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Newman v. Bd. of Education





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Scott County; the Hon. CHARLES J. RYAN, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied September 3, 1981.

Tenured teacher case.

But this one is not run-of-the-mill.

There is pressing need for the State Board of Education to publish reasonable, consistent and comprehensive guidelines in this area.

First, however, the case.

On January 21, 1980, Esta Newman filed a petition for writ of mandamus and a complaint for declaratory relief seeking reinstatement as a full-time teacher in the Bluffs school district. Following a bench trial, the trial court denied the petition for writ of mandamus and — after a limited remandment from this court — the complaint for declaratory relief.

The issue in this case is whether Mrs. Newman, a tenured teacher, is "legally qualified" to teach certain junior high school courses now being staffed by non-tenured faculty members.


At trial, Mrs. Newman testified that she holds a bachelor's degree in education from Western Illinois University from which she graduated in 1964. She holds a valid Illinois teaching certificate covering grades 6-12 and has been employed since 1964 by the Bluffs Community High School. On March 15, 1979, she was informed by the school board that her full-time position for the following year was being reduced to a part-time position. During the 1978-1979 school year, petitioner was assigned four periods of home economics, a consumer education class, one study hall, and one planning hour. During the 1979-1980 school year, petitioner taught only four periods of home economics, all at the high school level.

Robert Rogers, superintendent and elementary principal of Bluffs Community School, testified that a non-tenured teacher named Schwabe taught sociology, American history, and geography at the high school level, together with sixth and seventh grade social studies and eighth grade history at the junior high level. A second non-tenured teacher, Michael MacMillan, taught sixth through eighth grade junior high science. He also taught developmental and high school biology and maintained a study hall. The consumer education course which petitioner had previously taught was incorporated into the sociology class now taught by Schwabe.

With the exception of the petitioner and a librarian, all high school teachers in the Bluffs Community School were assigned a planning period as part of their work load. Though Rogers indicated that the planning period was intended for faculty to meet with the students, he admitted that this policy was unenforced and that teachers were free to use the time as they chose, provided they pursued school-related matters.

William Helton, assistant manager, Department of Recognition and Supervision, Public School Approval Section, Illinois State Board of Education, testified that he is responsible for evaluating transcripts of faculty. While he does not certify teachers, he does review their qualifications to perform particular teaching responsibilities. These qualifications are regulatory rather than statutory. After examining petitioner's transcript, Helton concluded that the certificate automatically permitted her to teach home economics at the high school level. But petitioner's ability to teach other subjects is conditioned on meeting qualifications set forth in a document entitled The Illinois Program for Evaluation, Supervision, and Recognition of Schools (Document No. 1).

Document No. 1 provides that a junior high school teacher must have 18 semester hours of college credit in his major teaching assignment to teach that subject at the junior high level. There is no stipulation as to the number of semester hours necessary to permit an instructor to teach a course if it is his minor or secondary assignment. Based on these requirements, Helton indicated that petitioner was "legally qualified" to teach science at the junior high level. In addition, she could teach social studies at the junior high level if it was her secondary teaching assignment.

These conclusions were based on petitioner's transcript, which revealed that she had received credit for 21 1/3 semester hours of college level science courses and 10 2/3 semester hours in social studies courses.

On cross-examination, however, Helton qualified his otherwise unconditional endorsement of petitioner's legal qualifications to teach these subjects. Document No. 1 places a further restriction on faculty in departmentalized schools such as the Bluffs Community School. (Departmentalized schools are those in which subject matter areas are divided into two or more specific courses.) In such schools, a teacher must ...

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