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Lippincott v. Board of Education





Appeal by defendant from the Circuit Court of Coles county; the Hon. CASPER PLATT, Judge, presiding. Heard in this court at the February term, 1951. Judgment of trial court reversed and judgment here for $1,500. Opinion filed March 7, 1951. Released for publication April 3, 1951.


This appeal is by defendant, Board of Education of Community Unit School District No. 5, Coles county, from a judgment for $1,800 against defendant and in favor of plaintiff, Verna D. Lippincott, of the circuit court of that county. The case was tried without a jury. There is no dispute as to the material facts.

District No. 2 in that county existed and operated for several years immediately prior to July 1, 1948. On July 1, 1948, District No. 2 was annexed to and absorbed by and with other territory became a part of District No. 5, which last district first became a legal entity on July 1, 1948. District No. 2 ceased to exist on that date.

Plaintiff was continuously employed as a school teacher by District No. 2 from 1920 to the end of the school year 1947, 1948. Her salary for the year 1947-1948 was $1,500.

Shortly after school began in 1947 she became ill and, because of such illness, did not teach from September 20, 1947, until the second Monday after Christmas, when she continued teaching to the end of the school year 1947-1948.

On March 15, 1948, the board of District No. 2 met and unanimously adopted a motion that all teachers be "offered" contracts for the following year. On April 12, 1948, such board unanimously adopted a motion raising the salaries of all teachers $300 per year. About April 13, 1948, plaintiff signed an $1,800 per year contract for the school year 1948-1949, tendered her by such board, which instrument at the time she signed it bore the signatures of the president and secretary of such board. No yea or nay vote was taken by the board on any of said propositions.

On July 22, 1948, the secretary of the board of District No. 5, wrote plaintiff a letter which stated that at a regular meeting the board took action requiring her to take a complete health examination "by a legally certified health clinic designated by this board before assigning you to a teaching position in this unit district. . . . This action was taken because of your illness during the last school year which interfered with the normal educational progress of your second grade pupils. . . . after the examination has been given and the clinic certifies that your health is such that they recommend your continuance in teaching in the public schools of Illinois, the . . . Board . . . will pledge their loyal support during your tenure under this board."

Plaintiff did not take the examination as requested, and made no reply to such letter until August 21, 1948, when she wrote a letter to the president of the board of District No. 5 which stated, "Enclosed herewith you will please find photostatic copies of my State of Illinois Teacher's Certificate . . . registered August 16, 1948, by the superintendent of schools of Coles County for the ensuing school year, also of forms H. Health Examination Records completed by J.F. Henderson, M.D., Oakland, Illinois, and John R. Alexander, M.D., Charleston, Illinois, indicating that my physical condition merits my continuing to teach school. I hereby make myself available to enter duty as a teacher" in District No. 5 "effective at the opening of the next ensuing school term on August 30, 1948, pursuant to my contract heretofore entered into with" District No. 2. . . . "The originals of the . . . photostatic copies . . . will be presented upon request. . . . You are further hereby notified that I intend to report . . . for assignment to duty . . . on August 30, 1948, . . . ."

The photostatic copies of health certificates were on forms of the Illinois State Examining Board for Teachers' Certificates, and stated that on August 13, 1948, she was examined by a physician (selected by her), and on August 16, 1948, by another physician (selected by her), and that on each of such dates her health was good and she was able physically to teach school.

On the morning of August 30, 1948, she went to the office of the superintendent of schools of defendant and was then told by the superintendent, "I have nothing for you." She testified that during the school year 1948-1949, she was ready, willing and able to teach for defendant and did not acquire any other employment during that year. She was not cross-examined and there is no evidence tending to show that during the school year 1948-1949 she had or could have had other employment.

Plaintiff's complaint consisted of two counts. Each count is based on plaintiff's claim that District No. 5 having completely absorbed District No. 2 must assume and is bound by the contractual obligations of District No. 2. We agree with this contention.

In Kocsis v. Chicago Park District, 362 Ill. 24, 32, the court said, "Where two or more municipal corporations are consolidated or the entire territory of one municipal corporation is annexed to another, unless the legislature otherwise provides, the contracts and indebtedness of the corporations which are consolidated or annexed become the contracts and indebtedness of the consolidated or annexing corporation. . . ." No statute has been called to our attention which "otherwise provides" as to school districts. In People v. Deatherage, 401 Ill. 25, 45, the court said, "Confusion, to the extent of impairing teachers' property rights belonging to them under the Teacher Tenure Law . . . is allegedly created because the Community Unit School Act does not provide what shall happen to such tenure rights. The confusion is neither apparent nor real. Under the rule stated in Kocsis v. Chicago Park District, 362 Ill. 24, teachers in a district wholly absorbed into a community unit school district will find their contractual rights unimpaired, for the new district stands in the place of the old one."

Defendant cites Spence v. Selcke, 404 Ill. 98. We do not consider such case in point.

Count one of the complaint is based on the further claim of plaintiff that the foregoing facts with reference to the proceedings of the board of District No. 2 on March 15th and on April 12th, 1948, and the alleged contract so signed by her on April 13, 1948, show she had a valid contract with District No. 2 for the school year 1948-1949, and that therefore the defendant had ...

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