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Lowe v. Bd. of Education

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 4, 1979.

LEILA LOWE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE GOLDBERG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Leila Lowe (plaintiff), a tenured teacher at the John M. Gregory Elementary School, was dismissed from her position by the Board of Education of the City of Chicago (Board). On administrative review (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.), the Board was affirmed. Plaintiff appeals.

Plaintiff contends: (1) the Board did not have jurisdiction to dismiss her; (2) the findings of the Board are against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (3) the dismissal was not proper because two of the three members of the committee who heard the evidence at the hearing subsequently voted at the full Board meeting against their own recommendation of dismissal.

On January 11, 1978, the Board, by resolution, adopted the order of Joseph P. Hannon, general superintendent of schools, that plaintiff be suspended from duty, pending trial, and approved the following charge and specifications brought by Hannon against plaintiff:

"1. During the period October 5, 1976, to June 5, 1977, Leila Lowe failed to maintain discipline in her classroom in that, among other things: children wandered in and about the corridors and lavatories; students threw books across the room, played and fought in the classroom; students were noisy, uncontrolled and caused disturbance to the rest of the school.

2. During the period October 5, 1976, to June 5, 1977, Leila Lowe corporally punished students contrary to Board Rule 6-22.

3. That during the period October 5, 1976, to June 5, 1977, Leila Lowe failed to promote an adequate program of instruction in that among other things: the environment was not conducive to learning, there was little discipline, there was lacking any effective teacher-student rapport, lesson plans were inadequate or not understandable, the classroom was disorganized, there was inadequate record keeping.

4. That on January 5, 1977, while assigned to John M. Gregory School, she was served with an E-1 warning notice that her work was unsatisfactory and that failure to remove her deficiencies may result in charges. After she received the warning notice, she repeatedly failed and refused to follow the recommendations, instructions and directions of her superiors for the correction of her deficiencies and improvement of her teaching performance. Her teaching deficiencies were deemed irremediable by her superiors and on March 23, 1977, she was served with an E-2 notice that her efficiency rating as a teacher was unsatisfactory. On April 19, 1977, an E-2 conference was held in the Bureau of Teacher Personnel to discuss her unsatisfactory rating."

Three members of the Board were appointed to the trial committee. At the hearing, Eugene Singletary, aged 13 years, testified that he was a student in plaintiff's class during 1977, the previous year. He stated that plaintiff hit him every day with either petitioner's (Board's) exhibit No. 8 or a curtain rod. Petitioner's exhibit No. 8 is five pieces of balsa wood about a foot long nailed together and wrapped with masking tape. Singletary stated that he would tell the principal when he was hit by plaintiff. He further testified that students threw books in the classroom and that he had been hit in the face with a book.

Shirley Jordan, aged 14 years, was also in plaintiff's class during 1977. Jordan testified that plaintiff hit students on their hands or posteriors with exhibit 8 and also with a curtain rod. Jordan was never hit with a curtain rod, but she testified that plaintiff hit her arm and back with a stitching (extension) cord. After she was hit, she got her coat and went to the principal's office. Subsequently, plaintiff arrived at the principal's office and in the presence of the principal, Peggy Jackson, plaintiff called Jordan, "a stinking liar and nothing but a liar." Jordan testified that at lunch, plaintiff called her students "hogs" and "pigs." The students ate lunch in the classroom and often spilled food.

Robert Jordan, now acting assistant principal at Gregory School, testified that at the time in question he was a guidance counselor at the school. Part of his job was to see that each teacher had lesson plans available for substitutes. He could not find plaintiff's lesson plans. He also received notice from plaintiff that a piano in her classroom had been overturned by students and destroyed by the fall. Sometimes plaintiff's classroom would be noisy, but not always. Jordan stated he would go to plaintiff's classroom regularly, sometimes twice a day. It was part of his duties to help with the discipline.

Henry C. Springs, Jr., District Superintendent of the Chicago Board of Education, District 8, testified that he visited plaintiff's classroom on February 2 and 17, 1977, after plaintiff had received an "E-1" notice. He found the class to be totally disorganized. There were no lesson plans and students were running and throwing objects. He felt plaintiff maintained an unattractive classroom in that the bulletin boards were half torn off, there were no charts or interesting materials, there were no centers of interest such as a library corner or a science corner. In Springs' opinion, plaintiff is not capable of handling a classroom.

Peggy W. Jackson, principal of the Gregory School, testified that she issued an "E-1" notice to plaintiff on January 5, 1977. In that notice Jackson stated that plaintiff's efficiency ...


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