Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County in the case of West Middlesex Area School District v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, Joseph D. DeLise and West Middlesex Education Association, No. 1274 C.D. 1978.
P. Raymond Bartholomew, Cusick, Madden, Joyce and McKay, for appellant.
Mary Teresa Gavigan, with her, James L. Crawford, for appellee, Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.
Daniel R. Delaney, with him, Catherine C. O'Toole, Delaney and Evans, for appellees, West Middlesex Education Association and Joseph D. DeLise.
William Fearen, with him Michael I. Levin, Cleckner and Fearen, for Amicus Curiae, Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
Judges Mencer, Rogers and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 405]
The West Middlesex Area School District has appealed an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County upholding a finding of the Pennsylvania
[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 406]
Labor Relations Board (PLRB) that the district's refusal to submit a professional employe's grievance to binding arbitration was an unfair labor practice within Section 1201(a)(5) of the Public Employe Relations Act.*fn1
The facts are undisputed. Joseph DeLise was employed for thirteen years by the district, most recently as a home school visitor. His responsibilities included coordinating programs involving attendance, pupil guidance and discipline in several schools and acting as a liaison between the school and parents on such matters. In August, 1977 the district's school superintendent, due to declining enrollment and want of money, recommended the elimination of the home school visitor program and the transfer of DeLise to a classroom teaching position. DeLise was notified that action on this recommendation would be taken at a meeting of the school board. He attended that meeting represented by legal counsel and presented evidence supportive of the home school visitor program. At this meeting the school board advised DeLise that it was observing the procedural formalities required by Section 1151 of the Public School Code of 1949,*fn2 applicable to the demotion of professional employes, adding that it did not consider the proposed transfer to be a demotion. Following the hearing the school board voted to accept the superintendent's recommendation.
[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 407]
DeLise filed a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement covering his employment, alleging that the school board's action violated Article XIV of the agreement which provides that "[n]o professional employee shall be disciplined, reduced in rank, or reduced in compensation without just cause." The grievance was duly considered and denied at the first four steps of the procedure on the ground that DeLise's transfer was a proper exercise of the school board's managerial discretion. When DeLise requested arbitration the school board refused to participate, arguing for the first time that DeLise's exclusive remedy was his right to the school board hearing and thence by appeal to the Secretary of Education pursuant to Section 1131 of the School ...