Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of Rona C. Pookman, Frank G. Eisenreich and Janis M. Muraca v. School District of the Township of Upper St. Clair, No. SA 357 of 1982.
Stephen H. Jordan, with him Louis B. Kushner and Ronald G. Backer, Rothman, Gordon, Foreman & Groudine, for appellants.
Richard DiSalle, with him Samuel L. Douglass and Kim D. Eaton, Rose, Schmidt, Dixon & Hasley, for appellee.
Judges Rogers, Craig and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
This is an appeal by Rona C. Pookman, Frank G. Eisenreich, and Janis M. Muraca (Appellants) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County which affirmed an action of the Upper St. Clair Board of School Directors (Board). For the reasons which follow, we reverse.
Because of a significant decline in enrollment in the Upper St. Clair School District, the Board, (during
the 1980-81 school year) determined that several teaching positions should be eliminated beginning with the 1981-82 school year. As a result, the Board directed that the employment contracts of a number of teachers, including Appellants, would not be renewed for the 1981-82 school year. The Appellants were so notified on or about May 1, 1981.
Each of the three teacher Appellants was hired in August of 1979 as a non-tenured temporary professional employee and began work in the 1979-1980 school year. Each teacher taught through the 1979-80 and 1980-81 school years without receiving an unsatisfactory rating. Temporary professional employees who complete two years of service without receiving an unsatisfactory rating achieve status as tenured professional employees by operation of law. Section 1108 of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 11-1108;*fn1 see also Department of Education v. Jersey Shore Area School District, 481 Pa. 356, 392 A.2d 1331 (1978). In the decision not to renew Appellants' contracts for the 1981-82 school year, the Board treated them as non-tenured temporary employees, not as tenured professionals entitled to considerations of seniority. Had the Board considered Appellants among other tenured professionals within the District, other teachers would
have been suspended and Appellants' contracts would have been renewed.
The fundamental issue in this case is whether Appellants should have been considered tenured professionals or non-tenured temporary professionals in the decision to eliminate teaching positions beginning in the 1981-82 school year. The Board argues that because at the time of its decision, April of 1981, Appellants' status was that of non-tenured temporary professional employees, that status was controlling. Appellants urge that since the decision was not effective until after each had completed two years of satisfactory teaching, and thereby achieved tenured ...