Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, in the case of William Cicogna v. McKeesport Area School District, No. S.A., 1032 of 1985.
Karen L. Myers, with her, Robert P. Costello, for appellant.
Ronald N. Watzman, Litman, Litman, Harris, Brown & Watzman, P.C., for appellee.
Judges Craig and Palladino, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Palladino.
[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 100]
A period of declining school enrollment, and the resulting reduction in professional teacher employment, produces stresses for the school districts and teachers involved, and also generates difficult legal issues of the sort involved in this case.
The McKeesport Area School District has appealed from an order by Judge Doyle of the Common Pleas Court of Allegheny County which directed the district to reinstate furloughed teacher William Cicogna, with backpay.
[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 101]
1. Was Mr. Cicogna's suspension a result of the substantial decrease in pupil enrollment in the school district, or did his suspension result from the school district's action in allowing another teacher to delete one of the areas of her certification?
2. If the suspension resulted from the latter cause, does the school board's authorization to delete one subject matter area from another teacher's certification constitute a valid basis for suspension under the law?
Section 1124 of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 11-1124, authorizes the suspension of professional employees as follows:
Any board of school directors may suspend the necessary number of professional employees, for any of the causes hereinafter enumerated:
(1) Substantial decrease in pupil enrollment in the school district;
(2) Curtailment or alteration of the educational program on recommendation of the superintendent, concurred in by the board of school directors, approved by the Department of Public Instruction, as a result of substantial decline in class or course enrollments or to conform with standards of organization or educational activities required by law or recommended by the Department of Public Instruction;
(3) Consolidation of schools . . . ;
(4) When new school districts are established as a result of reorganization . . . .
The findings of fact adopted by the McKeesport Area School Board, after a hearing, recite the basic facts, as follows:
[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 1023]
. Between September, 1983 and June, 1984 the McKeesport Area School District realized a decline in enrollment as that term is defined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement of 176 students. (N.T. 11, 18; District Exhibit 1).
4. During the 1983-84 school year there were 62 students enrolled in the cooperative education program. For the 1984-85 school year there were 27 students enrolled in that program or a reduction of 45 [sic] students. (N.T. 12).
5. As a result of the decline in enrollment experienced during the 1983-84 school year, the Board of School Directors of the McKeesport Area School District furloughed six employes at its regular meeting held June 11, 1984. (N.T. 18, 20; Cicogna Exhibit 2).
7. William Cicogna is certified in the area of Accounting only and taught in the business education department of the McKeesport Area School District. (N.T. 14; District Exhibit B).
8. William Cicogna is less senior than any other employe in the business education department who is currently ...