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Hansen v. Board of Education





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Fred A. Geiger, Judge, presiding.


The plaintiff, Jack Hansen, alleges that the defendant, the board of education of School District No. 65 (hereinafter board), illegally reduced his salary and removed or dismissed him without a hearing, both in contravention of the Illinois School Code (hereinafter Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 24-12). The circuit court had previously granted defendant's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. That decision was reversed by this court in an order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 23 (87 Ill.2d R. 23), and the cause was remanded for the circuit court to consider additional evidence. (Hansen v. Board of Education (1984), 122 Ill. App.3d 1160.) Subsequently, further discovery was conducted by both parties. After this discovery was completed, both parties agreed there existed no disputed material facts and by agreement tendered motions for summary judgment with accompanying memoranda. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the defendant. It is from such decision that plaintiff appeals.

Plaintiff was initially employed by the board as an instrumental music teacher in 1970 and held that position until the end of the 1980-81 school term. He holds a Type 10 teaching certificate issued by the State of Illinois. As an instrumental music teacher, plaintiff's duties included instructing students in reading music, music theory and appreciation, and playing various instruments. He was also required to rehearse the band four times a week in order to prepare the students for concerts given in the fall, at Christmas, and in the spring. He performed all of the functions of a regular teacher, including developing lesson plans, evaluating student performances, and making recommendations for student development.

Parental complaints regarding Hansen and the band's performance first arose in the 1971-72 school years. On April 14, 1972, plaintiff and the superintendent of District No. 65 met to discuss plaintiff's attendance, his criticism of children in the band, his instructing methods and procedures, the dropout rate of the band, and the quality of the band performance. In 1975, complaints regarding plaintiff's job as a band instructor arose again and resulted in the board drafting a resolution on February 6, 1975, specifying the complaints against plaintiff and informing him that unless prompt improvements were made, the board would bring charges against him which might result in termination of his employment. Again during the 1979-80 school year, complaints regarding plaintiff's ability as a music teacher arose. In September 1979, the chairman of the music department of high school District No. 115 was requested by the superintendent of District No. 65 to submit his views regarding the music program in the Lake Bluff schools. In response to this request, the chairman submitted a four-page report which was highly critical of plaintiff and his teaching performance. The report was critical of the high dropout rate in Lake Bluff, plaintiff's work attitude, and his inability to structure and realize goals.

On March 26, 1980, the board of education gave the plaintiff a formal notice to remedy certain problems and offered any aid or assistance which would be necessary in order to carry out the remediation. The board also notified the plaintiff that because of his inadequate performance as reflected in his annual evaluation and in the board's notice of deficiencies, he would not receive a salary increase for the 1980-81 school term, essentially because his performance did not merit an increase.

In the fall of 1980, plaintiff agreed to an independent study of the district's instrumental program. At plaintiff's suggestion, the music department of Northwestern University conducted the study. In a written report, the Northwestern University consultants noted that the number of students continuing in the band program in high school "is shockingly small, the instrumental music program is functioning significantly below its potential," and plaintiff's teaching was deficient in several areas. The assessors indicated that the plaintiff's "organizational abilities are limited and insufficient, his teaching `posture' is occasionally quite harsh," and he does not provide encouragement to the students. In conclusion, the assessors noted that the plaintiff was "struggling to overcome serious problems." Plaintiff was allowed to read the consultant's report, and he discussed its findings with the district superintendent at a meeting to review plaintiff's progress in remediation.

In March 1981, the board issued a formal plan for remediation for the 1981-82 school term which provided specific approaches to improving the areas in which the plaintiff's performance was deemed to be deficient.

In June 1981, a survey was taken of the parents of students enrolled in the instrumental music program. Plaintiff was sent a summary of the results of the survey and was afforded an opportunity to review the returned surveys at his convenience. The parents' comments reiterated many of the same concerns previously expressed, i.e., disorganization, lack of encouragement, inadequate communication with parents and students, and absenteeism.

In fall 1981, a second independent evaluation was performed, this time by the music department of the University of Illinois. In their written evaluation, the consultants stated that:

"[the] Lake Bluff instrumental program is not as good as it should be or could be * * *. In essence, we doubt that significant or lasting change will be possible with this particular teacher. Thus, we believe that the program under Mr. Hansen's direction is as good as it will ever be. Were the decision ours to make, we would recommend the hiring of another instrumental teacher who would assume complete control of the program."

On March 24, 1982, plaintiff was notified that the board was authorizing the district superintendent to hire a new band director. Plaintiff was also informed that the board was again going to fix his salary for the upcoming 1982-83 school year at the previous year's level and that he was going to be assigned nonteaching duties in the future. At his deposition, the district superintendent stated that, in his judgment, this freeze was imposed because his new duties were not worth more money.

Since his reassignment at the beginning of the 1982-83 term, plaintiff no longer develops lesson plans or goals for students. Instead, he has been assigned to watch students who are in the process of embarking and disembarking from the buses, to watch students eating, and to monitor students in study hall. The district superintendent indicated that although other certificated teachers performed plaintiff's present duties in the past, no one particular person was ever assigned to perform all of these duties. Instead, a variety of teachers was assigned these duties depending upon the teacher's work load. The principal, in plaintiff's 1982-83 evaluation, indicated that there was no precedent for this "position." This evaluation reflected the opinion of both the principal and other teachers in the school that the plaintiff's duties were very light and lacking any substantive teaching responsibilities. His assignment was labeled that of an "itinerant."

In addition to removing plaintiff from his teaching duties, the board has not granted any further salary increases to him. The board indicated that plaintiff's duties were not of a sufficient value to the school district to warrant a salary increase.

Plaintiff has been paid the same salary of $22,756 that he received in the 1979-80 school year in the subsequent school years of 1980-81, 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84, and 1984-85. His evaluations following his new assignment in 1982-83 have indicated that the "position" requires further development, that his ...

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