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Williams v. Weaver





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Myron Gomberg, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied July 16, 1986.

This appeal is from the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against the board of trustees of Community College District No. 508 (board) and certain faculty members of Malcolm X College alleging breach of contract and tortious interference with prospective business and economic advantage.

The record discloses that plaintiff entered into a contract to teach business courses at Malcolm X College during the 1978 spring and fall semesters, commencing January 10, 1978, and ending December 23, 1978. In addition to general terms regarding salary and work load, the contract provided that plaintiff would be advised in writing by October 1, 1978, as to whether he would be tendered a contract of employment for the following year, and that it was "subject to applicable law, the Rules of the Board and the Board-Union agreement."

Article VIII, section J, of the collective-bargaining agreement in effect at the time contained provisions whereby recommendations on initial employment and renewal of employment contracts were to be made by eligible members of the department — in accordance with criteria and procedures agreed upon by a majority of the eligible members and published in writing — and then forwarded by the department chairperson to the college president, who was free to accept or reject them. The published criteria and procedures of the business department at Malcolm X College provided that "[d]uring or before the tenth week of each semester, all eligible department instructors must fill out the Faculty Evaluation Forms rating each instructor's professional competency."

On February 24, 1978, a grievance was filed by 14 members of the business department charging that the board violated the collective-bargaining agreement by awarding a teaching contract to plaintiff before they were given an opportunity to adjust their teaching programs and, thereby, depriving them of overtime work. The grievance was subsequently denied.

On September 28, 1978, defendant Weaver, chairman of the business education department, sent a memorandum to the vice-president for administration recommending that plaintiff's contract not be renewed, giving as reasons therefor: "(1) Poor Evaluations, (2) Incomplete Class Syllabus, and (3) Substandard Final Examination." Weaver further noted that the business department faculty had recommended that plaintiff not be hired in the first instance and that a grievance had been filed relating thereto.

In a letter from James Griggs, the college president, dated September 29, 1978, plaintiff was notified that his employment at Malcolm X College would terminate upon expiration of his one-year probationary contract. It is undisputed that the faculty evaluations enumerated above were not completed in accordance with the published criteria and procedures.

Plaintiff then filed a grievance against the board protesting the termination decision. Although that grievance does not appear in the record, plaintiff's brief contains a copy of a letter, dated November 14, 1978, from Griggs in response thereto in which he (Griggs) stated that a review of the data presented to him did not reveal "an arbitrary or capricious approach" by Weaver; that Weaver had adhered to the substantive portions of the recommendation procedures enumerated in Article VIII, section J, of the collective-bargaining agreement; that a majority of the members of the business department had held that he (plaintiff) had not lived up to the standards adopted by the department and, therefore, had recommended that his contract not be renewed; that the "new information" submitted by plaintiff in the grievance was not sufficient to overcome the prior data submitted by Weaver; but that the matter would be remanded to Weaver for reconsideration by him and the other eligible members of the business department.

On November 15, 1978, Weaver circulated a memorandum to the members of the business department recommending that they vote "no" on the question of renewing plaintiff's contract for the reasons that (1) plaintiff had been hired despite faculty recommendations to the contrary; (2) the two teaching evaluations on file indicated poor teaching qualities; and (3) he and several other teachers had received numerous complaints from students of plaintiff's poor teaching performance. In his complaint, plaintiff states that "the eligible voting faculty voted against [his] continued employment [and] [a]s a result thereof, the Board notified [him] that his employment contract would not be * * * renewed."

Plaintiff thereafter brought this action *fn1 for breach of contract and tortious interference with prospective advantage in the termination of his employment as a teacher at Malcolm X College. Hearings were conducted after which the trial court, on December 17, 1984, dismissed count I (breach of contract) and, on April 5, 1985, dismissed count II (tortious interference) of plaintiff's complaint. This appeal followed.


• 1 Plaintiff first contends that defendants' failure to comply with the evaluations procedures required by the collective-bargaining agreement constituted a breach of his employment contract into which those evaluations provisions were incorporated.

Defendants assert that the supreme court decisions in Illinois Education Association v. Board of Education (1975), 62 Ill.2d 127, 340 N.E.2d 7, and Board of Trustees v. Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600 (1976), 62 Ill.2d 470, 343 N.E.2d 473, are dispositive of this issue. Both cases were actions brought by former non-tenured teachers whose employment was terminated by non-renewal of their probationary teaching contracts. The plaintiffs alleged that the boards' noncompliance with evaluation procedures contained in the collective-bargaining agreements rendered invalid the decisions to terminate their employment by non-renewal of their contracts. In Illinois Education Association v. Board of Education, the court noted that the School Code imposed upon the board the duty to appoint teachers (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 122, par. 10-20.7), and the right to terminate the employment of non-tenured teachers by dismissal or non-renewal of their contracts (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 122, pars. 10-22.4, 24-11 through 24-15), and ...

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