Appeals from the Order of the Secretary of Education in case of Robert J. Bruckner v. Lancaster County Area Vocational-Technical Joint School Operating Committee, Teacher Tenure Appeal, No. 4-80.
Thomas W. Scott, Killian & Gephart, for petitioner, Robert J. Bruckner.
Clarence C. Kegel, Jr., Barley, Snyder, Cooper & Barber, for respondent.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Blatt and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 524]
Robert J. Bruckner (Bruckner) appeals here an order of the Secretary of Education (Secretary) which affirmed his dismissal from a teaching position with the Lancaster County Area Vocational-Technical School. Appeal No. 3107 C.D. 1980. The School Committee has also appealed the Secretary's order as to the award of back pay. No. 3210 C.D. 1980.
The facts as stated by the Secretary are as follows: Bruckner was last employed by the School Committee as a commercial art instructor. He left the school on January 27, 1978 citing medical reasons for his leaving, and he was subsequently admitted to the Veterans Hospital in Philadelphia for treatment of a nervous condition. Bruckner, his physician, and the school administration exchanged letters throughout the spring and summer of 1978, all in an effort to see if Bruckner was fit to resume his teaching duties the following September. On June 22 he was given an extended medical leave of absence until August 1, at which time he was to inform the school as to his plans for the fall semester and to produce documentation of his satisfactory mental health and of his ability to carry on his teaching duties. On August 24, the School Committee, having had no communication from him since having informed him of the granting of his extended leave and because of their need to find a replacement for the rapidly approaching school year, adopted a resolution to the effect that Bruckner's failure to respond should be considered as a resignation from his position. Only after that did Bruckner express a desire to return, which he did by appearing in person at the school on September 5, 1978, but this was deemed too late.
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 525]
Bruckner thereafter sought legal advice and in February of 1979 requested reinstatement and back pay. Hearings were held after which Bruckner was dismissed as a professional employee on the grounds of incompetency, persistent negligence, persistent and willful violations of the school Committee on the dismissal issue, but granted Bruckner back pay to December 27, 1979, the date of the School Committee's adjudication and order, holding that there had been no abandonment of his job. Both parties have petitioned this Court for review.
Our scope of review, in cases such as the one presented here, is limited to a determination of whether or not there was a violation of constitutional rights, an abuse of discretion, or an error of law, or whether or not necessary findings of facts are supported by substantial evidence. Gobla v. Crestwood School District, 51 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 539, 414 A.2d 772 (1980).
Bruckner argues that our due process constraints require reinstatement where there has been no resignation and no pretermination hearing. This argument, however, was exhaustively discussed and rejected by this Court in Andresky v. West Allegheny School District, 63 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 222, 437 A.2d 1075 (1981), where Judge Mencer carefully analyzed both the federal constitutional case law and the Pennsylvania statutory scheme. It ...