Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County in the case of Wilson Area School District v. Wilson Area Education Association and Huldah K. Anderson, No. 1983-C-6127.
A. Martin Herring, for appellants/appellees, Wilson Area Education Association and Huldah K. Anderson.
Charles N. Sweet, with him, Paul L. Stevens, Curtin and Heefner, for appellee/appellant, Wilson Area School District.
Judges MacPhail and Barry and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
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This matter is presently before us on cross appeals by the Wilson Area Education Association (WAEA)*fn1 and Wilson Area School District (Wilson)*fn2 from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County vacating an arbitration award. The arbitrator had determined that under the collective bargaining agreement between Wilson and the WAEA Huldah Anderson (Anderson), a professional employee of Wilson, was entitled to a hearing before an arbitrator to determine whether she was dismissed in accordance with Sections 1121-1132 of the Public School Code of 1949 (Code), Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. §§ 11-1121 -- 11-1132.
Our scope of review in this matter is limited. We must determine "whether the arbitrator's award draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreement." In the Matter of Petition of Wellsboro Area School District, 78 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 467, 467 A.2d 1197 (1983).
The essence test requires a determination as to whether the terms of the agreement encompass the subject matter of the dispute. Where it is determined that the subject matter of the dispute is encompassed within the terms of the agreement, the validity of the arbitrator's interpretation
[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 154]
is not a matter of concern for the court.
Leechburg Area School District v. Dale, 492 Pa. 515, 520-21, 424 A.2d 1309, 1312-13 (1981). The arbitrator must decide, in the first instance, the scope of the grievance arbitration procedure provided by the collective bargaining agreement. Pittsburgh Joint Collective Bargaining Committee v. City of Pittsburgh, 481 Pa. 66, 391 A.2d 1318 (1978). The arbitrator must determine the intention of the parties as expressed in the agreement. This is a question of fact, the resolution of which "is to be respected by the Judiciary if 'the interpretation can in any rational way be derived from the agreement, viewed in light of its language, its context, and any other indicia of the parties' intention. . . .'" Community College of Beaver County v. Community College of Beaver County, Society of the Faculty (PSEA/NEA), 473 Pa. 576, 594, 375 A.2d 1267, 1275 (1977) (quoting Ludwig Honold Mfg. Co. v. Fletcher, 405 F.2d 1123, 1128 (3d Cir. 1969)).
At issue in the instant case was Anderson's dismissal from her position. Anderson was notified in July, 1982, of dismissal charges against her pursuant to Sections 1121-1132 of the Code. The Wilson School Board (Board) held several hearings on these charges, culminating in a decision on September 3, 1982, to dismiss Anderson. When she was notified of the dismissal, Anderson filed a grievance on September 27, 1982, instead of appealing to the Secretary of Education as provided by Section 1131 of the Code, 24 P.S. § 11-1131.
The collective bargaining agreement between Wilson and the WAEA in effect at the time of Anderson's dismissal provided in Article VIII, ...