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Heifner v. Board of Education

OCTOBER 6, 1975.

JUDITH HEIFNER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF MORRIS COMMUNITY HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 101, GRUNDY COUNTY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Grundy County; the Hon. JOHN S. MASSIEON, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE BARRY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, a teacher in contractual continued service with defendant school board, filed a complaint under provisions of the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 110, § 264 et seq.) for administrative review of an order for her dismissal for cause entered by defendant after a hearing pursuant to section 24-12 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 122, § 24-12). The circuit court reversed the order of dismissal, whereupon defendant board perfected this appeal.

On March 30, 1973, notice of dismissal was served upon plaintiff reciting as cause "[your] failure to comply with the professional growth requirements of the district and your stated intention of not complying with that portion of teacher's contract and board policy except on your own terms." The effective date of dismissal was designated in the notice as "the close of the 1972-73 school term." After the notice was served, a prehearing bill of particulars was furnished plaintiff by defendant reciting in relevant parts:

"On March 10, 1965 the School Board * * * and the High School Teacher's Association entered a negotiation agreement which in part provided:

After April 1, 1965, any teacher who does not have a Master's Degree when initially employed to teach * * * shall earn a Master's Degree within six years of his initial employment date. * * *:

This provision is included in the * * * agreement of every subsequent year and annually the School Board has reaffirmed this policy. Your contract * * * commenced with the 1967-68 68 school year and the six year period * * * expires at the end of the 1972-73 school term.

In February, 1973 you were advised by Harold Sutter, Superintendent, that you were not complying with the professional growth requirements. You were advised * * * the Board would grant a leave of absence [without pay] as the only type of extension * * * for complying * * *. On March 14, 1973, you requested leave of absence. At the March 28, 1973 School Board meeting you withdrew your request."

The evidence at the public hearing on the dismissal charge indicates that plaintiff was first hired for defendant's system on June 8, 1967, by Claude Rose who was superintendent until 8 months preceding the dismissal notice when Mr. Sutter succeeded him. She held a B.A. degree at the time, and it was a written provision of her contract then and for all subsequent years that:

"This contract can be promptly terminated by said Board of Education whenever the said teacher fails to carry out established rules of the Board of Education * * *."

It is admitted by all parties that one such established rule identified with the contract and alluded to in the bill of particulars was the professional growth requirements rule; it is admitted by all parties that it was published in copies of salary schedules and teachers' manuals furnished, or available, to plaintiff, from year to year. These requirements were, without any written relevant alteration whatever during the entire period of plaintiff's tenure, as follows:

"PROFESSIONAL GROWTH: In order to assure professional growth, the following provisions apply effective September 1, 1964.

(1) After April 1, 1965, any teacher who does not have a Master's degree when initially employed to teach at M.C.H.S. shall earn a Master's degree within 6 years of his initial employment date.

(2) Teachers with a Bachelor's degree will be expected to secure 6 semester hours of graduate credit, or the equivalent as explained below, in each 3 year period.

(3) Teachers with a Master's degree will be expected to secure 3 semester hours, or the equivalent as explained ...


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