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KATHERINE HUSTED v. CANTON AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT AND CANTON AREA BOARD EDUCATION (04/12/83)

decided: April 12, 1983.

KATHERINE HUSTED, APPELLANT
v.
CANTON AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT AND CANTON AREA BOARD OF EDUCATION, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County in case of Katherine Husted v. Canton Area School District and Canton Area Board of Education, No. 77-5482.

COUNSEL

William F. Donovan, Novak and Donovan, for appellant.

William A. Jones, with him John Gerard Devlin, of counsel: Spencer, Sherr, Moses & Zuckerman, P.C., for appellees.

Judges Rogers, Blatt and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 382]

The factual and procedural background of this appeal may be stated as follows. In April, 1973 the parties entered into a written contract by which appellant Katherine Husted became a temporary professional employee of the appellee Canton Area School District. The stated term of the contract is two years. Twenty-two months later, following the receipt by Ms. Husted of an unsatisfactory rating of her performance as a classroom teacher, the appellant was notified that the Board had voted to terminate her employment. The appellant then requested and was granted a hearing on the matter of her dismissal pursuant to the Local Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 551 et seq. During the course of a number of Board sessions between May, 1975 and October, 1975 evidence and argument were adduced on the matter of the appellant's performance as a teacher; and on November 13, 1975, the Board issued a written decision confirming the dismissal.

Ms. Husted appealed from this adjudication to the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County. Although the record related to this appeal is not before us, we are told that the appellant argued that the hearing before the Board was tainted primarily by improper conduct of the Board's solicitor. By a consent Order entered on April 19, 1976 the parties agreed that the previous adjudication of the Board was invalid and that the record be remanded to the Board for a new hearing. During the course of a number of sessions of the Board between January 17, 1977 and November 15, 1977 a rehearing of the matter of the appellant's dismissal was conducted. A second written decision, including detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law, again confirming the dismissal, was entered by the Board on December 28, 1977.

Two days later, on December 30, 1977, the appellant pursued two paths to relief -- a second Local Agency

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 383]

Law appeal to the Lycoming County Common Pleas Court and, in the same Court, an action in assumpsit alleging a breach by the School Board and District of her temporary professional employee contract. The School District responded to the assumpsit action by the filing of a preliminary objection asserting the pendency of the Local Agency Law appeal. On April 17, 1978 the trial Court entered an Order sustaining the District's preliminary objection and staying the assumpsit action.

We are told that judgment in favor of the defendant School District was ultimately entered with respect to the Local Agency Law appeal and that appellate review of that decision by Ms. Husted was never sought. However, on January 31, 1981, the appellant filed a Praecipe intended to accomplish the restoration to the trial list of her cause of action in assumpsit. The trial court then denied the School District's Petition for a Rule to Show Cause by which it was asserted that the adverse and unappealed final judgment in the Local Agency Law appeal precluded litigation of the assumpsit claim. No appeal or cross-appeal by the District from this order last described has been pursued.

An evidentiary hearing was then conducted by the Common Pleas Court sitting without a jury and evidence was adduced relevant to the matter of the amount of wages the appellant would have received from the school district had she remained employed during the period prior to the December 28, 1977 adjudication by the Board reconfirming her dismissal. Argument by the appellant before the trial Court and renewed on the occasion of this appeal consists of the assertion that Section 553 of the Local Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 553 requires that the matter of the dismissal of a ...


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