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Wells v. Bd. Ed. Community Consol. S. Dist.

JUNE 29, 1967.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, County Department, Law Division; the Hon. CHARLES DOUGHERTY, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


This is an appeal pursuant to the Administrative Review Act (Ill Rev Stats, c 110, §§ 264-279 (1963)) to review a judgment of the Circuit Court. The court reversed the decision of the Board of Education of Community Consolidated School District No. 64, Cook County, Illinois, which discharged the plaintiff, Winifred Wells, a teacher in the school district.

In this court the board makes two contentions: its order of dismissal was not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence and the causes upon which the dismissal was predicated were irremediable. The principal issue in the appeal revolves around this second contention for the trial court found that the causes were remediable, and that the board, therefore, lacked jurisdiction to discharge the plaintiff because it had not complied with the statute requiring that a teacher be given written warning of specific causes which, if not corrected, might result in charges against her.

Prior to the time when the plaintiff was hired by the board she had received extensive training and experience as a teacher of children of retarded intellectual development. In 1961 she applied to the board for assignment to a class of educable mentally handicapped children (whose mental abilities do not extend beyond 4th or 5th grade subject matter). She was hired as a teacher of trainable mentally handicapped children (who generally are incapable of reading or arithmetic computation), commonly called a TMH class. Before her contract expired in 1962 the superintendent of the school district recommended to the board that she be reemployed. The board followed his advice. Early in 1963 the superintendent explained to the board that the plaintiff, having served two years as a probationary teacher, could not be rehired without qualifying her for contractual continued service, or tenure, under the School Code of 1961; and he, the principal of the plaintiff's school and the assistant to the principal all urged that she not be rehired. The board disregarded their objections and offered her a contract which she accepted. One year later, in February 1964, the superintendent renewed his objection and, at a meeting on March 18, 1964, the board adopted a resolution that the plaintiff's services be terminated at the end of the school year and that she not be reemployed.

The board listed several reasons for its decision and stated that the causes for the dismissal of the plaintiff were not remediable. Notice of the board's decision was sent to the plaintiff and she requested a public hearing and a bill of the particulars. The bill was furnished, hearings were conducted and on July 30, 1964, the board passed a resolution setting forth its findings of fact and its conclusions that the plaintiff be dismissed for incompetence, that her incompetence was irremediable and that the best interests of the school district required her dismissal.

[1-3] Whether or not the causes for dismissal are irremediable is a question of fact whose initial determination lies within the discretion of the board; but a court of review must determine whether the board's finding is against the manifest weight of the evidence. Hauswald v. Board of Education of Community High School Dist. No. 217, 20 Ill. App.2d 49, 155 N.E.2d 319 (1958); Allione v. Board of Education of South Fork Community High School Dist. No. 310, 29 Ill. App.2d 261, 173 N.E.2d 13 (1961). A cause for dismissal is irremediable where damage has been done to the students, the faculty or the school itself and the damage could not have been corrected if warnings had been given by the teacher's superiors when they learned of the cause. Cf. Werner v. Community Unit School Dist. No. 4, 40 Ill. App.2d 491, 190 N.E.2d 184 (1963).

A board of education may:

". . . dismiss a teacher for incompetency, cruelty, negligence, immorality or other sufficient cause and . . . dismiss any teacher, whenever, in its opinion, he is not qualified to teach, or whenever, in its opinion, the interests of the schools require it. . . ." Ill Rev Stats, 1963, c 122, par 10-22.4.

Before the power of dismissal may be exercised against a teacher with tenure, the board must comply with the statutory procedure specified in section 24-12 of the School Code. Miller v. Board of Education of School Dist. No. 132, Cook County, 51 Ill. App.2d 20, 200 N.E.2d 838 (1964). In relevant part that section provides:

"Notwithstanding the entry upon contractual continued service, any teacher may be removed or dismissed for the reasons or causes provided in Section 10-22.4. . . . If the dismissal or removal is . . . [for a reason or cause other than the diminishing of the number of teachers or types of teaching services] it shall not become effective until approved by a majority vote of all members of the board upon specific charges and after a hearing, if a hearing is requested in writing by the teacher. . . . Written notice of such charges . . . shall be served upon the teacher. . . . Before service of notice of charges on account of causes that may be deemed to be remediable, the teacher shall be given reasonable warning in writing, stating specifically the causes which, if not removed, may result in charges. . . ." Ill Rev Stats, 1963, c 122, par 24-12.

The notice sent the plaintiff contained a list of seven "reasons for . . . dismissal." The reasons were:

"(1) The teaching activities carried on in the classroom by Winifred Wells are not designed to promote the growth of the pupils, but are of the `baby sitting' type.

"(2) Winifred Wells has not followed the directions for each pupil as listed in the report of the psychologist.

"(3) Winifred Wells has not been concerned with the educational growth of her pupils. Her journals of the activities of each pupil say in many instances, `Had a good day,' or `Had a bad day,' with no indication of the tasks planned for the ...

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