Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in the case of Wilbur G. Walker v. Pennsbury School District, No. 80-11701-12-1.
Paul L. Stevens, Curtin & Heffner, for appellant.
Catherine C. O'Toole, with her Thomas P. Hamilton, Jr., Richard, Brian, DiSanti and Hamilton, for appellee.
William Fearen, with him Michael I. Levin, Cleckner and Fearen, for Amicus Curiae, Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
President Judge Crumlish and Judges Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge Mencer did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 569]
The appellant, Pennsbury School District (District), challenges a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County granting a declaratory judgment in favor of the appellee, Wilbur G. Walker.
The appellee was first employed by the District as a professional employee during the 1953-54 school year and, after 12 years of service, he requested and
[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 570]
was granted a sabbatical leave for study purposes in 1965-66. At the conclusion of this first sabbatical leave, the appellant had completed thirteen years of school service. His service continued, and at the end of the 1972-73 school year he had completed twenty years of service, seven of which were subsequent to completion of his 1965-66 sabbatical leave. During the 1973-74 school year he again requested, was granted and took a sabbatical leave, this time for purposes of travel. At the conclusion of this 1973-74 sabbatical, he had completed twenty-one years of school service. His service next continued without interruption from the 1974-75 through the 1979-80 school years, at the conclusion of which he had completed twenty-seven years of service including six years of active service subsequent to completion of his 1973-74 sabbatical. On March 26, 1980, he requested a sabbatical leave for the second half of the 1980-81 school year, at which time he had completed twenty-seven and one-half years of total school service including prior sabbatical leaves and it had been six and one-half years since the completion of his 1973-74 sabbatical. The District denied the request on the grounds that he had not completed seven years of service since his last sabbatical leave and was therefore not eligible for another leave of absence until the 1981-82 school year. He then filed a petition for declaratory judgment with the court below, which concluded that the District erred by not including the appellee's 1973-74 sabbatical as a year of service in computing his eligibility for another leave of absence and that, if that year was counted, the appellee would have seven years of service as required by Section 1166 of the Public School Code of 1949 (Code), Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 11-1166 and would have been entitled to another sabbatical in 1980-81. This appeal followed.
[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 571]
Section 1166 of the Code provides:
(a) Any person employed in the public school system of this Commonwealth who has completed ten (10) years of satisfactory service as a professional employe or member of the supervisory, instructional or administrative staff, or as a commissioned officer, of any board of school directors, county board of school directors, or any other part of the public school system of the Commonwealth, shall be entitled to a leave of absence for restoration of health, study or travel, or, at the discretion of the board of school directors, for other purposes. At least five consecutive years of such service shall have been in the school district from which leave of absence is sought, unless the board of school directors shall in its discretion allow a shorter time: Provided, however, That in the case of professional employes of area vocational-technical schools or technical institutes prior service in the participating school district shall be credited toward such service requirement. Such leave of absence shall be for a half or full school term or for two half school terms during a period of two years, at the option of such person: Provided, however, if a sabbatical leave is requested because of the illness of an employe, a leave shall be granted for a period equivalent to a half or full school term or equivalent to two half school ...