Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Armstrong County in case of Leechburg Area School District v. Mary Louise Dale, Catherine Pastva, Karen Ravotta and the Leechburg Education Association, No. 1977-0826.
William K. Eckel, for appellants.
Donetta W. Ambrose, with her Ambrose & Ambrose, for appellee.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr. Judge Craig dissents.
[ 42 Pa. Commw. Page 340]
Before us is the issue whether a court of common pleas properly reversed an arbitration award which sustained grievances filed by the Leechburg Education Association (LEA)*fn1 against the Leechburg Area School District (District), a public employer, on behalf of three teachers: Mary Louise Dale, a tenured professional employee, and Catherine Pastva and Karen Ravotta, both temporary professional employees. We answer in the affirmative.
The essential facts are undisputed. On June 30, 1976, the Leechburg Area School Board resolved to reduce its staff effective immediately because of a substantial decrease in student enrollment and suspended several employees including grievants Dale, Pastva and Ravotta.*fn2 The School Board rehired the individual grievants on August 11, 1976, as substitutes for three teachers on authorized leave during the 1976-77 school year, at the rate of $33.33 per day, providing no fringe benefits.*fn3
Following three working weeks, they filed grievances alleging that District had violated provisions of
[ 42 Pa. Commw. Page 341]
the collective bargaining agreement by denying them their proper salary placement and benefits after their reassignment. LEA requested that the three grievants be put on the District's salary schedule in accordance with their respective years of service and degrees and sought compensation for the difference between the salaries they received as substitutes and that which they would have received as full-time regularly employed teachers.
The District denied their grievances and the controversy was submitted to arbitration in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement. The arbitrator characterized the three grievants as "long-term substitutes" who were the functional equivalent of full-time teachers and sustained the grievances as to all three grievants.
On appeal, the court below reversed the award of additional salary above the agreed-upon rate of $33.33 per day as against all three grievants and vacated the award of fringe benefits to the two non-tenured grievants.*fn4
Our threshold inquiry is as to the applicable scope of review. While there appears to be some debate among the Justices of our Supreme Court whether the Arbitration Act of 1927*fn5 or the so-called "essence ...