Appeal from the Secretary of Education in the case of Marie Equi v. School District of Philadelphia, No. 14-85.
Thomas J. Ericson, with him, Matthew D'Annunzio, for petitioner.
Patricia A. Donovan, Assistant General Counsel, with her, Andrew Rosen, for respondent.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr.
[ 109 Pa. Commw. Page 265]
Marie Equi appeals an order of the Secretary of Education (Secretary) upholding her dismissal by the Philadelphia School District (District) pursuant to Section 1122 of the Public School Code of 1949 (Code).*fn1 We reverse.
Equi, a tenured teacher, worked for the District for approximately nineteen years when she was dismissed for persistent and willful violation of the school laws. The Secretary affirmed Equi's dismissal on the grounds that she failed to retire after all sick leave benefits were exhausted,*fn2 in accordance with district policy.
Our scope of review of the Secretary's order which affirmed a school district's dismissal of a tenured teacher is limited to determining whether an error of law was committed, constitutional rights were violated, or necessary findings of fact were unsupported by substantial evidence. Section 704 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 704; Ward v. Board of Education, 91 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 332, 496 A.2d 1352 (1985). Substantial evidence has been defined as such relevant
[ 109 Pa. Commw. Page 266]
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion and must be more than a mere scintilla of evidence or suspicion of the fact to be established. Id. at 336 n. 2, 496 A.2d at 1354 n. 2.
Equi contends that her discharge was in violation of the Code because her absences were due to legitimate, involuntary illness. Thus, she argues the Secretary erred in sustaining her dismissal for willful failure to retire or resign. We agree.
Dismissal of a professional tenured employee is governed by the Code and must be on the basis of specifically enumerated grounds. Section 1122 of the Code states, in relevant part:
The only valid causes for termination of a contract heretofore and hereafter entered into with a professional employe shall be immorality, incompetency, intemperance, cruelty, persistent negligence, mental derangement . . . persistent and willful violation of the school ...