Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Livingston
County, the Hon. Darrell H. Reno, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE WARD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Ralph Arduini, the plaintiff, brought a breach-of-contract action against the defendant, the board of education of Pontiac Township High School, District 90, Livingston County, to recover money withheld from his salary. The plaintiff, who was employed as a teacher by the defendant, resigned during the 1979-80 school year. Upon his resignation the defendant, applying a "liquidated damages policy" it had adopted two months earlier, withheld 4% of his salary as damages for what it claimed was an improper failure to teach for the full school year. The circuit court of Livingston County entered judgment for the defendant, holding that the adoption of the "liquidated damages policy" was a valid exercise of the power granted the defendant under the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 122, par. 1-1 et seq.). The appellate court affirmed, with one justice dissenting. (93 Ill. App.3d 925.) We allowed the plaintiff leave to appeal to this court under Rule 315 (73 Ill.2d R. 315).
At trial, the parties stipulated to what were deemed to be the relevant facts. The stipulation was to this effect: For some years prior to the 1979-80 school year Arduini was a teacher in good standing. He qualified for contractual continued service status, that is to say he was tenured for the 1979-80 school year. On September 13, 1979, the plaintiff received a notice from the defendant. It stated:
"CONTRACTUAL CONTINUED SERVICE NOTIFICATION
The Board of Education, School District No. 90, Livingston County, State of Illinois, hereby notifies Ralph Arduini , a tenure [sic] teacher in said high school of continued contractual service for the school term beginning August 27, 1979 and ending May 30, 1980, for the annual salary of $17,898.00 payable in 9 equal installments at the end of each pay period as scheduled by the Board.
The time schedule and duties of the employee will be assigned by the Superintendent. In general, the work assignment will be as follows: Industrial Art Club. Contract time: 9 months 5 days. Five class periods, one planning period.
Your status was reviewed on March 12, 1979 by the Board of Education. It is with pleasure that they invite you to continue your contractual service in Pontiac High School. This notification is executed in duplicate this 13 day of September , 1979."
Attached to the contractual continued service notification was a sheet which read:
All contracts between the Pontiac Township High School and certificated personnel are entered into in good faith with the intent that the obligations stated in or implied by the contract are to be met fully.
Procedures for resignations to be effective at the close of a contractual period are adequately covered in the statutes.
Resignations terminated during a contractual period are to be mutually agreed upon by the employee and the Board of Education. These resignations, when initiated by the employee, not only cause undue hardship on the students, but create additional concern for the Board of Education and necessitate the expenditure of funds in seeking a replacement.
When a resignation is initiated by an employee for reasons other than for extenuating circumstances, the resigned shall pay the school district four (4) per cent of contract salary as liquidated-damages for breach of employment contract. Employee initiated resignations will not be honored until a satisfactory replacement assumes the duty of the resigner.
Reference to this policy shall be made in all certificated employee contracts and, or notices of ...