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RICHARD R. REED AND JOYCE STRUBLE v. JUNIATA-MIFFLIN COUNTIES AREA VOCATIONAL-TECHNICAL SCHOOL (01/14/88)

decided: January 14, 1988.

RICHARD R. REED AND JOYCE STRUBLE, PETITIONERS
v.
JUNIATA-MIFFLIN COUNTIES AREA VOCATIONAL-TECHNICAL SCHOOL, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Secretary of Education In the matter of: Richard Reed and Joyce Struble v. Juniata-Mifflin Counties Area Vocational-Technical School, No. 6-85.

COUNSEL

William A. Hebe, Spencer, Gleason & Hebe, for petitioners.

John R. Miller, Jr., Miller, Kistler & Campbell, Inc., for respondent.

Judges MacPhail, Colins, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 112 Pa. Commw. Page 531]

Richard R. Reed and Joyce Struble (Petitioners) petition for our review of an order of the Acting Secretary of Education which upheld their demotions from full-time to part-time professional employees with the Juniata-Mifflin Counties Area Vocational-Technical School and denied their claim for back pay. We affirm.

The record reflects that Petitioners had both worked as full-time instructors when their teaching load was reduced to part-time for the 1984-85 school year due to a decline in enrollment in their respective courses for that year.*fn1 Petitioners also received a commensurate reduction in their pay. The decrease in their work schedules occurred as a result of the implementation of a 1982 School Board policy which requires that a minimum of twenty-five students be enrolled in each course at the beginning of the school year in order to maintain both a morning and afternoon session for that subject. For the 1984-85 school year only seventeen students were enrolled in Ms. Struble's course, while eighteen had enrolled in Mr. Reed's class.

[ 112 Pa. Commw. Page 532]

On June 13, 1984, Petitioners were notified by letter that the School Board was tentatively planning to reduce their work load to one-half time and that a final decision would be made at the regular July 10, 1984 Board meeting. On July 13, 1984, Petitioners were notified by letter that the Board had, in fact, reduced Petitioners to a part-time work load effective with the beginning of school. The action was identified by the School Board as a "suspension (furlough)" and each Petitioner was informed that they were entitled to a hearing upon request. Petitioners requested a combined hearing which was ultimately held on April 17, 1985. The School Board issued adjudications following the hearing which upheld the work reduction and, on appeal, the Acting Secretary of Education affirmed.

We note as a preliminary matter, that the actions taken by the School Board in this case were clearly demotions rather than suspensions or furloughs. As we stated in the case of Norwin School District v. Chlodney, 37 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 284, 286, 390 A.2d 328, 330 (1978) (emphasis deleted), "a reduction in pay and responsibilities, rather than a complete termination, renders a transfer to part-time status a demotion rather than a suspension."*fn2

Three issues are before us for disposition in the instant appeal: (1) whether the School Board's failure to conduct a pre-demotion hearing rendered the demotions invalid, (2) whether Petitioners are entitled to back pay for the period of time between the initial demotion

[ 112 Pa. Commw. Page 533]

    action and the post-demotion hearing, and (3) whether the basis for the demotions was valid.*fn3 Our scope of review from a decision of the Acting Secretary is to determine whether Petitioners' constitutional rights have been violated, an error of law committed or whether any necessary fact findings are not supported by substantial evidence. Belasco v. Board of Public ...


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