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Meadows v. School District U-46

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 27, 1986.

GEORGE MEADOWS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

SCHOOL DISTRICT U-46, COUNTIES OF KANE, DUPAGE AND COOK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. Melvin E. Dunn, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE STROUSE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal from a writ of mandamus of the circuit court of Kane County which compelled defendants to follow certain procedures of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 122, par. 1-1 et seq.) with regard to the transfer of plaintiff from his administrative position to a teaching position.

Plaintiff, George Meadows, is a certified employee of School District U-46. Prior to a reclassification by defendants, the board of education of School District U-46 and its members (hereinafter collectively referred to as the board or defendants), plaintiff had been assigned as a principal with the school district since 1964. On March 31, 1984, the board notified plaintiff of its intent to reclassify him as a teacher, and offered him private and public hearings before the board pursuant to section 10-23.8b of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 122, par. 10-23.8b) relating to reclassification of principals. Plaintiff's reclassification would result in a reduction in salary based on the new position. Plaintiff was serving as principal at that time under a single-year contract.

Plaintiff requested and received a private hearing before the board on May 14, 1984, after which the board affirmed its intention to proceed with the reclassification. Plaintiff, however, demanded that he be furnished specific charges, a bill of particulars, and a hearing before a disinterested hearing officer, all pursuant to section 24-12 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 122, par. 24-12) relating to tenured teacher dismissal. The board refused this demand on the basis that section 10-23.8b, and not section 24-12, is the exclusive remedy for a principal in cases of reclassification and reduction in salary, and scheduled plaintiff's section 10-23.8b public hearing for June 21, 1984.

On June 15, 1984, plaintiff initiated this action by filing in the circuit court of Kane County a complaint seeking a judgment of mandamus requiring defendants to follow the procedures of section 24-12 and an injunction restraining them from conducting the June 21 hearing and taking other actions relating to the reclassification, pending a section 24-12 hearing. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted as to the prayer for injunctive relief but denied as to the prayer for mandamus. After defendants answered, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On December 11, 1984, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of plaintiff and against defendants and ordered defendants to follow the procedures of sections 24-11 and 24-12. On January 8, 1984, defendants filed their notice of appeal praying that the order of December 11 be reversed.

Defendants' sole contention on appeal is that section 10-23.8b of the School Code is the only statute applicable to plaintiff's reclassification and, thus, the trial court erred in ordering them to comply with the procedures of sections 24-11 and 24-12. Plaintiff's position is that, because he is a certified employee of the school district, he is entitled to have the issues of demotion and reduction of his salary heard by an impartial hearing officer, as mandated by sections 24-11 and 24-12.

Section 10-23.8b of the School Code provides procedural protections for principals reclassified in position by demotion or reduction in rank with a commensurate salary reduction. The statute states:

"Sec. 10-23.8b. Reclassification of principals. No principal who has completed 2 or more years of administrative service in the school district may be reclassified by demotion or reduction in rank from one position within a school district to another for which a lower salary is paid without written notice from the board of the proposed reclassification by April 1 of the year in which the contract expires.

Within 10 days of receipt of this notice, the principal may request and receive a private hearing with the board to discuss the reasons for the reclassification. If the principal is not satisfied with the results of the private hearing, he may, within 5 days thereafter, request and receive a public hearing on the reclassification. Any principal may be represented by counsel at a private or public hearing conducted under this Section.

If the board decides to proceed with the reclassification, it shall give the principal written notice of its decision within 15 days of the private hearing or within 15 days of the public hearing held under this Section, whichever is later. The decision of the board thereupon becomes final." (Emphasis added.) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 122, par. 10-23.8b.)

This provision was added to the School Code in 1975.

Sections 24-11 and 24-12 of the School Code provide for the removal or dismissal of teachers in contractual continued service (tenure). The term "teacher" is defined as "any or all school district employees regularly required to be certified under laws relating to the certification of teachers" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 122, par. 24-11), and the term includes, inter alia, superintendents and principals (Lester v. Board of Education (1967), 87 Ill. App.2d 269, 279-80). Section 24-11 also defines the power of the school board as follows:

"This Section and succeeding Sections do not modify any existing power of the board except with respect to the procedure of the discharge of a teacher and reductions in salary as hereinafter provided. Contractual continued service status shall not restrict the power of the board to transfer a teacher to a position which the teacher is qualified to fill or to make such salary adjustments as it deems desirable, but unless reductions in salary are uniform or based upon some reasonable classification, any teacher whose salary is reduced shall be entitled to a notice and a hearing as hereinafter provided in the case of certain dismissals or removals." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 122, par. 24-11.)

Section 24-12 contains the actual procedures for removing or dismissing a tenured teacher. It ...


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