Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County in the case of Joy A. Bitler v. Warrior Run School District, No. CV-77-2087.
Peter J. O'Brien, O'Brien and Miller, for appellant.
H. William Koch, Koch and Foust, for appellee.
Judges Blatt, Craig and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
[ 62 Pa. Commw. Page 593]
Appellant Joy Bitler, a teacher, appeals from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County dismissing her complaint in mandamus, which requested that the court order the Warrior Run School District to reinstate her as a regular professional employee and grant her back pay and benefits. Warrior Run had terminated Bitler's employment without a hearing.
Bitler had attained the status of a tenured professional employee in 1970, after teaching two years in the Danville School District. For the 1975-76 school year, Bitler and Warrior Run entered into a professional employee contract for Bitler to teach the third grade class of Mrs. Donna Elser, who had been granted
[ 62 Pa. Commw. Page 594]
a maternity leave for that school year. At the end of that 1975-76 school year, Warrior Run and Bitler entered into a second professional employee contract for the 1976-77 school year, under which Bitler agreed to teach the second grade class of Mrs. Joan Spotts, then employed by the district as a Title I Coordinator, a reading program supervisor in a federally-funded program.
In May 1977, Warrior Run's principal notified Bitler that she would not be retained for the following school year, and the school district terminated her at the end of the 1976-77 school year.
After the school board denied Bitler's request for a hearing, she filed her complaint in mandamus alleging that, being a regular professional employee of the school district, Section 1127 of the Public School Code of 1949*fn1 (School Code), 24 P.S. § 11-1127, entitled her to a hearing. In dismissing Bitler's complaint, the common pleas court determined that Warrior Run hired Bitler not as a regular professional employee, but as a "substitute" as that term is defined by Section 1101 of the School Code, 24 P.S. § 11-1101.
Bitler first contends that, where a permanently tenured professional employee leaves the school district where she attained that status, a second school district cannot, under any circumstances, hire as a substitute professional employee devoid of a right to a hearing if terminated by the second district. We cannot agree.
Under School Code § 1101, the term "substitute" is defined as any individual employed to replace temporarily a regular professional employee absent or on leave for legal cause approved by the school board. ...