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Brown v. Bd. of Education

OPINION FILED APRIL 30, 1976.

DONNA BROWN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

BOARD OF EDUCATION, GALATIA COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Saline County; the Hon. JOHN CLAYTON, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE GEORGE J. MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal from the circuit court of Saline County, where the trial court entered a judgment for the defendant in an action for the issuance of a writ of mandamus to compel the defendant board of education, Galatia Community School District No. 1, to offer plaintiff a teaching position and reinstate her continued contractual service status.

Plaintiff Donna Brown began teaching for the Galatia Community School District in 1957 and continued through the 1973-74 school year with the exception of two maternity leaves. She acquired continued contractual service status (herein referred to as tenure) in accordance with the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1959, ch. 122, par. 24-2), at the beginning of the 1959-60 school year. Her tenure status is undisputed until the 1972-73 school year. The dispute arises as a result of a chain of events that allegedly took place beginning in the spring of 1972.

The plaintiff contends that in the spring of 1972 she had a discussion with Virden Garrett, superintendent of the Galatia Community School District No. 1, concerning the 1972-73 school year. The gist of the discussion, according to the plaintiff, was a request by the superintendent that she teach perhaps one-half time due to a decrease in enrollment in the classes which the plaintiff taught. Plaintiff contends that as a result of this conversation, she wrote the following undated, unsigned note to the superintendent acquiescing in his request:

"I make no demand that I be placed in the job for the following year. Use your judgment in determining what would be best for the school. I will accept half day work with elimination of yearbook and newspaper, a years leave, or part time English, PE, business subjects and the yearbook but not chearleading sponsor."

In our judgment this letter meant that the plaintiff offered to accept either a year's leave of absence, work one-half time, or part time. Although Garrett denied that he had the conversation in question with the plaintiff and denied that the note was delivered to him in the spring, he did prepare three alternate schedules for submission to the Board in March of 1972, "one was full time, and one was 1/2 time and one not at all." It is also undisputed that he talked with the plaintiff prior to the time he submitted the schedule to the Board.

On August 10, 1972, at the suggestion of Garrett, the plaintiff wrote a second letter addressed to Garrett which read:

"Mr. Virdon Garrett, Superintendent Board of Education Galatia Community Unit 1 Galatia, Illinois Gentlemen:

As a result of a recent thorough physical examination at Welborn Hospital, my doctors advised me to reduce my work load in order to improve my health. I would like to work only mornings in the business department during the 1972-73 school year. As the schedule is set up now, I would be teaching Typing I 1st hr., Conference 2nd hour, Typing II 3rd hr., and Bookkeeping 4th during the mornings.

Your permission to do the above will be greatly appreciated. This extra rest should enable me to return as a full-time teacher the following 1973-74 school year.

Yours truly, /s/ Donna Brown Mrs. Donna Brown"

This letter was delivered by Garrett to the School Board. The Board acknowledged the receipt of the second letter and at the meeting of August 14, 1972, granted the request for a half-time teaching load for the 1972-73 school year. The granting of the plaintiff's request is not in dispute. The Board did not discuss the effect of this one-half time request on her tenure status. A Board member testified that it was not his intention that she would lose tenure by accepting the half-time teaching assignment.

The plaintiff taught half time during the 1972-73 school year, with the exception of 12 days sick leave. The Board paid her for the 12 days sick leave during the school year as if she were a tenured teacher. Also, in June of 1973, the Board approved reinstatement of the plaintiff to full-time teaching for 1973-74 school year.

It was not until the Board meeting of July 23, 1973, that the issue of plaintiff's tenure was disputed. At this meeting, the Board ordered the 12 days sick leave deducted from her salary, because "Mrs. Brown not being on tenure last school year [1972-73] she was not entitled to 12 half days of sick leave." The Board apparently believed that, by teaching half time, the plaintiff lost her tenure status. The plaintiff then filed the original action in this case against the Board to recover the amount ...


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