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SCHOOL DISTRICT PHILADELPHIA v. ELEANOR BROCKINGTON (07/08/86)

decided: July 8, 1986.

SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA, PETITIONER
v.
ELEANOR BROCKINGTON, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Secretary of Education in case of Eleanor Brockington v. School District of Philadelphia, Teacher Tenure Appeal No. 6-84.

COUNSEL

Sally Akan, General Counsel, with her, Vincent J. Salandria, for petitioner.

Eleanor Brockington, respondent, for herself.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge Colins dissents.

Author: Blatt

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 535]

The School District of Philadelphia (District) appeals here an order of the Secretary of Education awarding Eleanor Brockington (respondent) back pay for the period of time between the date when the District's Board of Education (Board) held a hearing concerning her reassignment and the date when the Board rendered its decision.

The respondent served as a Coordinator of Instruction and Curriculum with the District from 1970 until 1975, when she took a sabbatical leave. Upon her return from leave in 1976, she was informed that her previous position as Coordinator had been a temporary or "acting" position, that it had been eliminated because the program in which she worked had been closed and that she would consequently have to be returned to a teaching position. She contested that assignment, and, following several discussions regarding her status, she was eventually assigned, in March 1977, as a Supervisor of Staff Development in the District's Special Education Division. She held this position until September 1979 when she was notified by the District's personnel office that this position was being eliminated from the budget. When she sought to clarify her status, she was informed, inter alia, that, because she did not possess the requisite certification for a supervisor's position,*fn1 she would have to be returned to a teaching position for which she was certified. She requested a hearing on this alleged demotion, and a hearing was held by the Board in February 1980. The Board, however, did not

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 536]

    issue a decision until February 1984, when it voted to affirm the District's decision to reassign or "demote" her.*fn2

Pursuant to Section 1151 of the Public School Code of 1949 (Code),*fn3 the respondent thereafter appealed the Board's decision to the Secretary, and the Secretary determined that her reassignment constituted a demotion of a professional employee under the provisions of the Code. The demotion, however, was affirmed, the Secretary holding that the Board had not acted arbitrarily and capriciously in light of the respondent's lack of supervisory certification. The Secretary, however, awarded back pay, stating that the Board's four-year delay in rendering its decision violated the respondent's rights under the Code, thus rendering the transfer invalid for the period prior to the date of the Board's decision.

The District contends here that the respondent, admittedly a tenured teacher, never acquired professional employee status as a supervisor and that, consequently, her reassignment to a teaching position in 1979 did not constitute a demotion under the provisions of Section 1151 of the Code. It further contends that, even if the respondent's reassignment did constitute a demotion, no legal basis exists to support the Secretary's award of back pay. It argues that, inasmuch as the Board provided

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 537]

    the respondent with a timely due process hearing and ultimately affirmed the decision to "demote" her, she did not ...


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