Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon.
Lawrence D. Inglis, Judge, presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE NASH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied February 27, 1985.
Plaintiff, Peter Hancon, appeals from a summary judgment entered in favor of defendant, Board of Education of Barrington Community Unit School District No. 220 (the board), and a mandamus action brought by him seeking reinstatement of his employment as a school teacher. Hancon contends that when honorably dismissed he was legally qualified for positions held by other teachers with less seniority to which he should have been assigned; that other teachers with less seniority than Hancon should have been reassigned in order to create a vacancy in positions he was qualified to fill; that there were disputed questions of material fact precluding summary judgment; and that the trial court erred in denying his motion to strike portions of defendant's supporting affidavit to its motion for summary judgment.
The Teacher Tenure Act (the Act) provides, inter alia:
"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, and in all such cases the board shall first remove or dismiss all teachers who have not entered upon contractual continued service before removing or dismissing any teacher who has entered upon contractual continued service and who is legally qualified to hold a position currently held by a teacher who has not entered upon contractual continued service. As between teachers who have entered upon contractual continued service, the teacher or teachers with the shorter length of continuing service with the district shall be dismissed first * * *. If the board has any vacancies for the following school term or within one calendar year from the beginning of the following school term, the positions thereby becoming available shall be tendered to the teachers so removed or dismissed so far as they are legally qualified to hold such positions. * * *." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 122, par. 24-12.)
Also pertinent to this case are the standards set forth in the Illinois program for Education, Supervision and Recognition of Schools (State Board of Education Document No. 1). Section 7-2, entitled "Minimum Requirements for Teachers of Junior High and Departmentalized Upper Elementary Grades," requires:
"18 semester hours in the area of major teaching assignment, including at least 5 semester hours in each course where subject matter areas are divided into two or more specific courses. This requirement also applies to teachers of the 6th, 7th, and/or 8th grade where the organizational pattern is a junior high or the instructional pattern is in part or entirely departmentalized. When departmentalized in part, the requirement only applies to departmentalized teachers."
The pleadings, motion for summary judgment and response thereto, together with the supporting affidavits and exhibits of the parties, disclose these uncontroverted facts:
Hancon's employment by the board was honorably terminated, effective at the end of the 1981-82 school year, due to a reduction of teachers after the closing of a school; his position was taken by a more senior teacher. Hancon had been a tenured teacher in the school system since 1977 and held an Illinois teaching certificate for grades six through 12; he had taught seventh grade history for the board for seven years at that time. During his employment by the board, Hancon filed transcripts of course credits he had earned in institutions attended by him, as is required by the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 122, par. 24-23). These reflected Hancon had received a bachelor of arts degree in 1974 from the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle in the teaching of history and a master's degree in history in 1980 from the same institution. The transcripts also noted the transfer of credit for 12 quarter hours completed at Triton College for a course described as "Humanities in Western Culture."
Section 24-12 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 122, par. 24-12) requires that written notice be given at least 60 days before the end of the school term to a teacher in contractual continued service; such notice had to be given to Hancon by April 11, and was given on April 1, 1982. He met with Assistant Superintendent Frederic Vorlop on April 5, and they reviewed Hancon's transcripts. Hancon inquired whether the courses he had taken would qualify him to teach language arts in grades six through eight, and he told Vorlop that he was qualified to teach sixth grade social studies. Vorlop was unable to make these determinations from the transcripts and suggested to Hancon that he have them evaluated by the State Board of Education to determine whether he was legally qualified to teach any subject other than history.
On May 12, 1982, Vorlop received a letter from Hancon, who advised that he had spoken to the certification office of the State Board of Education and was told he was qualified to teach a sixth grade class which is 50% social studies. Hancon's letter further noted that the certification office would "recognize an English component" in the humanities credits from Triton College, but first required a letter from Triton College specifying the number of hours of that course considered to be language arts. On May 11, Vorlop had also received a letter from Triton College which confirmed that the credit hours Hancon earned for humanities courses qualified as language arts credits. On June 16, 1982, Vorlop received a letter from the State Board of Education stating that its evaluation of Hancon's transcripts established that he had earned in excess of 18 semester hours of credit in language arts and was legally qualified to teach such courses.
The board declined to reverse its decision of April 1, 1982, to dismiss Hancon after the State Board of Education notified it on June 16, 1982, that he was legally qualified to teach language arts in addition to history courses. The board stated that it could not have been certain earlier that the State Board of Education would accept the humanities credits towards language arts and that its acceptance came too late on June 16 to allow the board to dismiss another less senior teacher with the requisite 60-day notice so as to give Hancon a position. The board also stated that there was no "50% social studies" position in its schools.
Hancon contends first that at the time he was dismissed on April 1, 1982, he was, in fact, legally qualified to teach one of several middle school language arts positions held by tenured teachers who had less seniority and who were retained in the next school year. He argues that although his transcripts may not have explicitly shown he had completed the requisite 18 credit hours of language arts, the board should have investigated and clarified the transcripts prior to the deadline for teacher dismissal or consulted Hancon in sufficient time for him to do so. The board responded that at the time it dismissed Hancon, shortly before the 60-day notice deadline, it had no basis from the information contained in his educational transcripts to determine he had sufficient credits in language arts to legally qualify him to teach that subject. The board asserts that it was too late to timely dismiss another teacher to make a place for Hancon when it was notified by the State Board of Education that the humanities credits were accepted ...