Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James
A. Murray, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This appeal concerns the validity of an arbitration award which decided that plaintiff, the Board of Education of Bremen High School District No. 228 (the Board), violated a collective bargaining agreement when it voted to dismiss eight tenured teachers without first holding a public hearing under section 24-12 of the School Code. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 122, par. 24-12.) The Board filed an action to vacate the arbitrator's award on the following grounds.
1. Neither the dismissed teachers nor their collective bargaining representative have standing to rely upon section 24-12 of the School Code.
2. The arbitrator exceeded his authority.
3. The award is based on erroneous findings of fact and conclusions of law.
The trial court affirmed the arbitrator's award, and we affirm. The following facts are material to our decision.
The collective bargaining agreement between the Board and the Bremen District No. 228 Joint Faculty Association (the Association) provides that "[i]f a reduction of tenured certificated personnel occurs, it will be in accordance with Chapter 122, Article [sic] 24-12 of the School Code of Illinois." Section 24-12 of the School Code provides that
"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 * * *. Whenever the number of honorable dismissal notices based upon economic necessity exceeds, 5, or 150% of the average number of teachers honorably dismissed in the preceding 3 years, whichever is more, then the board shall hold a public hearing on the question of dismissals. Following the hearing and board review the action to approve any such reduction shall require a majority vote of the board members." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 122, par. 24-12.
The collective bargaining agreement also contains a grievance mechanism for "any complaint of a violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of the terms and conditions of [the] Agreement." It is further provided that an aggrieved party can have a grievance submitted to arbitration if he or she is not satisfied with the outcome of the grievance procedure. The submission agreement in the collective bargaining contract specifies that
"The arbitrator shall have no power to alter, add to, or subtract from the terms of this Agreement or require action that is prohibited by law. The sole power of the arbitrator shall be to determine whether the terms of this Agreement have been violated, misinterpreted, or misapplied. The decision of the arbitrator shall be rendered to the Board and to the grievant in writing and shall be binding upon both parties."
On March 1, 1982, Robert Wheat, superintendent of District 228, sent a letter to Cathy Fronczak, president of the Joint Faculty Association, notifying her that the district would have to fire 10 tenured teachers because of a projected decrease in enrollment. The superintendent stated that the district had decided to maintain a ratio of 23.5 students per teacher, explaining that "it is the responsibility of all of us to attempt to operate this school district in a sound fiscal manner not only for the coming year, but for future years. This continues to be a problem because of the State of Illinois' unpredictable financial situation, plus the uncertainty at the county level because of assessment practices, variation in the state multiplier, and lower percentage of tax collections."
The Board met on March 22, 1982, and a member moved to dismiss eight tenured teachers because of "declining enrollment; teachers returning from leaves; [and] fluctuations in subject area needs." This motion passed, and the teachers were notified the next day that they were honorably dismissed from employment.
The Association filed grievances on behalf of the teachers, and eventually, after various procedural skirmishes which are not material to our decision, the grievances were submitted to arbitration.
During arbitration the Association claimed that the Board fired the aggrieved teachers because of "economic necessity," and that the Board violated the collective bargaining agreement because it voted to dismiss the teachers without first holding the public hearing which section 24-12 requires whenever a board of ...