Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in case of Robert L. Fatscher v. Board of School Directors of the Springfield School District, Springfield, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, No. 77-16309.
C. Norwood Wherry, for appellant.
D. Barry Gibbons, Gibbons, Buckley and Smith, for appellee.
President Judge Crumlish and Judges Blatt and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.
[ 53 Pa. Commw. Page 224]
This is an appeal by Robert L. Fatscher, a tenured professional employee of the Springfield School District (District) from a decision and order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County. The court below held that the appellant's suspension from his position as a high school health and physical education teacher by the Springfield Board of School Directors (Board) was lawful.
The relevant facts are as follows: In December of 1974, because of a significant decline in student enrollment in the Springfield School District, it became apparent to school officials that a reduction of certain teaching positions would be necessary.
Among those positions scheduled to be eliminated was one in the health and physical education department. It was decided by school officials that in order to maintain an equal number of male and female teachers in that department, the teacher to be suspended had to be a male high school teacher. Although the physical education classes in the District were co-educational, conducted by both male and female teachers, there existed the need for a balance of male and female teachers for purposes of separate locker room supervision.*fn1
[ 53 Pa. Commw. Page 225]
Based on evaluation reports of the physical education teachers for previous years and at least one classroom observation, it was concluded that all teachers in that department, both male and female, were highly rated, there being no significant differences among them in their performance evaluations. Accordingly, the elimination of the one teacher from the physical education department would have to be based on seniority rights pursuant to Section 1125(b) of the Public School Code of 1949 (Code).*fn2
Appellant, with two years of tenure in the department, was the teacher with the least seniority. He was therefore identified as the teacher most likely to be suspended. Prior negotiations between the Board and the teachers' union had resulted in an agreement to provide early notification to those staff members who might possibly be suspended. Accordingly, the Board notified appellant in February of 1975 of the likelihood of suspension at the end of that school year. In June 1975 he was in fact suspended.
When the appellant received advance notice in February 1975 of his likely suspension, he requested the Board to grant him a hearing on the matter. The Board refused. It took an order from this Court for him to obtain a hearing;*fn3 and hearings were held in May and June of 1977. In October 1977 the Board affirmed its suspension of the appellant. When ...