The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bernard L. McGINLEY, Judge
BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge HONORABLE RENEE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge
Tredyffrin/Easttown School District (School District) appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County (common pleas court) which denied the School District's Petition to Vacate Grievance Arbitration Award. The Award required the School District to provide Lisa Holland (Holland), a full-time teacher, with a salary step increase for the 2008-2009 school year.
Holland was employed as a full-time teacher in the School District when she became pregnant. Pursuant to the parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA)*fn1 , Holland notified the School District of her anticipated leave for child bearing/rearing purposes and submitted a School District "Application for Child Bearing/Child Rearing Leave" on August 10, 2007. Holland indicated the expected start date of the leave was "October 26" with a notation "unsure." The printed Application stated that an unpaid leave for child rearing purposes shall be granted in accordance with Section 3.12 of the CBA for "a minimum period of the duration of the school year, commencing with childbirth or the receipt of a child who has not reached six years of age. This leave will run concurrently with leave under the District's Family Medical Leave [FMLA] Policy and Regulation 4151.2-4241.2, and other leaves, as applicable." Susan Tiede, the Director of Personnel for the School District, handwrote on the bottom of the Application that the start date of the leave was October 29, 2007, and the expected date of return September 2008.
On the same date, August 10, 2007, Holland submitted a federal "Family Medical Leave Request" (FMLA Application).*fn2 The printed FMLA Application states "This leave will be used in conjunction with School District sponsored Child Rearing Leave. You are required to use your accrued paid sick leave while you are under medical supervision. Thereafter, you may elect to use your accrued paid vacation and/or personal leave during this absence."
Holland began her leave on Monday, October 29, 2007. She delivered her baby on Tuesday, October 30, 2007. The District's Attendance Report showed that from October 29, 2007, through November 19, 2007*fn3 , Holland was placed on "sick leave" and "Child Rearing No Pay," concurrently. She received sick pay for the first 16 days of absence. From November 20, 2007, to the end of the 2007-2008 school year she was unpaid. It was undisputed that she was not physically in the classroom for the last five days of the first marking period.
The CBA provided that an employee was eligible for her annual salary increment when she returned from child bearing/rearing leave, so long as the employee was "in service" for at least one marking (i.e., grading period) period during the school year. Section 3.12 of the CBA, which pertained to child bearing/rearing leaves of absence provided, in pertinent part:
3.12 CHILD BEARING LEAVE AND CHILD REARING LEAVE OF ABSENCES
An Employee taking leave of absence pursuant to this section shall be entitled to his or her annual increment for any year, provided that Employee is in service in the School District for at least one marking period during the year in which such leave is taken. (Emphasis added).
The use of child rearing leave provided herein shall not be interpreted to prevent an Employee from using other leaves provided by this contract or the [Public] School Code [of 1949].
Collective Bargaining Agreement, July 1, 2004-June 30, 2008, Between Tredyffrin/Easttown School District and the Tredyffrin/Easttown Education Association at 21-22; Reproduced Record (R.R) at 53a-54a.
The term "in service" was not defined in the CBA.
Holland returned to work in September 2008 for the 2008-2009 school year. The School District placed Holland at the same salary that she was on during the 2007-2008 school year. According to the School District Holland was not "in service for at least one marking period" because she began her child bearing leave five days prior to the end of the first marking period. The School District interpreted Section 3.12 of the CBA to mean that an employee must be physically on duty, i.e., teaching in the classroom, for at least one marking period to earn a salary step. The School District argued Holland was not entitled to a salary step because sick leave, even paid sick leave, was not "in service" time. In other words, it claimed that a physical presence in the classroom, during the entire marking period, was required before a teacher was entitled to the step up.
The Tredyffrin/Easttown Education Association (Association) filed a grievance on October 7, 2008, and alleged that Holland should have received her annual step increase for the 2008-2009 school year. The Association interpreted the term "in service" to include time spent on "paid status" which included, inter alia, "paid sick leave."
Grievance Arbitrator's Award
On June 25, 2009, an arbitration hearing was held. The issue before the Arbitrator was whether the School District violated the CBA by failing to grant Holland an annual ...