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MARY BRIDGET SCHELL v. EASTERN YORK SCHOOL DISTRICT (10/21/85)

decided: October 21, 1985.

MARY BRIDGET SCHELL, APPELLANT
v.
EASTERN YORK SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of York County in case of Mary Bridget Schell v. Eastern York School District, No. 81-SO1156.

COUNSEL

John Adam Matlawski, with him, Betty F. Perry and Thomas W. Scott, Killian & Gephart, for appellant.

Michael I. Levin, Cleckner and Fearen, for appellee.

Judges Doyle and Barry, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.

Author: Doyle

[ 92 Pa. Commw. Page 334]

Mary Bridget Schell (Appellant) appeals from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of York County which dismissed her complaint against the Appellee, Eastern York School District (School District).

Appellant is an elementary teacher in the School District. She was hired as a temporary professional employee in the fall of 1968 and was awarded tenure and permanent professional status in the fall of 1970. In the fall of 1979, having completed the required ten years of satisfactory service, Appellant applied for a one year sabbatical leave under Section 1166 of the Public School Code of 1949 (School Code), Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 11-1166. Such sabbatical was approved by the School District, with the agreement that it was to be taken for the purpose of full-time travel during the second semester of the 1979-80 school year and the second semester of the 1980-81 school year. Regulations of the School District then in effect required submission of a detailed itinerary prior to approval of a sabbatical and substantiation that such itinerary had been followed upon the sabbatical's completion. Pursuant to Section 1169 of the School Code, 24 P.S. § 11-1169, persons on sabbatical leave are paid one-half of their regular salary.

In February of 1980, shortly after Appellant had commenced her sabbatical, she was advised by her physician that she would need major surgery within the next few weeks. On March 29, 1980, she wrote a letter to the School District requesting that her sabbatical be changed to a sick leave for the time during which she would be incapacitated, an anticipated period

[ 92 Pa. Commw. Page 335]

    of between six and eight weeks. On April 11, 1980, the Superintendent of Schools wrote back to Appellant and informed her that the Board could not accede to her request. Appellant had accumulated sick leave of 104.5 days at this time.

Appellant filed a grievance pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement then in force between the School District and its professional employees. This grievance was denied, solely for the reason that the subject matter did not fall within the parameters of the collective bargaining agreement, and the arbitrator therefore lacked jurisdiction. Appellant then instituted an assumpsit action in the Court of Common Pleas of York County. In an initial non-jury decision, the court awarded Appellant $1,937.14, an amount equivalent to the difference between the one-half pay which she had already received as sabbatical leave compensation and the full pay to which the court determined she was entitled for forty-one days of sick leave, plus simple interest computed at six percent from June 9, 1981 to the date of the decision, June 6, 1983. Costs of the suit were imposed on the School District. On October 28, 1983, however, the School District's exceptions were granted and the trial court en banc vacated its earlier decision and dismissed the complaint.

In its first opinion, the trial court found as a fact that, due to the absolute necessity of a surgical operation which was urgent and could not be postponed, Appellant was unquestionably unable to comply with her sabbatical itinerary for a period of eight weeks following her entry into the hospital on April 14, 1980. This finding was specifically kept intact in the court's subsequent opinion, which was based solely on ...


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