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Wilfong v. Collinsville Comm. Sch. Dist. 10

OPINION FILED JULY 14, 1982.

LYNN WILFONG, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,

v.

COLLINSVILLE COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 10 ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. JOHN W. DAY, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE KARNS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Petitioner, Lynn Wilfong, brought an action in the circuit court of Madison County against respondents, the Collinsville Community Unit School District No. 10, the Collinsville Board of Education, and the Collinsville Education Association, seeking to enjoin respondents from reassigning her and assigning another teacher to the position formerly held by petitioner at a district elementary school. After a bench trial, the court denied petitioner's request for injunctive relief and found in favor of respondents.

At issue is the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the board and the Collinsville Education Association (hereinafter referred to as C.E.A.), the bargaining agent for certificated personnel employed by the Board, for the 1978-79, 1979-80 school years. The parties reached an agreement during the fall of 1978; however, the agreement was not signed until March 9, 1979, because the language was recodified. The collective bargaining agreement was distributed to all certificated personnel on April 5, 1979.

Specifically in dispute are the following provisions as originally contained in article XI of the collective bargaining agreement:

"Section 4. If an employee's position is eliminated, that person shall be permitted to bump into any position for which he/she is qualified provided that such teacher:

a. is certificated for the position he/she is bumping into, and

b. has more district seniority than the teacher he/she is bumping.

Section 5. The teacher with the most seniority may choose from those teachers who will be laid off because of the bumping process, assuming that teachers who bump are qualified. Teachers may not, however, bump someone who is not scheduled to be reduced."

On April 9, 1979, the board and the C.E.A. sent a memorandum to all certificated personnel which stated that section 5 of article XI was placed into the contract inadvertently and was not intended to be a part of the agreement.

The evidence at trial shows that the board and the C.E.A. agreed that the purpose of the bumping procedure was to facilitate teacher transfers following the board's decision to eliminate positions by giving preferential rights to teachers with district seniority. According to the parties' understanding, the board would be in breach of the agreement if it reassigned teachers whose positions were eliminated without allowing them to choose their assignments through the bumping procedure.

Petitioner is employed by respondent board in continued contractual service, as tenure is referred to in the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 122, par. 24-11), and is a member of the C.E.A. From 1976 through 1979, she taught kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary School. On March 29, 1979, the school principal informed petitioner that she was being bumped from her position by Ann Rauh. Petitioner was further informed that she had the right to choose her reassignment through the bumping procedure.

Following this notification, petitioner and her husband talked several times with Assistant Superintendent Dallas T. Harrell to protest her reassignment. Upon receiving a copy of the contract on April 5, petitioner's husband complained to Harrell that the reassignment was in violation of section 5 of article XI. Harrell replied that the specific provision did not apply to petitioner's situation. Petitioner then filed a grievance through the C.E.A. which it refused to process. Thereafter, petitioner chose as her reassignment a kindergarten position at Maryville East School and Summit School, the position she held at the time of trial. It is undisputed that petitioner suffered no reduction in salary or loss of other benefits as a result of the transfer, although she must travel an additional 10 miles to work.

Ann Rauh was teaching art at North Junior High School and at the adjoining Lincoln Elementary School. She holds both an elementary certificate and an art certificate. In March 1979, after being informed that her teaching positions were being eliminated, Rauh chose the position held by petitioner at Lincoln Elementary School. It is undisputed that Rauh was both qualified to teach the kindergarten class and had more district seniority than petitioner. Rauh was the least senior teacher at North Junior High School, but she was not the least senior teacher at Lincoln Elementary School.

The board had instructed the administration that positions should be reduced because of financial exigencies. The administration reported periodically to the board to discuss which positions could be eliminated most feasibly. The specific decision to eliminate the positions held by Rauh was based on the anticipated decreased enrollment for the upcoming school term. The remaining teachers assumed Rauh's teaching responsibilities. No evidence was ...


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