Appeal from the Order of the Secretary of Education in case of Appeal of Thomas F. Bair, from the decision of the Board of School Directors of the New Castle Area School District, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, No. 264.
Jonathan Solomon, with him Solomon & Solomon, for appellant.
Ronald N. Watzman, for appellee.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer and Mencer, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.
[ 28 Pa. Commw. Page 241]
The New Castle Area School District (Appellant) has appealed an order of the Secretary of Education (Secretary) which directed Appellant to reinstate with back pay Thomas F. Bair (Appellee).
Appellee is a special-education teacher who was employed by Appellant starting in 1960. Since the 1968-69 school year, Appellee taught educable mentally retarded students at the Benjamin Franklin Junior High School. On January 11, 1974, Appellee's principal rated him unsatisfactory and the rating was approved by the district superintendent. This was Appellee's first unsatisfactory rating in fourteen years of service as a professional employe of the school district.
A hearing was held on January 26, 1974, after the school district instituted proceedings for Appellee's dismissal on charges of incompetency and persistent
[ 28 Pa. Commw. Page 242]
negligence. At the hearing Appellee requested and was granted a one-year sabbatical leave for health reasons. The dismissal hearing was continued indefinitely.
On December 18, 1974, a hearing on the dismissal was rescheduled. The hearing commenced and continued throughout the first half of 1975. On June 23, 1975, the school board dismissed Appellee. Appellee (appellant below) appealed the dismissal to the Secretary who, after a hearing, reversed the School Board and ordered Appellee reinstated without loss of pay.
Two questions are presented for our determination: First, may a professional employe be dismissed for incompetency after he received but one unsatisfactory rating? Second, is there substantial evidence to support the charge of persistent negligence? We must answer both questions in the negative.
We reiterate that we must accept the Secretary's findings if they are supported by competent evidence. Stroman v. Secretary of Education, 7 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 418, 300 A.2d 286 (1973). Moreover, in view of the Secretary's expertise in matters involving the evaluation of teacher competency, we may not overturn his action unless he committed a ...