Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in the case of In Re: Appeal of Rose Tree Media School District, No. 79-5944.
Alexander DiSanti, Richard, Brian, DiSanti & Hamilton, for appellant.
Joseph A. Damico, Jr., Petrikin, Wellman, Damico & Carney, for appellee.
Judges Mencer, Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer. Judge Palladino did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 65 Pa. Commw. Page 149]
In 1978, Mary Margaret Hamill, a teacher in the Rose Tree Media School District (District), attended a course given by the Indiana State University of Pennsylvania and thereafter filed a request with the District for tuition reimbursement. The Superintendent denied her request on the ground that it was not "consistent with the qualifications as written in Article VI(I)(1)" of the collective bargaining agreement, which provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
Board shall reimburse 100% of tuition up to $250. per teacher per year for all teachers who
[ 65 Pa. Commw. Page 150]
have completed two or more years as employes in the district. . . . Courses submitted for reimbursement must be approved by the Office of the Superintendent as directly beneficial to the teacher in his specialized field and to the district as a whole.
The Rose Tree Media Education Association (Union) then filed a grievance on behalf of Hamill, which ultimately proceeded to arbitration, in accordance with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. The arbitrator sustained the grievance and directed the District to reimburse Hamill for her tuition costs. On appeal by the District, the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County vacated the arbitrator's award and denied Hamill's grievance. We reverse the order of the lower court and reinstate the arbitrator's award.
In his opinion, the arbitrator noted that the Union took the position that Article VI(I)(1) of the collective bargaining agreement provides for tuition reimbursement where the study "is beneficial to the individual teacher in the performance of her duties and to the school district;" the District took the position that the agreement provides for tuition reimbursement only where the School Superintendent determines, in his discretion, that the study is beneficial to the "teacher in his specialized field as well as to the district as a whole." The arbitrator later indicated that the issue presented for arbitration was not whether the Superintendent abused his discretion in denying reimbursement, but whether the course attended by Hamill met the standards of the agreement, in the opinion of the arbitrator. The arbitrator concluded that the standards of the agreement were met, by determining that the topics studied were directly beneficial to Hamill in her position as a high school faculty member.
[ 65 Pa. Commw. Page 151]
The lower court vacated the award on the basis that "[a] review of the contract indicates a clear intent to vest discretion in the superintendent with regard to the issue of tuition reimbursement. . . . In overruling the decision of the superintendent, the arbitrator usurped this 'bargained for' ...