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Last v. Board of Education

SEPTEMBER 28, 1962.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. WILLIAN R. DUSHER, Judge, presiding. Reversed.


This appeal is from an order of the Circuit Court of Winnebago County entered November 30, 1961, reversing a decision of the Board of Education of Community Unit School District No. 321 of Winnebago and Stephenson Counties dismissing Alvina Last.

Alvina Last completed her formal education in 1934, having earned sixty and one-half credit hours at Iowa State Teachers College. Except for two years, she taught school continuously since 1934, the last twenty-six years in the Pecatonica community. Most of her employment was in rural schools. Since 1934 she had not pursued any further formal education.

In 1958 the Board made a differentiation in salary scale dependent upon the earning of additional educational credits. At the time her 1958-59 contract was delivered to her it was pointed out that she was not receiving an increase in salary in that she had not earned additional credits. Having earned no additional credits the following year, she was not given a raise for the 1959-60 school year.

The Board adopted a base salary increase on February 23, 1960. Teachers having less than a bachelor's degree were required to earn additional semester credits to qualify. All of the teachers were notified of this on February 25, 1960.

Again all of the teachers were notified on March 24, 1960, that the Board had adopted a resolution on March 22, 1960, to the effect that all teachers having less than a bachelor's degree who have earned less than six additional semester hours since July 1, 1956, and by March 1, 1960, would be dismissed at the end of the 1960-61 school year.

Alvina Last entered into her 1960-61 school year agreement on April 12, 1960, which agreement was by its terms made subject to the rules and regulations of the Board and the provisions of the School Code of the State of Illinois. Paragraph five of this agreement provided, "Said teacher must earn 6 additional semester hours of acceptable college credits by March 31, 1961, or contract will not be renewed for 1961-62."

In June 1960, she enrolled in two correspondence courses at Western Michigan University, one in geography and one in arithmetic. At the time of her dismissal hearing before the Board on May 24, 1961, she had completed sixteen of the eighteen lessons in geography and one of the eighteen lessons in arithmetic. Mrs. Last was the only teacher in the district who failed to earn the required six additional credits by March 1961.

Mrs. Last's explanation for her failure to comply with the Board's regulation and her contract was the absence of the geography teacher in August and the arithmetic teacher during the Summer. She further stated she had trouble with her eyes especially at night when they became blurry. She also said she slipped and fell on wet cement injuring her hip.

She consulted an oculist in the fall of 1960 after she resumed her studies in geography who stated there was nothing wrong with her eyes, that she needed a rest and that she should apply cold packs to her eyes four times a day for twenty minutes. She resumed her studies in arithmetic in December 1960. Her eye and hip injury in no way interfered with her teaching only bothering her when doing night work. During the summer months she worked on her farm raising chickens and during the fall and winter helped with the chores and took care of the eggs.

The Board on March 29, 1961, notified Mrs. Last of her dismissal assigning the following reasons, (1) Disregard of the warnings given her in 1958-59 and 1959-60 about her failure to add any additional credits, (2) Failure to heed the notice of March 22, 1960 of the Board's action requiring the earning of six additional credit hours, and (3) Failure to comply with the terms of her contract to earn additional credits.

Mrs. Last requested a hearing which was afforded her on May 24, 1961. Following the hearing the Board dismissed the plaintiff pursuant to the notice of dismissal served on March 29, 1961.

The order of dismissal was reviewed by the Circuit Court of Winnebago County pursuant to the provisions of the Administrative Review Act. That court remanded the cause to the Board for further evidence and review. The Board pursuant to the Circuit Court's mandate held a further hearing on October 12, 1961. The only pertinent evidence adduced at this hearing was that Alvina Last completed the two courses with a grade of "B", the geography course in June 1961 and the arithmetic course on July 2, 1961.

The Board, following the October hearing again ordered plaintiff's dismissal. Upon further hearing in the Circuit Court the Board's order was wholly reversed on the ground that plaintiff's dismissal was an unreasonable exercise of the Board's powers, violated the plaintiff's rights of tenure under the Teachers Tenure Act (Ill Rev Stats, c 122, ...

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