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Eddings v. Board of Education

June 03, 1999

GEORGE H. EDDINGS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION AND HENRY X. DIETCH, HEARING OFFICER, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY No. 93 CH 8873 HONORABLE AARON JAFFE, JUDGE PRESIDING.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hall

The case underlying this appeal is an administrative review action brought by plaintiff George H. Eddings in the circuit court against defendants Board of Education of the City of Chicago (School District No. 299)(Board), Illinois State Board of Education (State Board) and Henry X. Dietch, hearing officer. Eddings sought judicial review of his dismissal for cause from his employment by the Board's School District 299 as the principal of Julian High School in Chicago, Illinois, pursuant to the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 1992)). The State Board and its chief executive officer, the State Superintendent of Education, are named as defendants because of their role in administering the dismissal system under section 34-85 of the Illinois School Code (Code) (105 ILCS 5/34-85 (West 1992)). The Honorable Henry X. Dietch was the person selected to preside as the state hearing officer, pursuant to the striking process contained in section 34-85 of the Code. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 122, par. 34-85.

On August 16, 1994, the circuit court denied Eddings' first amended complaint in administrative review. Eddings subsequently brought a pro se appeal, seeking to be restored to his principalship with the Board, with payment by the Board of all costs, back pay and benefits lost as a result of his discharge. On May 24, 1996, this court reversed the judgment of the circuit court and remanded the case, finding that the circuit court had erred when it denied Eddings' first amended complaint in administrative review. Eddings v. Board of Education, No. 1--94--2948 (1996)(unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

On remand, in an order entered September 10, 1996, the circuit court granted Eddings' first amended complaint in administrative review and ordered the Board to reinstate Eddings within 21 days "to a position of similar rank and equal salary for the position [he] held immediately prior to becoming principal." The circuit court further held that Eddings' request for damages would be determined at a later date.

On March 19, 1997, the circuit court awarded damages to Eddings in the amount of $263,228.05 for back pay, pension, and vacation as a principal from July 16, 1992, the date of his discharge, to June 30, 1995, the date his principal contract expired, as well as costs and fees in the amount of $2,904.09. (We note that the date of July 30, 1995, instead of June 30, 1995, mistakenly appears in the actual order.) The circuit court further awarded him back pay of $27,480.73 and pension pick-up of $1,923.65 as a teacher for the period October 1, 1996, to March 19, 1997. It also ordered the Board to provide the court with Eddings' salary and pension as a teacher for the period June 30, 1995 to October 1, 1996, and ordered Eddings to apply for teaching certification. (Again, we note that the date of July 30, 1995, instead of June 30, 1995, mistakenly appears in the actual order.) The damage hearing was continued to May 20, 1997.On May 20, 1997, the circuit court ordered, among other things, that the Board had until June 3, 1997, to file a supplemental salary brief as to what Eddings would have earned as a teacher from the expiration of his principal contract until May 20, 1997, that its order reinstating Eddings as a teacher was a continuing order, and that damages to Eddings for back pay as a principal amounted to $263,228.05 for back pay, pension and vacation, while fees amounted to $2,904.09. Although the Board determined that his salary and pension as a teacher from July 1, 1995, to May 20, 1997, would have been $100,055.55, the Board continued to object to Eddings' reinstatement as a teacher and his award of back pay and benefits as a teacher.

On August 13, 1997, in a final order, the circuit court awarded Eddings' former counsel an attorney's lien in the amount of $12,600 against the damages to be paid Eddings. It further ordered that Eddings was to be reinstated as a teacher and, as a continuing order, was to receive a salary and benefits. The court also awarded damages to Eddings for the period July 1, 1995, to May 20, 1997, based on a teacher's salary, in the amount of $93,509.86 for back salary and $6,545.69 for pension contribution, for a total of $100,055.55. The court reiterated its May 20, 1997 order, wherein it awarded "[d]amages to [Eddings] for back pay as a principal in the amount of $263,228.05 for back salary, pension and vacation pay; costs and fees to [Eddings] in the amount of $2,904.09."

On November 6, 1997, the circuit court denied the Board's motion for reconsideration. On November 26, 1997, the circuit court entered an order denying the Board's motion to stay enforcement of judgment, pending appeal and without bond. In said order, the court did not specifically refer to or incorporate the court's prior orders. Eddings and the Board appeal. In an order entered March 11, 1998, this court consolidated these appeals. No questions are raised on the pleadings.

On appeal, Eddings contends that the circuit court erred as a matter of law when it failed to reinstate him to his position as principal; that the circuit court erred as a matter of law when it failed to award him back salary and benefits as a principal from July 1, 1995, until the date of his reinstatement; that the circuit court erred as a matter of law when it failed to award him post judgment interest on back salary, pension, and interest amounts on damages; and that the circuit court erred when it failed to enforce this court's May 24, 1996 order, reversing the circuit court order to make him whole.

On appeal, the Board contends that the circuit court erred as a matter of law when it reinstated Eddings as a teacher and awarded him back pay and benefits as a teacher.

For the reasons that follow, we affirm the circuit court's award of back pay, pension and vacation as a principal to Eddings from the date of his discharge to the end of his principal contract. We further affirm the circuit court's award of assessed costs to Eddings, as well as its award of an attorney's lien to Eddings' former counsel. We also hold that Eddings is entitled to post judgment interest on the damages due him. However, we reverse the court's decision to reinstate Eddings to a position of teacher, and its decision to award him back pay and pension as a teacher.

The facts of this case have been set forth in detail in our Rule 23 order (Eddings v. Board of Education, No. 1--94--2948 (1996)(unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). A brief summary of those facts pertinent to this appeal follows.

On April 15, 1991, Eddings signed a four-year performance contract with Julian Local School Council (JLSC) to become the principal of Julian High School for the period July 1, 1991, through June 30, 1995, pursuant to section 34-2.2 of the Code. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 122, par. 34-2.2. The JLSC had selected Eddings for the position. Eddings had been employed by the Board for more than 28 years, having worked as a teacher, assistant principal, elementary school principal and high school principal. It is undisputed that prior to this matter, Eddings' work record is unblemished.

On October 9, 1991, the local school council elections were held for the 1991-93 term. On October 31, 1991, a newly elected JLSC was installed. The relationship between Eddings and the newly elected JLSC, which included seven new members, soon deteriorated. The JLSC subsequently voted to discharge Eddings for cause. Initially, the general superintendent and the Board declined the JLSC's request. Rather, the Board issued a warning resolution to Eddings on February 26, 1992. On July 10, 1992, a hearing officer conducted a dismissal hearing and recommended to the Board that Eddings be discharged. On July 15, 1992, the Board approved the request for dismissal of Eddings as principal of Julian High School, finding that Eddings' performance constituted cause pursuant to section 34-85 of the Code. On July 16, 1992, the general superintendent issued to Eddings a notice of suspension and request for dismissal, with charges and specifications proffered against him for violation of the provisions of his uniform principal performance contract and unsatisfactory performance and conduct.

On November 12, 1992, a discharge hearing was commenced before the Illinois State Board of Education, pursuant to section 34-85. On August 27, 1993, Hearing Officer Dietch affirmed the Board's dismissal of Eddings. On September 30, 1993, Eddings filed a Complaint In Administrative Review in the circuit court. He subsequently filed a First Amended Complaint In Administrative Review, which, as previously stated, the circuit court denied.

As we stated in our Rule 23 order, this case, involving the discharge of a principal, is one of first impression in Illinois, as it is the first to be decided since the 1988 enactment of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 122, par. 34-1.01 et seq.), which ...


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