Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, in the case of James Duncan v. Rochester Area School District, No. 1836-85.
Stephen S. Russell, for appellant, Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
Lynne L. Wilson, with her, William J. Maikovich, for appellee.
Judges Doyle and Palladino, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
[ 108 Pa. Commw. Page 167]
This is an appeal by the Rochester Area School Board (Board) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, which reversed the Board's determination to suspend James Duncan because of declining pupil enrollment.
The basic facts do not appear to be in dispute. The Board determined that because of declining pupil enrollment, a suspension of certain professional employees was warranted. See Section 1124 of the Public School Code of 1949 (Code), Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 11-1124. This determination was unchallenged by Duncan. In determining which individuals are to be suspended under Section 1124, Section 1125.1(a) of the Code*fn1 provides pertinently, "[p]rofessional
[ 108 Pa. Commw. Page 168]
employes shall be suspended . . . in inverse order of seniority within the school entity of current employment."
It is undisputed that Duncan is certified only to teach science. It is also undisputed that Kenneth Boffo, another science teacher who had fewer years of teaching in the school district than did Duncan, but who had served in the military for twenty-three months, was retained while Duncan was not. The reason for Boffo's retention was that the Board, pursuant to Section 7107 of what is commonly known as the Veterans' Preference Act, 51 Pa. C.S. § 7107, credited Boffo with his time spent in the military service for purposes of computing his seniority. It is also undisputed that the Board employed at the relevant time the following individuals: a) Douglas, who was serving as a secondary school principal, but who was also certified to teach both science and physical education and whose bump into science displaced Duncan; b) Cascio, who was teaching science, but who was also certified in physical education; and c) Katich, who was teaching science, but who was also certified to teach home economics and English. All three of these individuals have more seniority within the school district than Duncan.
The Board determined that based upon Section 1125.1 of the Code, Duncan was the proper individual to suspend. In so doing, it regarded Boffo as senior to Duncan because of Boffo's military service. Further, it rejected the notion that one of the other science teachers with more seniority than Duncan, but who possessed multiple certifications (which Duncan did not) should be transferred to a non-science position, thus forcing the furlough of another employee who was not certified in science but who had less school district-wide seniority than Duncan. Moreover, the Board, for
[ 108 Pa. Commw. Page 169]
purposes of computing seniority, utilized each employee's date of hire, not ...