Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, No. 78-1219, in case of In Re: Appeal of Rose Tree Media School District.
Joseph A. Damico, Jr., with him, Steven G. Brown, of Petrikin, Wellman, Damico & Carney, for appellant.
Alexander A. DiSanti, with him, Thomas P. Hamilton, Jr., of Richard, Brian, DiSanti & Hamilton, for appellees.
Judges Mencer, Blatt and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. This decision was reached prior to the expiration of the term of office of Judge DiSalle. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Mencer.
[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 369]
The Rose Tree Media School District (school district) appeals here from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County which affirmed an arbitrator's award made under a collective bargaining agreement between the School District and the Rose Tree Media Education Association (Association). The School District argues that the award should be set aside because (1) it is not rationally derived from the agreement and (2) it is unconscionable.
At issue is the construction of a provision in the agreement which grants teachers a special retirement
[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 370]
salary increment based on accumulated unused sick-leave days:*fn1
Teachers contemplating retirement under the Pennsylvania Public School Employee's Retirement System may notify the Board of this intention within three years prior to their effective retirement date. The Board shall grant the pending retiree a special salary increase of 1/N (N = number of years prior to retirement teacher entered the plan) of all unused accumulated sick leave days over thirty (30) days. The employee's base per diem rate shall be used to determine this increase. This special increment shall be calculated once at the initiation of the plan only.
Although the provision does not by its terms mention any limit on the number of days that can be accumulated or on the amount of the increase, the School District argues that a teacher's increment for any single year cannot exceed the teacher's maximum salary for that year as provided in the salary schedule of the agreement. The Association's position is that no maximum is applicable. The arbitrator, to whom the question of interpretation was submitted, agreed with the Association, and we, of course, must uphold the arbitrator "[i]f his interpretation can in any rational way be derived from the Agreement viewed in light of its language, its context and any other indicia of the parties' intention." County of Lackawanna v. Service Employee's International Union, 35 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 531, 536, 387 A.2d 161, 164 (1978).
[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 371]
The arbitrator's conclusion was buttressed by evidence consisting of letters (written several months after the agreement was reached) from correspondence between a teacher and the assistant superintendent in which the teacher inquired whether or not the salary maximums applied to the special increment and the school official replied unequivocally that they did not.*fn2 Clearly, therefore, the arbitrator's interpretation was ...