Board, was present at this
[ 24 Pa. Commw. Page 424]
session. He was asked and responded to a number of questions from Board members concerning Mrs. Lesley's future job opportunities and her effectiveness as a teacher in light of the shoplifting incident. The Board then voted six to nothing (three members being absent) to dismiss Mrs. Lesley.
Mrs. Lesley appealed to the Secretary, contending that the charges were not supported by substantial evidence and that the Superintendent's participation in the Board deliberations constituted a violation of the procedural requirement for the dismissal of a tenured professional employee provided in the Code. The Secretary sustained her ...