APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Jackson County; the Hon.
RICHARD E. RICHMAN, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE KARNS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Plaintiff-petitioner Mary Ellen Jackson appeals the order of the Circuit Court of Jackson County dismissing before trial her complaint for declaratory judgment and petition for a writ of mandamus. She had sought reinstatement as a full-time teacher, back pay, and a declaration that she had received tenure.
In her complaint plaintiff stated that she is a legally qualified school teacher certified under the laws of Illinois and that defendant-respondent Board of Education of Trico Community Unit School District No. 176 of Jackson County (Board) is authorized by the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 122, par. 1-1 et seq.) to hire and fire teachers. She was employed by the Board as a probationary teacher for two years, 1973-74 and 1974-75. On March 25, 1975, Charles E. Miller, Superintendent of Trico Community Unit School District No. 176, sent her a letter informing her that her probation would be extended for a third year. The letter stated in part:
According to your evaluation, you need improvement in the following areas:
1. Procedure in seeking approval for any activity that you wish to sponser. (The proper procedure is to approach the building principal first. If he cannot assist you, or give you a definite answer, he will direct you to approach the superintendent. If he can not give a definite decision, he will place the problem before the Board of Education for a decision. According to Circular Series A Number 160, `The board of education shall delegate all executive functions to the district superintendent,' and `The board of education shall carry out all professional and official relationships with school employees through the chief school administrator.')
2. Procedure in contacts of parents: (When contacts are made with parents concerning school activities, or those related to school, the proper procedure is as follows: If the contact is with parents of children under your supervision only, permission should be received from your building principal, including approval of the content of any written communication. If the contact is with persons other than the parents of the students under your supervision, the approval should be from the superintendent, including the approval of the content of any written communication.)
3. Your approach to students in the instructional process and in student control situations, should be more forceful. (As a corrective measure, you should work on voice level, tone and general enunciation. This should improve the understanding of the students taught, and reinforce your teaching techniques.)"
According to the complaint, plaintiff's teaching was not evaluated by Miller or by any other administrator of the school district and there was no basis for the reasons given in the letter.
On March 25, 1976, plaintiff received a notice from the Board informing her that her contract would not be renewed for the 1976-77 school year. The reasons for her dismissal, as enumerated in the letter, were:
"1. A lack of positive instructional leadership in the classroom.
2. A lack of creativity in the teaching process.
3. A lack of student motivation in the instructional process.
4. A lack of proper use of materials and techniques for meeting the individual needs of the children under your supervision."
Count I of both the complaint for declaratory judgment and the petition for a writ of mandamus alleged that because Jackson was not evaluated, the March 25, 1975, notice of extension of her probation was invalid and she attained tenured status by operation of law at the close of the 1974-75 school year. Assuming that she attained tenure, Jackson also alleged that in dismissing her in 1976, defendant failed to comply with section 24-12 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 122, par. 24-12) because she received no hearing, bill of particulars, nor list of five prospective impartial hearing officers. The prayer in count I of the complaint requested an order declaring that the 1975 notice extending Jackson's probation was invalid, that she attained tenured status at the close of the 1974-75 school year, and that the Board failed properly to dismiss her as a tenured teacher at the close of the ...