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Board of Education v. Mccoy





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Richard E. Mann, Judge, presiding.


The defendant Linda McCoy (McCoy) was a tenured teacher in the employ of the plaintiff board of education, Springfield Public Schools, District No. 186, Sangamon County, Illinois (Board), and was dismissed by the Board on March 26, 1979. Administrative hearings pursuant to the appropriate provisions of the School Code were had (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 122, par. 24-12), and the hearing officer found that McCoy should be reinstated. The Board appealed to the circuit court of Sangamon County which reversed the hearing officer. McCoy then appealed to this court. In a divided order under Supreme Court Rule 23 (87 Ill.2d R. 23) (98 Ill. App.3d 1206), this court reversed the circuit court and upheld the decision of the hearing officer.

McCoy was reinstated on March 2, 1982. Thereafter controversy arose over the amount of damages to be awarded to her pursuant to section 24-12 of the School Code which provides in pertinent part:

"If a decision of the hearing officer is adjudicated upon review or appeal in favor of the teacher, then the trial court shall order reinstatement and shall determine the amount for which the board is liable including but not limited to loss of income and costs incurred therein." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 122, par. 24-12.

Hearings were held in the circuit court of Sangamon County which entered its final order on June 23, 1983. McCoy was allowed all the income she would have received from the Board for the applicable school years, 1978-79 through 1981-82. This was offset by the amounts she received prior to her dismissal and after her reinstatement. It was further offset by all income earned by her at other jobs during the period of her dismissal, except income from a summer job at the Illinois State Fair; a further offset consisted of sums received as unemployment compensation benefits from the States of Illinois and Texas. McCoy sought, and was denied by the trial court, claims for consequential damages, i.e., fringe benefits provided by the Board, losses from forced liquidation of assets, interest expense on loans, and sick leave. The trial court allowed interest at 6% from the time of the hearing officer's decision but denied prejudgment interest for the time prior to that decision.

McCoy has appealed the trial court's order and the Board has cross-appealed. McCoy raises four principal complaints about the trial court's order: (1) There should have been no offset for money earned at jobs outside the teaching profession, described by her as "menial"; (2) there should have been no offset for unemployment compensation benefits received; (3) prejudgment interest should have been allowed; and (4) consequential damages should have been allowed.

In its cross-appeal the Board complains (1) that McCoy should not be awarded loss of income damages for any times in which she elected to receive unemployment benefits, or in which she did not actively seek other employment, or avoided it; and (2) that the interest award was improper.

We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for a recalculation of damages.

A brief synopsis of the pertinent evidence received at the hearings below is appropriate. McCoy testified as to her repeated efforts to obtain a teaching job in other districts in and about Springfield and Sangamon County, but these were to no avail. She also took civil service examinations for jobs with the State of Illinois in the areas of public information officer and social worker. She also applied to the Springfield Recreation Department, travel agencies, the Governor's Council on Health and Fitness (she was a physical education instructor), Sangamon County Alcohol/Drug Abuse Council, Sangamon State University, Youth Service Bureau, as well as hospitals and nursing homes. When none of these proved fruitful, she applied at numerous restaurants, clubs, and retail establishments (the "menial" jobs).

She did obtain some substitute teaching at Rochester, Sangamon County, schools. This amounted to 24 days during 1979 and 1980. She also worked as a waitress, bartender, and private tutor, and in summer months as an assistant director of special events at the Illinois State Fair. Her most continuous employment was with the Department of Transportation of the State of Illinois. She worked as a cement lab worker from April 1980 to February 1982. She claimed that, with the exception of the Department of Transportation job, all the work was done outside of what would have been regular school hours. Prior to her dismissal she taught Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. She was not required to work during weekends, evenings, or summers.

Following her dismissal, McCoy applied for and received unemployment compensation benefits, $3,514 from the State of Illinois and $1,083 from the State of Texas where she had worked in 1978. She testified as to certain fringe benefits which she received as an employee of the Board, life insurance, medical insurance, personal leave days, and sick leave. An individual from the Illinois Education Association testified that the value of these benefits for the time between McCoy's dismissal and reinstatement was $717.40. He also testified that under the collective bargaining contract with the Board, a teacher's sick leave accumulates from year to year and that unused personal leave days also accumulate from year to year as accumulated sick leave.

McCoy also testified as to her straightened financial circumstances during the period of dismissal. She surrendered a retirement annuity, used up her savings, borrowed money from friends and relatives, obtained a loan from her credit union to cover debts, and sold her antiques at a loss.

An individual from the Board's business office testified that the Board had received a notice from the Illinois Department of Labor that out of any award made to McCoy, $3,514 of it would be required to be payable jointly to McCoy and the Director of Labor, apparently in a recoupment of unemployment compensation benefits paid.

The first principal issue to be considered is the work performed by McCoy during the period of her dismissal. The battle lines, as drawn by the parties, are fairly clear. McCoy maintains that she was not required to seek nor obtain anything other than a teaching job (denominating other jobs as "menial") and hence there should be no offset from her damage award as a result of the jobs which she took. The Board, contra, maintains that McCoy spent much of the time during dismissal taking vacations in Texas, Florida, and Mexico; drawing unemployment ...

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