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Johnson v. Board of Education

OPINION FILED JUNE 26, 1981.

JENNIFER JOHNSON, APPELLANT,

v.

THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF DECATUR SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 61, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Macon County, the Hon. Albert G. Webber III, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE UNDERWOOD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Jennifer Johnson, a teacher in the Decatur high schools, sought a declaratory judgment and a writ of mandamus in the circuit court of Macon County. She alleged that she had been dismissed by the board of education of Decatur School District No. 61 of Macon County in violation of section 24-12 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 122, par. 24-12), which accords certain rights to those teachers who have entered upon "continued contractual service" (tenure). The circuit court found that plaintiff had not achieved tenure and denied the reinstatement and damages requested by her. The appellate court affirmed. (87 Ill. App.3d 441.) We granted plaintiff's petition for leave to appeal.

Plaintiff, who had taught in the district as a part-time teacher during a portion of the 1973-74 school term, served as a full-time high school art teacher for the 1974-75 and 1975-76 school terms. In March 1976 plaintiff was dismissed effective at the end of the 1975-76 term because of a shortage of funds. The sufficiency of the notice of dismissal is not questioned. Prior to the end of that term, however, the board offered and plaintiff accepted part-time work for the 1976-77 term teaching an art class at each of two separate high schools. During the 1977-78 school term she taught art full time in a middle school in the district. In March 1978, on a date which the parties agree was more than 60 days prior to the end of the 1977-78 term, plaintiff received a notice by registered mail, stating that she would not be reemployed during the ensuing year. No hearing was scheduled by the board in connection with the 1978 dismissal, as would have been necessary for a tenured teacher. Plaintiff did not work for the board in any capacity during the 1978-79 school term, although two non-tenured full-time art teachers were employed by the board during that term.

Section 24-11 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 122, par. 24-11) provides, in part:

"Sec. 24-11. Boards of Education — Boards of School Inspectors — Contractual continued service. As used in this and the succeeding Sections of this Article, `teacher' means any or all school district employees regularly required to be certified under laws relating to the certification of teachers, `board' means board of directors, board of education or board of school inspectors, as the case may be, and `school term' means that portion of the school year, July 1 to the following June 30, when school is in actual session. This Section and Sections 24-12 through 24-16 of this Article apply only to school districts having less than 500,000 inhabitants.

Any teacher who has been employed in any district as a full-time teacher for a probationary period of 2 consecutive school terms shall enter upon contractual continued service unless given written notice of dismissal stating the specific reason therefor, by registered mail by the employing board at least 60 days before the end of such period. If, however, a teacher has not had one school term of full-time teaching experience before the beginning of such probationary period, the employing board may at its option extend such probationary period for one additional school term by giving the teacher written notice by registered mail at least 60 days before the end of the second school term of the period of 2 consecutive school terms referred to above. Such notice must state the reasons for the one year extension and must outline the corrective actions which the teacher should take to satisfactorily complete probation.

Any full-time teacher who is completing the first year of the probationary period described in the preceding paragraph, or any teacher employed on a full-time basis not later than January 1 of the school term, shall receive written notice from the employing board at least 60 days before the end of any school term whether or not he will be reemployed for the following school term. If the board fails to give such notice, the employee shall be deemed reemployed, and not later than the close of the then current school term the board shall issue a regular contract to the employee as though the board had reemployed him in the usual manner.

Contractual continued service shall continue in effect the terms and provisions of the contract with the teacher during the last school term of the probationary period, subject to this Act and the lawful regulations of the employing board."

Section 24-12 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 122, par. 24-12) provides, in part:

"Sec. 24-12. Removal or dismissal of teachers in contractual continued service. If a teacher in contractual continued service is removed or dismissed as a result of a decision of the board to decrease the number of teachers employed by the board or to discontinue some particular type of teaching service, written notice shall be given the teacher by registered mail at least 60 days before the end of the school term, together with a statement of honorable dismissal and the reason therefor, and in 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. * * * If the board within 1 calendar year thereafter increases the number of teachers or reinstates the position so discontinued, the positions thereby becoming available shall be tendered to the teachers so removed or dismissed so far as they are legally qualified to hold such positions.

If a dismissal or removal is sought for any other reason or cause, including those under Section 10-22.4, the board must first approve a motion containing specific charges by a majority vote of all its members. Unless the teacher within 10 days requests in writing of the board that no hearing be scheduled, the board shall schedule a hearing on those charges before a disinterested hearing officer on a date no less than 30 nor more than 60 days after the enactment of the motion. Written notice of such charges shall be served upon the teacher at least 21 days before the hearing date. Such notice shall contain a bill of particulars. * * *.

Before setting a hearing on charges stemming from causes that are considered remediable, a board must give the teacher reasonable warning in writing, stating specifically the causes which, if not removed, may result in charges."

Both of the quoted sections conclude with paragraphs requiring full-time teaching service, or its statutorily defined equivalent, in order to achieve tenure in the ...


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