Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fifth District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Wayne County,
the Hon. Alvin Lacy Williams, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The respondent, the Board of Education of Fairfield School District No. 112 (Board), dismissed Kenneth L. Lenard (petitioner) from his teaching position, the dismissal to be effective at the end of the 1973-74 school year. On April 25, 1974, petitioner filed for a writ of mandamus, seeking to have the circuit court of Wayne County direct respondent to reinstate petitioner to his teaching position for the 1974-75 school year. The circuit court dismissed the petition on the ground that mandamus was not an appropriate remedy; but, upon remand following an appeal, the circuit court ordered that petitioner be reinstated. The appellate court reversed (57 Ill. App.3d 853), and we granted petitioner leave to appeal.
Petitioner was a tenured teacher, employed by the Board. He held a high school teaching certificate, covering grades 6 through 12 (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, par. 21-5), and, primarily, taught geography to students in the seventh grade. In March 1974 the Board notified petitioner that he would be honorably dismissed at the end of the school year because of a reduction in the number of teachers in the district. Petitioner then filed the instant petition, alleging that he was entitled to the teaching position held by a non-tenured teacher, Richard Carter, who taught various subjects to students in the sixth grade.
The Board dismissed petitioner pursuant to section 24-12 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, par. 24-12), under which tenured teachers (those with "contractual continued service") could be dismissed without a hearing if the dismissal resulted from the Board's decision to decrease the number of teachers employed. Section 24-12 also provided, however:
"[I]n all such cases the board shall first remove or dismiss all teachers who have not entered upon contractual continued service before removing or dismissing any teacher who has entered upon contractual continued service and who is legally qualified to hold a position currently held by a teacher who has not entered upon contractual continued service." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, par. 24-12.
The outcome of this appeal turns on the meaning of "legally qualified," as contained in the just-quoted provision. Petitioner contends that he is "legally qualified" to hold Carter's position merely by virtue of holding a teaching certificate covering grades 6 through 12. The Board, however, contends that to be "legally qualified" a teacher must also meet the semester-hour requirements of Circular Series A, No. 160 (A-160), a regulation of the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (Superintendent), now the State Board of Education.
In reversing the circuit court's issuance of the writ, the appellate court held that satisfaction of the teacher-certification requirements did not automatically make the petitioner "legally qualified" to hold Carter's positon; A-160 also must be satisfied. Because it found that petitioner did not satisfy the semester-hour requirements of A-160, the appellate court concluded that petitioner was not "legally qualified" to hold Carter's position.
To be certified to teach in Illinois, all public school teachers must comply with article 21 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, pars. 21-1 through 21-25). Section 21-1 provides generally that no one may be certified "who is not of good character, good health, a citizen of the United States and at least 19 years of age." Section 21-5 governs the high school certificate, and provides:
"It shall be issued to persons who have graduated from a recognized institution of higher learning with a bachelor's degree and with not fewer than 120 semester hours including 16 semester hours in professional education, 5 of which shall be in student teaching under competent and close supervision and with one or more teaching fields. The academic and professional courses offered as a basis for the high school certificate shall be approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction in consultation with the State Teacher Certification Board." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, par. 21-5.)
It is not disputed that petitioner satisfied these requirements, as must all teachers desirous of holding a high school certificate. Petitioner, however, contends that, having met the requirements, he is "legally qualified" under section 24-12. In our view, however, had the legislature meant to equate "legally qualified" with "certified" it could easily have used the word "certified," or "certificated."
A-160, as promulgated in 1973 by the Superintendent, provided in pertinent part: