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JOHN ANDRESKY ET AL. v. WEST ALLEGHENY SCHOOL DISTRICT (12/16/81)

decided: December 16, 1981.

JOHN ANDRESKY ET AL., APPELLANTS
v.
WEST ALLEGHENY SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of John Andresky, Dolores Augustin, Suzan Braun, Frank Cole, Kathleen Goss, Joseph Olszewski, Jan Senovich, Paul L. Tillson, Debbie Turici, Edward P. Vignale and Michele Wisniewski v. West Allegheny School District, No. SA 697 of 1980.

COUNSEL

Ronald N. Watzman, Watzman & Elovitz, for appellants.

Martin W. Sheerer, for appellee.

William Fearen, with him Michael I. Levin, Cleckner and Fearen, for Amicus Curiae, Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Judges Mencer, MacPhail and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.

Author: Mencer

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 223]

This is an appeal by John Andresky and others (appellants) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County which affirmed the decision of the School Board of West Allegheny School District to suspend eleven teachers. We affirm.

On June 21, 1978, the School Board adopted a budget of 67 1/2 mills and voted against any teacher suspensions for the 1978-79 school year. At a special meeting held on June 30, 1978, the School Board rescinded this action, however, by decreasing the millage to 60 mills and establishing a teacher/student ratio of 1 to 22. The School Board then suspended seven professional employees and four temporary professional employees. After hearings held on October 5, November 9, and November 22, 1978, the School Board issued an adjudication confirming the suspensions, which the lower court affirmed. This appeal followed.

Appellants first argue that the School Board violated their due process rights by failing to accord

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 224]

    them hearings prior to their suspensions. In order to invoke the requirements of procedural due process, however, appellants must initially demonstrate that they were deprived of an interest encompassed by the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of liberty and property. Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564 (1972). Property interests "are created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source such as state law -- rules or understandings that secure certain benefits and that support claims of entitlement to those benefits." Id. at 577. Clearly, the seven professional employees here have a legitimate claim to continued employment secured by state statute. Section 1122 of the Public School Code of 1949 (Code), Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 11-1122, provides that the contract of a professional employee may only be terminated for "immorality, incompetency, intemperance, cruelty, persistent negligence, mental derangement . . . [or] persistent and wilful violation of the school laws," and Section 1124 of the Code, 24 P.S. § 11-1124, states that professional employees may only be suspended because of a substantial decrease in pupil enrollment, curtailment of the educational program, or consolidation of schools. Therefore, the seven professional employees are entitled to due process protection.

The four temporary professional employees*fn1 likewise have an enforceable expectation of continued employment. Dicello v. Riverside School District, 33 Pa. ...


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