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decided: July 6, 1976.


Appeal from the Arbitration Award of October 30, 1975, in case of David Zehner v. Northampton Area Board of Education.


Frank H. Gelman, with him Leon I. Mesirov, Marc S. Cornblatt, and Mesirov, Gelman, Jaffe & Cramer, for appellant.

Joseph L. Rosenfeld, with him Richard H. Pepper, for appellee.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge Kramer did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Blatt

[ 25 Pa. Commw. Page 403]

On September 5, 1974, the Northampton Area Board of Education (School Board) and the Northampton Area Education Association (Association) entered into a collective bargaining agreement providing that the "school year will be 188 total days for members of the bargaining unit, 184 shall be teaching days and 4 shall be snow days." During the school year 1974-1975, while the agreement was in effect, the School Board scheduled a total of 188 days, but classes were dismissed because of snow on only one day. On two other days, special holidays were granted, so that teachers of the Association were actually in service 185 days.*fn1 In a grievance filed pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, David Zehner, a teacher representing the members of the Association, claimed that the School Board failed to provide a total of 4 non-working snow days during the 1974-1975 school year thereby requiring him to work one teaching day beyond the 184 agreed upon. His grievance was submitted to an arbitrator who concluded that, under the bargaining agreement, the School Board could not require teachers to perform more than 184 teaching days of service, and awarded the grievant an extra day of pay. The School Board filed an appeal with this Court pursuant to Pa. R.J.A. No. 2101.

The sole matter before us, of course, concerns the arbitrator's interpretation of the calendar provision in the collective bargaining agreement, and our review is limited to a determination of whether or not his award draws its essence from the agreement

[ 25 Pa. Commw. Page 404]

    and can be rationally derived therefrom. Only when there is a manifest disregard of the agreement may we disturb the award. In the Matter of Arbitration Between Ringgold Area School District Donora Senior High School and Ringgold Education Association, 24 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 266, 356 A.2d 842 (1976); County of Franklin v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 379, 346 A.2d 845 (1975).

Here the arbitrator examined past practices of the School Board and found that no teacher was customarily required to work for more than 184 days so that, when less than the 4 normally scheduled snow days were used for inclement weather, teachers were granted extra holidays in lieu of unused snow days. And it must be remembered, of course, that such past practices, as part of the so-called common law of the shop, are relevant considerations in the interpretation of collective bargaining agreements. United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Company, 363 U.S. 574 (1960). Under such past practices, then, the arbitrator concluded that the school year included a total of 4 non-service "snow days" and no more than 184 "teaching days" of service, and his interpretation of the existing agreement clearly conformed to these past practices.

The School Board insists that the arbitrator's award reaches an irrational result in that the collective bargaining agreement would thus be held to give teachers extra pay for days not worked. In other words, the School Board believes the result would be to entitle teachers to be given extra holidays simply because it does not happen to snow on "teaching days".*fn2 This characterization, however, does not

[ 25 Pa. Commw. Page 405]

    withstand analysis. Under Article XI of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a school year will have a total of 188 days. Of these, the agreement provides that "184 shall be teaching days" and "4 shall be snow days". The language of the agreement is obviously mandatory. As the arbitrator viewed it, the reference to 188 total days meant only that "the Board will attempt to complete the School Year within this period of time" and that the 4 snow days provided the flexibility necessary to enable the schools to finish the year on the scheduled closing date. His ruling established that the 184 day provision must be read so as not to require the teachers to work more than 184 days, and, because the grievant teacher here worked 185 days, the arbitrator awarded extra pay for an extra day worked. This was not extra pay for a day "not worked" as the School Board claims. We ...

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