Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, in case of In Re: Petition of the Board of Directors of the Hazleton Area School District to change (re-apportion) an approved plan which established nine regions for election of directors within the district, No. 2314-C of 1986, dated May 8, 1987.
Clifford A. Rieders, Rieders, Travis, Mussina, Humphrey & Harris, for appellant.
James S. Palermo, with him, David L. Glassberg and James A. Kelly, for appellee, Hazleton Area School District.
Judges Craig and Doyle, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle. Judge Barry did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 107 Pa. Commw. Page 112]
This is an appeal by Valley Education Association (Association)*fn1 from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County that adopted a redistricting plan submitted to it by the Hazleton Area School District (District) pursuant to Section 303 of the Public School Code of 1949 (School Code), Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 3-303.
In a prior proceeding, the District had submitted a plan that had been adopted by the trial court. The Association appealed that order to this Court and challenged the plan, contending that it permitted the existence of non-contiguous boundaries in violation of Section 502 of the Pennsylvania Election Code, Act of June 3, 1937, P.L. 1333, as amended, 25 P.S. § 2702 (Election Code). Section 502 pertinently provides that "[w]hen a school district crosses county lines, the regions of the school district shall be composed of contiguous election districts." The Association further challenged the plan as violative of the one-man one-vote principle as espoused by the United States Supreme Court in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964). Section 303(b)(3) of the School Code, speaking to the population requirement, mandates that regional boundaries be established so that "the population of each region shall be as nearly equal as possible and shall be compatible with the boundaries of the election districts."
This Court held in Appeal of Valley Education Association, 105 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 565, 524 A.2d 1083 (1987) (Valley Education Association I) that the District's original plan violated the requirement that boundaries be contiguous and remanded the case for adoption of a new plan. We did not reach the population
[ 107 Pa. Commw. Page 113]
equality issue. Our opinion and order in Valley Education Association I expressed our awareness of the impending primary election for school board directors and, accordingly, directed that the trial court use its equity powers (1) to supervise the District's adoption of another plan and (2) to extend the deadline for filing nominating petitions and for holding a special primary election should such action be necessary and in the best interests of justice.
Thereafter, the District devised another plan and submitted it for court approval.*fn2 Testimony was taken by the trial court, which testimony consisted only of the District's evidence. Because of the time constraints due to the forthcoming primary election, the trial court then indicated that it would enter an order adopting the District's new plan. It informed the Association, however, that it would have the opportunity after entry of the order to come into court and present evidence to convince the trial court to vacate its order. The trial court then entered the order adopting the District's new plan and, additionally, established a severely compressed time schedule (three days) for advertising and filing nominating petitions, withdrawal of same, selection for ballot positions, and the filing of objections to the nominating petitions. Subsequent to entry of this order, the Association took an immediate appeal to this Court seeking a stay of the lower court order. This stay was granted and had the effect of preventing the nomination of school directors from occurring on primary election day, May 19, 1987.
In its appeal to this Court, the Association now raises three issues for our ...