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TERRENCE O'CONNOR v. WATTSBURG AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT (02/13/87)

decided: February 13, 1987.

TERRENCE O'CONNOR, APPELLANT
v.
WATTSBURG AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County in the case of Terrence O'Connor v. Wattsburg Area School District, No. 3168-A-1985.

COUNSEL

Joseph P. Burt, with him, John J. Barber, Shamp, Arduini, Hain and Barber, for appellant.

Christine Hall McClure, McClure, Dart, Miller, Kelleher & White, for appellee.

Judges Barry, Colins (p) and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 14]

Terrence O'Connor (Petitioner) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County which affirmed the decision of the Wattsburg Area School District School Board (Board) upholding Petitioner's suspension. We affirm.

Petitioner was hired as a professional employee for the Wattsburg Area School District on May 15, 1978. He is certified in social studies and driver's education. On July 18, 1983 the Board approved implementation of an alternative education program (program) for the 1983-84 school year, subject to approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (Department). Petitioner applied for the instructor position made necessary by the creation of the program. His application was approved by the Board on August 8, 1983. Approval to conduct the program, for the 1983-84 school year only, was received from the Department in a letter dated August 17, 1983.

At the end of the 1983-84 school year, the program was evaluated, and, based on the recommendation of

[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 15]

    the district superintendent, the Board voted not to continue the program. During the same meeting, the Board approved Petitioner's transfer to teach 8th grade geography. This position was a temporary vacancy created by an approved sabbatical leave being taken by Karen Willey, the professional employee holding that position.

Petitioner was notified of the curtailment of the program and informed of his transfer to the geography vacancy by the district superintendent. At the end of the 1984-85 school year, Petitioner was informed that because of the program's curtailment, and in light of the return of Karen Willey to her geography position and Petitioner's seniority status,*fn1 he might be suspended. Shortly thereafter, Petitioner received a letter from the district superintendent, dated May 27, 1985, informing him that the Board had voted to suspend him at the commencement of the 1985-86 school year because of the program's curtailment in 1984.

Petitioner requested a local agency hearing on his suspension, which was held before the Board on July 29, 1985. The Board upheld the suspension in a decision issued August 5, 1985. Petitioner appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, which, relying on the record of proceeding before the Board, affirmed the Board's decision.

Petitioner, on appeal, contends that the Board may not suspend a tenured professional employee at the end of a school year based upon the curtailment of an educational ...


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