APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT
511 N.E.2d 172, 158 Ill. App. 3d 111, 110 Ill. Dec. 337 1987.IL.984
Appeal from the Circuit Court of De Kalb County; the Hon. Douglas R. Engel, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE HOPF delivered the opinion of the court. NASH and WOODWARD, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE HOPF
Plaintiff, Donna deOliveira, seeks review of the decision of the circuit court on administrative review upholding the decision of a hearing officer appointed by the Illinois State Board of Education in a tenured teacher dismissal pursuant to section 24-12 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 122, par. 24-12). As a result of that proceeding, the hearing officer affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff, a speech and language clinician, by defendants, the De Kalb County Special Education Association , and the board of education of De Kalb Community Unit School District No. 428 (board).
The testimony presented at the five-day hearing showed that plaintiff was employed by DCSEA as a speech and language clinician from the 1974-75 school year until her dismissal during the 1984-85 school year. During this period of time she worked as a diagnostician in the birth-to-three program and the three-to-five follow-up program and then as a clinician serving both the Early Childhood and auditorily impaired classes in Sycamore as well as serving half-time classes in the Waterman and Somonauk Early Childhood programs. During the 1976-77 school year Janice Blickhan, a program coordinator with DCSEA, became plaintiff's supervisor. Blickhan remained in this capacity until and including the time of plaintiff's dismissal.
On September 27, 1983, Blickhan sent a letter to plaintiff indicating her dissatisfaction with plaintiff's failure to complete her final speech and language reports at the end of the 1982-83 school year and prior to plaintiff's leaving for the summer, as stated in the job description for speech and language clinicians. In her letter Blickhan noted that she had not been informed by plaintiff that the students' files were missing the speech and language reports and that, as a result, the files had been sent on to kindergarten and special education classes without the reports. Blickhan pointed out that plaintiff's inability to complete required paperwork had been a problem for years and indicated that plaintiff had a problem with her priorities and time usage as well as with her inability to carry out the total job.
On October 31, 1983, Blickhan and William Peters, director of the DCSEA, met with plaintiff to discuss Blickhan's concern with plaintiff's job performance, as expressed in Blickhan's September 27, 1983, letter. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss plaintiff's performance as a speech and language clinician and to inform her she was being placed on an informal remediation plan.
On November 4, 1983, Blickhan received a letter from Helene Kraus, director of special education for Sycamore Community Unit School District No. 427, wherein Kraus expressed concerns regarding the delivery of speech and language services by plaintiff. Kraus related that the speech and language clinicians employed by School District No. 427 were unaware of what services had been provided by plaintiff while their children attended the DCSEA Early Childhood Program. The records of the children who had received these services contained no speech information regarding tests given, length of the children's therapy, and the short-term or long-term goals and objectives for the students involved.
Blickhan sent a letter to plaintiff, dated November 7, 1983, in which Blickhan indicated that a process of remediation was necessary to address the following concerns:
"1) lack of coordination/organization of delivery of services in Early Childhood classrooms and lack of coordination between you and Early Childhood teachers;
2) lack of follow through regarding specific requests for information from Program Coordinator;
3) lack of completion of reports on students receiving services."
Also on November 7, 1983, Blickhan and Director Peters met with plaintiff to discuss the formulation of a seven-step informal remediation plan. Subsequently, on December 20, 1983, Blickhan and plaintiff met to refine the plan. Among the seven steps, plaintiff was to take the following actions.
"5. Speech/Language Final Reports will be completed prior to end of school. Reports and speech files will be turned into the Program Coordinator two weeks before last day of school. These will be sent to classroom teachers to be added to their files prior to end of school.
6. Short-term objectives will be developed for each child and shared with teachers. These will be marked in each child's Brigance Record Book." (A Brigance Record Book is an assessment tool utilized by the DCSEA for the determination of functional levels of pupils and for determining the goals and objectives for those pupils.)
On April 25, 1984, Blickhan sent plaintiff a memorandum reminding plaintiff that the December 20, 1983, remediation plan, to which plaintiff agreed and signed, required that the speech and language reports for Early Childhood students be submitted two weeks before the end of the school year, i.e., May 18, 1984. Plaintiff failed to produce the speech and language reports as required.
Plaintiff met with Blickhan and Peters on June 1, 1984, to review plaintiff's progress on the remediation plan. At this time plaintiff had still not produced the final speech and language reports as required in the plan and as requested in Blickhan's April 25, 1984, memorandum. Both Blickhan and Peters testified that plaintiff had made little progress on the remediation plan. The final reports were not submitted by plaintiff during the months of June, July, and August 1984, although plaintiff had indicated at the June 1 meeting that she planned to complete them during the summer.
On July 12, 1984, the DCSEA executive committee, on behalf of the governing board of DCSEA, considered plaintiff's performance as a teacher and adopted a resolution directing the issuance of a letter of remediation to plaintiff. The letter of remediation, or formal notice to remedy, was approved by defendant, the board of education, as the administrative district for DCSEA and issued to plaintiff. In that letter, plaintiff's performance and conduct as a teacher for DCSEA were found to be "incompetent, deficient, insubordinate and unsatisfactory" in the following respects:
"(a) You have failed to meet with all Early Childhood teachers with each week of time spent in each class, as requested.
(b) You have failed to develop written plans regarding the provision of services.
(c) You have failed to complete Speech/Language Final Reports prior to the end of the school year and submit the reports and speech files to the Program Coordinator two weeks before the last day of school as requested.
(d) You have failed to develop short term objectives for every child and share the same with teachers. You have further failed to re-evaluate and update these short term objectives when appropriate.
(e) You have failed to observe the integrated model of speech services offered at School District 428 and 430 Early Childhood sites, as requested.
(f) You have failed to conduct yourself in a professional manner at a multi-disciplinary staff conference."
Based on these deficiencies, the board issued the following remedial actions:
"(a) You shall develop and implement a schedule reflecting meeting times with Early Childhood teachers per week of time spent in each class and provide the same to your Program Coordinator. Copies of your weekly schedule reflecting the meeting times with teachers shall be provided to your Program Coordinator ...