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01/25/96 VALERIE LEWIS-CONNELLY v. BOARD EDUCATION

January 25, 1996

VALERIE LEWIS-CONNELLY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF DEERFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS, DISTRICT 109, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 94-LM-2688. Honorable Harry D. Hartel, Jr., Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication January 25, 1996.

The Honorable Justice Inglis delivered the opinion of the court: Bowman and Thomas, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Inglis

The Honorable Justice INGLIS delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, the Board of Education of the Deerfield Public Schools, District 109 (Board), appeals from an order denying its motion for summary judgment, granting summary judgment for plaintiff, Valerie Lewis-Connelly, and awarding plaintiff $13,920. The issues on appeal are whether the Board breached its employment contract with plaintiff by dismissing her because she was not certified to teach elementary school music and whether plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages. We reverse.

The following facts are from the affidavits and depositions submitted in connection with the parties' summary judgment motions. On October 29, 1974, the Illinois State Teacher Certification Board issued plaintiff a type 09 certificate. The certificate has remained current at all times since then.

Early in May 1993, Judi Lindgren, the principal of Kipling School, one of the District 109 schools, informed plaintiff that there might be an opening for an elementary school music teacher for the 1993-94 school year. Plaintiff contacted Judy Stanley of the Lake County regional superintendent's office and inquired about obtaining an endorsement to teach elementary school music. Stanley informed plaintiff that the application for such an endorsement was a matter of paperwork and that plaintiff should have no problem obtaining it.

On May 5, 1993, plaintiff submitted to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) her application for an endorsement to teach elementary school music. On May 11, plaintiff applied for the music teacher position at Kipling School. In the application, she stated that she held a type 09 certificate and that her application for a K-12 music certificate was pending.

Early in August, plaintiff interviewed for the music teacher position. During her interviews with Lindgren, Alan Levin, the director of personnel for District 109, and Glen W. McGee, the district superintendent, plaintiff stated that her application for an endorsement to teach elementary school music was still pending. Plaintiff was offered the position, and she began working at the beginning of the school year.

On October 28, 1993, the ISBE informed plaintiff that she needed to complete certain courses and tests before she could receive her elementary school music endorsement. On November 23, 1993, plaintiff traveled to Springfield to contest these findings. The ISBE amended its findings but continued to assert that plaintiff needed to remedy certain course work and test deficiencies.

On November 29, 1993, plaintiff applied for a substitute teaching certificate. The next day, plaintiff met with McGee, Levin, and Lindgren and discussed the steps that plaintiff would take to cure the deficiencies that the ISBE identified. McGee, Levin, and Lindgren reassured plaintiff and told her to cure the deficiencies.

On December 16, 1993, plaintiff received a substitute teacher's certificate and an endorsement to teach music for grades 6 through 12. During the winter break, plaintiff made arrangements to cure all of the identified deficiencies. She registered for and began taking the required courses and tests. In her affidavit, plaintiff claimed that she would have cured all of the deficiencies before the end of the 1993-94 school year.

On January 21, 1994, plaintiff received a copy of her employment contract for the 1993-94 school year. In his deposition, McGee testified that the Board tendered a written contract to plaintiff at this time because the Board felt it was necessary to formalize some of their procedures. The contract states:

"It is Hereby Agreed by and between [the Board] and [plaintiff], a legally qualified teacher, that the said [plaintiff] shall provide services beginning August 26, 1993 and ending June 16[,] 1994 in said School District for ...


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