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Board of Education v. Ballweber





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Arthur L. Dunne, Judge, presiding.


On July 2, 1980, plaintiff, the board of education of Arbor Park School District No. 145 (hereafter the Board), filed a three-count complaint against defendants, Arbor Park Education Association, IEA-NEA (hereafter the Association), and its member teachers. The Board filed suit in the circuit court of Cook County seeking a declaratory judgment that no valid collective-bargaining agreement existed between the parties, or in the alternative, to stay arbitration of three grievances the defendants had filed.

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Board's complaint. After both parties submitted briefs there was a hearing, after which the circuit court dismissed the complaint. The circuit court found that both parties had entered into a valid collective-bargaining agreement and ordered the parties to arbitration on the three grievances that were filed. The Board appealed the circuit court's dismissal of its complaint to the appellate court. The appellate court affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of the Board's complaint and ordered the parties to proceed to arbitration on the three grievances. (105 Ill. App.3d 412.) The Board appealed to this court, and we granted its petition for leave to appeal (73 Ill.2d R. 315(a)).

The teachers in the Arbor Park School District began the 1979-80 school year without a contract. On September 10, 1979, the teachers went on strike until September 21, 1979. The Board kept the schools open for the first three days of the strike using substitute teachers. The other six days during the strike, the schools were closed.

On November 16, 1979, an agreement, entitled the "Professional Negotiations Agreement," was signed by the Board and the Association's president on behalf of the teachers. Earlier that day, the president of the Association had sent a letter to the Board stating that the agreement that was to be signed did not accurately reflect the true and complete understanding between the parties on three points. The letter also stated that the Association was signing the agreement "under duress in order to gain the other benefits and working conditions contained in the final agreement." After the delivery of the above-described letter, the Association and the Board signed the agreement.

On November 28, 1979, the Board sent a letter in response to the Association's letter. It stated in pertinent part:

"The Board regards your signature on the Professional Negotiations Agreement for 1979-1981 as acceptance of the terms and conditions contained therein. We regret that we disagree with three (3) items contained therein, but we still regard your signature as acceptance of the terms of that Agreement as written. Therefore, the Board regards your alleged disputes with the salary schedule, extracurricular pay and docking for strike days/make-up days as closed."

Neither the Board nor the Association ever questioned the validity of the agreement for the remainder of the school year, both parties acting in conformity with its terms and conditions. Even the grievances that are the subject of this litigation were handled in conformity with the agreement and processed to the point of arbitration. The agreement had provided for a five-step grievance process, the fifth step being submission to arbitration. All three grievances had proceeded to the fifth step.

The first of the three grievances at issue in this case was filed on December 16, 1979, by Robert McGaghie. McGaghie was a teacher with 30 hours of additional college credit which, under prior collective-bargaining agreements, put him on a higher salary scale. The agreement with which we are concerned here omitted the " 30 hours" salary scale. McGaghie sought arbitration of this matter after the Board denied his grievance.

The second of the three grievances was filed on February 11, 1980, by JoAnn Holba, president of the Association. Holba filed her grievance in response to a sick-leave-policy statement which the Board issued on December 12, 1979. Holba stated that the agreement that was entered into between the parties on November 16, 1979, contained a policy on sick leave and that the provision that was agreed upon in the agreement did not include three clauses that the Board issued in its December sick-leave-policy statement. The three clauses that Holba was contesting were:

"6. Certified staff members reporting sick for three or more consecutive days must submit a physician's certificate upon returning to work.

7. Excessive use of sick days may be cause for an individual conference or a request for a physical examination or other remedies at ...

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