Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County in the case of Harborcreek School District v. Harborcreek Education Association, No. 8392-A-1980.
Wallace J. Knox, Knox, Graham, McLaughlin, Gornall and Sennett, Inc., for appellant.
George Levin, Shamp, Levin, Arduini, Jenks and Hain, for appellee.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
The appellant, the Harborcreek School District (District), appeals a decision of the Court of Common
Pleas of Erie County which affirmed an arbitrator's award granting a grievance filed by the appellee, the Harborcreek Education Association (Association), on behalf of grievant Paul M. Foust. The award directed the District to advance Mr. Foust on the salary scale from Step 20 to Step 25 and to reimburse him for his salary loss from September 7, 1978.
Mr. Foust, a social studies teacher and professional employee of the District since 1958, purchased,*fn1 before the commencement of the 1978 school year, additional years of "creditable nonschool service"*fn2 from the Public School Employees' Retirement Board. He purchased these additional years so that he could receive credit for the years he had served in the military and also be advanced on the teachers' salary scale the equivalent number of years. On August 7, 1978, he requested by letter that he be advanced by the District because of his purchase inasmuch as the District had done so for other teachers who had made identical purchases.*fn3 The District, however, refused his request and the Association then instituted a grievance procedure which was provided for in the 1978-79 collective bargaining agreement (agreement) covering the parties. The arbitrator granted the Association's grievance and found that because "past practices" of advancing teachers on the salary scale for the purchase of military time existed and were also benefits or rights preserved by the
terms of the agreement, the District had violated the agreement.
The District's first contention here is that the Court below erred because the evidence presented by the Association did not establish that any such "past practices" existed, and if so, that they were contained in the agreement. The District initially argues, therefore, that the arbitrator's award could not have been drawn from the agreement. It claims alternatively that, should such "past practices" be deemed to have existed, the granting of such increases in salary status violated Section 508 of the Public School Code of 1949 (Code),*fn4 and, consequently, would not be a valid basis for a "past practice" which would be capable of being incorporated into the agreement.
Our review in this matter is limited to a determination of "whether or not the arbitrator, in relying on the past practice of the parties . . . failed to draw his award from the essence of the contract." Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit No. 5, Education Association v. Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit No. 5, 61 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 191, 195, 432 A.2d 1152, 1154 (1981) (citing Leechburg Area School District v. Dale, 492 Pa. 515, 424 A.2d 1309 (1981)); see ...