Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. Herman
S. Haase, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE STOUDER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This is a suit between the board of education of Community Unit School District No. 201-U, Will County (the board), as plaintiff/counterdefendant and the Crete-Monee Educational Association (the Association) as defendant/counterplaintiff for a declaratory judgment and stay of arbitration. The defendants filed a counterclaim seeking an order compelling plaintiff to arbitrate.
The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals those portions of the judgment which: (1) granted defendant's motion for summary judgment; (2) dismissed the complaint; and (3) ordered plaintiff to arbitrate the grievance filed by defendant.
On March 19, 1984, the board voted in open session at a regularly scheduled board meeting to conduct a public hearing on March 28, 1984, pursuant to the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 24-12), for the purpose of obtaining "input on the question of the economic need to reduce the District's teaching staff by a number in excess of five tenured teachers." The board also voted that, after the public hearing on March 28, it would hold a special board meeting "for the purpose of considering recommendations for the dismissal of certificated staff."
At the special meeting on March 28, 1984, the board conducted a public hearing regarding its economic need to reduce staff. At the hearing the District's superintendent, Mr. Bruce Setchell, outlined the economic condition of the District. Setchell stated that in November 1983 the board approved a motion to operate on a balanced budget for the 1984-85 school year. An analysis of the District's financial situation showed: (1) a projected deficit of $1,300,000 for the 1983-84 fiscal year; (2) an estimated accumulated deficit in 1984-85 of $3 million; (3) no expectations of increased State aid; (4) the District's bond rating does not permit a ready access to the market; and (5) a referendum for increased District revenues was rejected by the voters, 2 to 1, on March 20, 1984. It was decided that budget reductions were the only means available to the District to operate on a balanced budget for 1984-85.
Following the superintendent's remarks, the public was invited to address the board on the issue of the board's economic need to reduce staff. Among the members of the public who addressed the board was the Association's president, Hershel Head, who requested that "the Board forgo taking action on teacher dismissals at this time."
Pursuant to section 24-12 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 24-12), at its March 28 meeting the board adopted three separate resolutions, respectively providing for: (1) the dismissal of 29 named probationary teachers; (2) the honorable dismissal of 20 named tenured teachers (defendants here); and (3) the honorable dismissal of 4 named tenured teachers (defendants here) and the tendering to them of part-time teaching positions for the next school term. All resolutions regarding the defendants stated the board had "decided to decrease the number of teachers employed during the next school term." Additionally, the board's resolutions directed the president and secretary of the board to send written notice of the board's decision to each named teacher by registered mail. The notices provided that any teacher desiring a hearing before the board on the matter of his dismissal could request one in writing within 15 days of the mailing of the notice.
The procedures for honorable dismissal of teachers in contractual continued service (tenure) are set forth in the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 24-12). Section 24-12 provides in relevant part:
"Sec. 24-12. Removal or dismissal of teachers in contractual continued service. 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 certified mail return receipt requested 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. * * * Whenever the number of honorable dismissal notices based upon economic necessity exceeds 5, or 150% of the average number of teachers honorably dismissed in the preceding 3 years, whichever is more, then the board shall hold a public hearing on the question of the dismissals. Following the hearing and board review the action to approve any such reduction shall require a majority vote of the board members."
The collective-bargaining agreement entered into between the parties for the school year 1984-85 contains a grievance procedure for the submission of grievances alleging that there has been a violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of any provision of the agreement. On April 23, 1984, the Association and 24 defendant teachers filed a grievance alleging that article XXI of the collective-bargaining agreement between the board and the Association was violated. The grievants sought the reinstatement of all defendants to full-time teaching positions for the 1984-85 school year.
Grievance meetings were conducted in May 1984. At the meetings the Association summarized its reasons for believing the contract was violated as follows:
(1) there was no decrease in enrollment in specific programs,
(2) there was no discontinuance of a specific service or program, and
(3) there has been no substantial decrease in the educational fund revenue from ...