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RUTH F. GRANT v. BOARD SCHOOL DIRECTORS CENTENNIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT (06/27/79)

decided: June 27, 1979.

RUTH F. GRANT, PETITIONER
v.
THE BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS OF THE CENTENNIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Secretary of Education in case of Ruth F. Grant v. The Board of School Directors of the Centennial School District, Teacher Tenure Appeal, No. 274.

COUNSEL

Charles J. King, Jr., with him Rogers, King & Cole, for petitioner.

John Phillip Diefenderfer, with him Stuckert, Yates and Krewson, for respondent.

Judges Mencer, Rogers and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 43 Pa. Commw. Page 557]

After lengthy hearings, the Board of School Directors of the Centennial School District dismissed Ruth F. Grant from her employment as a professional employee for incompetency. Mrs. Grant appealed to the Secretary of Education who set aside the Board's action on the ground that Mrs. Grant had not twice been rated unsatisfactory prior to her dismissal. The School District appealed the Secretary's action to this Court and in Centennial School District v. Secretary of Education, 31 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 307, 376 A.2d 302 (1977) (allocatur refused), we held that there was no law or valid regulation which required two unsatisfactory ratings before the dismissal of a professional

[ 43 Pa. Commw. Page 558]

    employee and we remanded the record to the Secretary for review of the merits of Mrs. Grant's appeal. Mrs. Grant's counsel then wrote to the Secretary as follows:

Since the two rating requirement issue was the focus of Dr. Grant's appeal and hearing thereon held before the Secretary of Education of October 31, 1975, and since that issue has now been resolved adversely to Dr. Grant and the Department of Education by the Commonwealth Court, we herewith request that a hearing be held at which Dr. Grant may present evidence which is relevant to those issues still unresolved in this Appeal.

The Secretary declined to afford the requested additional hearing. She reviewed the record and upheld the School Board's action because she believed it was supported by the record made at the Board hearings.

The appellant makes three points in this further appeal. Two, we believe, are without merit. She contends that the Secretary abused her discretion in declining to provide the requested further hearing. Her thesis is that at the time of the hearings conducted by the School Board she, meaning, of course, her counsel, reasonably believed that the law required that two unsatisfactory ratings should precede the dismissal of a professional employee and that for this reason she did not present a full defense of her competency. The record fails to support the thesis. The School District contested the validity of the appellant's assertion concerning the necessity of two unsatisfactory ratings from the outset. Further, Mrs. Grant testified at length on both direct and cross-examination as to the merits, and at one place or another she refuted or explained every significant incident or circumstance depended on by the School Board as evidence of incompetency. At the conclusion of the hearings, Mrs. Grant's able counsel summed up on the

[ 43 Pa. Commw. Page 559]

    merits with considerable vigor. In contrast to the one short paragraph concerning ratings, counsel's argument on the merits consumes more than eleven pages of the reproduced record. There is no suggestion whatever in the record of the hearings, which we have read with some care, that the appellant's counsel was proceeding lightly on the merits. His cross-examination of the School Board's witnesses was thorough to a fault and his objections numerous. Finally, the appellant has failed to disclose the nature of the evidence she would offer at a further hearing, either to the Secretary or, in her brief, to us. She tells the Secretary only that it will be relevant and she tells us that she will present a case on the merits. As we have already noted, she adduced testimony which in fact purported to deny ...


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