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Coatesville Area School District v. Coatesville Area Teachers' Association/Pennsylvania State Education

July 9, 2009

COATESVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT
v.
COATESVILLE AREA TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION/PENNSYLVANIA STATE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dan Pellegrini, Judge

Argued: June 11, 2009

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE JOHNNY BUTLER, Judge, NORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge.

JUDGE PELLEGRINI

Coatesville Area School District (School District) appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County (trial court) which denied the School District's petition to modify or vacate the interim grievance arbitration award holding that the School District was not allowed to unilaterally change contract provisions of an expired collective bargaining agreement to combine or eliminate extracurricular activities before the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement.

Under the terms of the 2000-2004 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the School District and the Coatesville Area Teachers' Association (Association), teachers received pay for extra-duty work related to extracurricular activities based on years of experience. Extra duties included coaching athletic activities and sponsoring school clubs. Under the CBA, extra pay for extra duty was not automatic, and the extra pay required approval by the school board for the school year. Further, Article IV, paragraph H(3)(c) of the CBA stated:

The number of activities and clubs that exist at the end of the 1999-2000 school year will remain the same for the length of this Agreement. The School Board, upon recommendation of the District-Wide Liaison Committee, may approve new activity and club sponsorship(s).

After the 2000-2004 CBA expired, the School District eliminated or combined extra-duty positions involving extracurricular activities due to budget restraints. The Association filed two class action grievances contending that even though the CBA had expired and a successor contract was not in place, the School District could not unilaterally eliminate or combine extracurricular positions.

The School District denied the grievances maintaining that the Pennsylvania Public School Code vested the School District with the sole discretion to supervise and manage extracurricular activities and clubs, including the elimination and/or combination of extra-duty positions.*fn1 The School District also denied the grievances because the provision regarding extra-duty positions was only binding for the duration of the agreement and, because the CBA had expired and the subject was a non-mandatory bargaining topic, the School District was free to eliminate or combine positions. The matter was then submitted to arbitration.

In 2006, the grievances were consolidated and the following question was submitted to the arbitrator: "Whether it was a violation of the 2000-2004 CBA for the School District to eliminate, slash or combine certain extra-duty positions prior to the signing of the August 2004 -- August 2007 CBA." After the hearing, the arbitrator determined that the School District violated the CBA when it eliminated/combined extra-duty positions after the expiration of the 2000-2004 CBA and prior to the signing of the 2004-2007 CBA because he found the provision to be a mandatory subject of bargaining based on its impact on wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment.

The School District filed a petition to vacate or modify the award with the trial court in 2008. The trial court issued an order denying the School District's petition because it held that the School District was required to maintain the status quo in the absence of a new CBA, and that the extra-duty provisions were mandatory subjects of bargaining. The School District then appealed to this Court.*fn2

I.

Citing to Apollo-Ridge School District v. Apollo-Ridge Educational Association, 799 A.2d 911 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002), the School District also maintains that the arbitrator does not have jurisdiction because provisions regarding extracurricular activities are not arbitrable because the CBA contains no specific term or provision addressing whether extra-duty positions may be eliminated or combined.

In Apollo-Ridge, the school district's (District) board of school directors (Board) annually selected persons to lead various extracurricular programs offered to the District's secondary students. In the past, the Board had always adopted the high school principal's recommendations when making extra-duty assignments, but for the school year in question, the Board failed to follow the principal's recommendations, instead filling those positions with two people who were not members of the bargaining unit. The union filed grievances contending that the Board's failure to reappoint two teachers to those units violated the collective bargaining agreement. The District denied that the assignment of extra-duty work was covered by the CBA and, therefore, contended that the grievances were not arbitrable. When the District and the Board were unable to resolve their differences, they submitted the grievances to arbitration. After a hearing, the arbitrator determined that the matter was arbitrable and sustained the Board's grievances and awarded back pay because the past practice had given rise to a local working condition protected by the CBA and, therefore, the Board was obligated to assign extra-duty work to those persons recommended by the high school principal. We reversed because it could not rationally be derived from the collective bargaining agreement that elected officials who were given the sole power and discretion in selecting persons to fill extra-duty positions had conceded that power to the high school principal just because the Board accepted the principal's recommendation in the past.

In this case, the 2000-2004 CBA which the arbitrator was interpreting specifically provided under Article IV, paragraph H that the "number of activities and clubs that exist at the end of the 1999-2000 school year will remain the same for the length of this Agreement." Unlike Apollo-Ridge, where the arbitrator found that a past practice took away from elected officials the power to appoint extra duty officials, the 2000-2004 CBA here plainly stated that "the number of activities and clubs that exist at the end of the 1999-2000 school year will remain the same for the length of this Agreement." We agree with the School District that the CBA does not contain any provisions dealing with the elimination or consolidation of extracurricular activities for the simple reason that they agreed that would not occur. Unlike Apollo Ridge, where the arbitrator took away from the school board ...


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