Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cameron County in case of In the Matter of the Establishment of Representation of the Cameron County School Board By 9 Directors Elected At Large, No. 81-239.
Cartwright, Fernan and Whitney, for appellants.
Edwin W. Tompkins, II, for appellee.
Patrick J. Kronenwetter, for intervenors.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Williams, Jr., Craig, MacPhail and Doyle. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
[ 71 Pa. Commw. Page 604]
This is an appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cameron County denying and dismissing a petition of resident electors which sought to replace the regional election of school directors in the Cameron County School District (District) with an at-large election. For the reasons which follow, we reverse and remand.
[ 71 Pa. Commw. Page 605]
On November 21, 1966, a regional plan for the election of school directors for the District was established by order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cameron County. This plan separates the County into three regions which are compatible with the boundaries of election districts which are subsumed within the three regions. The three regions are the Emporium Region, the Shippen-Portage Region and the Southern Cameron Region.*fn1 According to the plan, three school directors would be elected from each region. On August 20, 1981, a petition of resident electors was filed with the Court of Common Pleas of Cameron County, which sought to abolish the regional representation plan and substitute therefor an at-large election of all nine school directors. The resident electors alleged that the regions have grossly disparate populations, and therefore
[ 71 Pa. Commw. Page 606]
the existing plan is contrary to the requirements of the Public School Code of 1949 (Code).*fn2 On September 22, 1981, the court of common pleas issued a memorandum opinion and order denying and dismissing the resident electors' petition. This appeal followed.
The first question raised by this appeal is whether the resident electors can petition for an at-large representation plan for the District. Section 303 of the Code provides for three alternative representation plans for a school district. School directors may be elected at-large, pursuant to Section 303(a) of the Code, or on a regional basis, or on a combined regional/at-large basis, pursuant to Section 303(b)(1) of the Code. Section 303(b)(3), in pertinent part, also provides: "Any proposed change in an approved plan, including abolition of regional representation, shall be submitted for approval to the court of common pleas by the board of school directors, or by a petition of the resident electors within the district." 24 P.S. § 3-303(b)(3) (emphasis added). Clearly, the resident electors may petition to abolish regional representation in favor of an at-large election of school ...