Original Jurisdiction in case of Michael J. Botti v. Southwest Butler County School District, and Appeals from the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County, in case of Michael J. Botti v. Southwest Butler County School District, No. 84-245, Book 124, page 457.
Dennis S. Shilobod, with him, E. J. Strassburger, Strassburger & McKenna, for petitioner/appellee, Michael J. Botti.
Kenneth M. Argentieri, with him, Charles E. Steele and Mathew M. Hoffman, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, and George H. Hancher, for respondent/appellant, Southwest Butler County School District.
Judges Craig and Barry P, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
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Before us are consolidated appeals emanating from the same factual background, but involving different
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procedural routes. Michael J. Botti (Botti) appeals an order of the Secretary of Education (Secretary) which determined, after argument but without holding an evidentiary hearing, that Botti, who had been employed as a teacher and principal under the terms of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. §§ 1-101 through 26-2607-A (School Code), was not entitled to a school board hearing on the issue of his alleged demotion or suspension. The Court of Common Pleas of Butler County (trial court), in a separate suit, sustained Botti's complaint in mandamus, wherein Botti sought a hearing in front of the school board after the trial court determined that Botti had been improperly denied a hearing. The trial court, therefore, ordered that the Southwest Butler County School Board (School Board) conduct the hearing and that Botti be reinstated to the position of principal of Rowan Elementary School (Rowan) with full back pay pending outcome of the hearing. The Southwest Butler County School District (School District) appeals that order to this court.
The following facts are pertinent. Botti had been an employee of the School District since 1965 and holds certification for both school principalship and certain teacher positions. In the summer preceding the 1981-82 school year, the School District and Botti entered into a "substitute contract" whereby Botti was appointed as principal of Rowan to fill a vacancy which arose when another principal was realigned pursuant to the granting of a sabbatical to the principal of Haine Elementary School. The Secretary found that the placement of Botti in this position was "temporary in nature". The trial court, however, determined that Botti had been appointed to fill a "permanent" position. The Secretary's finding was based in large part upon the language
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appearing in the substitute contract*fn1 and the fact that Botti never asserted his position was anything other than temporary until March 1984. The trial court's contrary resolution of the status of Botti's position is based upon its reading of the contract as providing that Botti would be given a permanent position if his performance over the course of the year was satisfactory, and Botti's receipt of a complimentary letter from the School District's superintendent at the end of the year indicating that his performance was satisfactory.
In any event, it is undisputed that, at the end of the 1981-82 school year, Botti did not remain in the principal position. Instead, he was returned to the classroom. Then, in September 1983, Botti was again appointed to the principal position at Rowan to replace a colleague who was killed in an accident. He served in this position for one semester after which an individual from outside of the School District, Mr. ...