APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIRST DIVISION
513 N.E.2d 996, 160 Ill. App. 3d 1020, 112 Ill. Dec. 387 1987.IL.1309
Date Filed: September 8, 1987; As Amended January 17, 1988.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Willard J. Lassers, Judge, presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE QUINLAN delivered the opinion of the court. O'CONNOR and MANNING, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE QUINLAN
The plaintiffs, Proviso Council of West Suburban Teachers Union, Local 571 (union) and union member John Spaulding (Spaulding) appeal the decision of the circuit court of Cook County granting summary judgment to the defendant board of education, Proviso Township High Schools, District 209 (board). The plaintiffs' complaint had alleged that the board breached a collective bargaining agreement with the union by its decision to "honorably" dismiss Spaulding and retain another teacher with equal seniority, following the board's administrative decision that declining enrollment necessitated a reduction in staff. The complainants contended that the procedure employed by the board in choosing between the two teachers was improper.
Both Spaulding and the retained teacher, Robert Kruse (Kruse), were tenured at the time of the discharge determination. The board had first hired Spaulding for a social studies teaching position in the academic year 1972-73. Kruse also began his employment with the district in 1972-73. However, Kruse was originally assigned to the physical education department and did not transfer to the social studies department until the 1976-77 school year. Kruse had a good attendance record and taught a full load of courses each year. Spaulding, on the other hand, was granted a disability leave for the 1979-80 academic year and, when he returned, requested and was granted five study halls and only one teaching assignment in the department. The superintendent recommended that the board effect a reduction in teaching staff for the 1981-82 school year through the retention of Kruse as a social studies teacher with "crossover" capability to the physical education department and the honorable discharge of Spaulding.
he board voted to follow the superintendent's recommendation to dismiss Spaulding and another teacher on March 16, 1981. On March 17, 1981, the board sent a letter to Spaulding advising him of their decision not to offer him a position for the 1981-82 school year. In accordance with the CBA, Spaulding filed a grievance with the superintendent through his union representative concerning his dismissal. The superintendent denied the grievance filed by Spaulding and, in accordance with the grievance procedures set out in the CBA, communicated his decision to Spaulding together with supporting reasons in a letter dated March 31, 1981. Although acknowledging that Spaulding had superior academic preparation, in his decision letter of March 31, 1981, the superintendent focussed on the greater versatility of Kruse's "crossover" capability, noting Kruse was qualified to teach either physical education or social studies while Spaulding was only qualified to teach social studies.
Where a board must choose between two tenured teachers for a single position, the Illinois School Code specifically provides for the situation as follows:
"As between teachers who have entered upon contractual continued service, the teacher or teachers with the shorter length of continuing service with the district shall be dismissed first unless an alternative method of determining the sequence of dismissal is established in a collective bargaining agreement or contract between the board and a professional faculty members' organization . . .." (Emphasis added.) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 24-12.)
The CBA in effect at the time of Spaulding's discharge did include a bargained-for alternative procedure for the board to follow in the event of an administrative decision to reduce teaching staff. It provided:
"In the event of a reduction in teachers, for any reason, the rule of district seniority within the subject area being reduced shall be the sole determining factor. [Collective Bargaining Agreement , art. VIII (4).]
Should a conflict arise concerning two teachers with identical seniority, the superintendent shall pick the teacher with the best qualifications for the ...