Petition for Review of an Order of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board No. 97-CA-0059-C
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McNULTY
Petitioner Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees (School Board) appeals an order of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) affirming the holding of an administrative law Judge (ALJ) that the School Board had violated section 14(a) of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (Labor Relations Act) (115 ILCS 5/14(a)(1), (a)(8) (West 1996)) by failing to comply with an arbitration award. On appeal, the School Board argues that the IELRB erred in finding that the arbitration award ordering reinstatement of a full-time basis (FTB) substitute teacher was binding on the School Board. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse.
James Brown was a special education FTB substitute teacher at Oglesby Elementary School (Oglesby) from November 1994 to September 6, 1995, when the School Board dismissed him. As a FTB substitute teacher, Brown was a full-time temporary employee who was not eligible for tenure.
On June 16, 1995, Mr. Creg Williams, the principal of Oglesby, gave Brown a teacher evaluation review on a form for a regularly appointed teacher. Although the evaluation cataloged many weaknesses in Brown's teaching performance, such as excessive tardiness, lack of classroom management, lack of variation in methodology, inadequate use of instructional time, failure to maintain accurate/appropriate records, and failure to provide a classroom environment conducive to teaching and learning, Williams gave Brown a satisfactory rating. After Williams consulted the personnel department, however, he completed another review of Brown on a FTB substitute temporary teacher efficiency report form and, unlike the first review, gave Brown an overall rating of unsatisfactory. Brown received this second review on June 22, 1995.
On August 4, 1995, Jacqueline A. Baker, director of labor relations for the Chicago public schools, held a conference for Brown, pursuant to article 39-4.2, section C, of the agreement between the School Board and the Chicago Teachers Union Local 1, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO (Union), which required the director of personnel of the Chicago public schools to schedule a conference with any FTB substitute teacher who had been given an unsatisfactory rating in an evaluation. The School Board discharged Brown a month after the conference.
The Union filed a grievance on Brown's behalf on September 21, 1995. In the grievance, the Union maintained that article 39-4.2 of the collective bargaining agreement required Williams to (1) issue Brown a notice of unsatisfactory service, (2) observe Brown's classroom, (3) confer with Brown to offer assistance in improving Brown's service, and (4) give Brown a written memorandum to sign in order to verify that Williams had visited Brown's classroom and had held a conference with him. The Union requested that the School Board rescind the unsatisfactory rating it issued to Brown and remove all references thereto from Brown's file. The Union also requested that the School Board reinstate Brown to his special education position at Oglesby and compensate him for any salary or benefits he lost due to the discharge. Lastly, the Union asked that the School Board hold a conference and render a written decision within three school days as required by the collective bargaining agreement. On October 23, 1995, Williams denied the Union's request that he remove the unsatisfactory rating from Brown's files and reinstate Brown to his position at Oglesby. On December 22, 1995, another conference was held with Brown, Union representatives, and school representatives to review the decision to terminate Brown's employment. On January 12, 1996, Paul Vallas, chief executive officer of the Chicago public schools, denied the grievance.
The Union filed a demand for arbitration alleging the School Board had failed to comply with articles 3 and 39-4.2 of the collective bargaining agreement in terminating Brown's services. Following a hearing, the arbitrator found that the School Board had failed to comply with article 39-4.2 of the agreement, including the mandate that the department of personnel schedule a conference with the FTB substitute teacher after an unsatisfactory review. The arbitrator determined that the conference held on August 4, 1995, did not satisfy the requirements because it was conducted by the bureau of labor and employee Relations. Accordingly, the arbitrator directed the School Board to place Brown in the FTB substitute teacher pool and to consider him for transfer to another teaching position. The arbitrator also ordered the School Board to give Brown the back pay and benefits that he would have received had the School Board not dismissed him. The School Board refused to comply with the arbitrator's decision.
On April 16, 1997, the Union filed an unfair-labor-practice charge with the IELRB, alleging that the School Board violated section 14(a) of the Labor Relations Act by failing to comply with the arbitration award. Pursuant to section 15 of the Labor Relations Act (115 ILCS 5/15 (West 1996)), the IELRB issued a complaint against the School Board and assigned the case for hearing before an administrative law Judge (ALJ). On February 23, 1998, the ALJ found that the arbitration award was binding and that the School Board had violated section 14(a) of the Labor Relations Act. The School Board filed exceptions to the ALJ's order before the IELRB. On August 25, 1998, the IELRB affirmed the ALJ's decision and ordered the School Board to comply with the arbitrator's award. The School Board then filed this petition for judicial review of the IELRB's order.
Judicial review of an administrative agency's actions extends to all questions of law and fact presented by the record. SEDOL Teachers Union, Lake County Federation of Teachers, Local 504 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 282 Ill. App. 3d 804, 809, 668 N.E.2d 1117 (1996). The agency's findings and Conclusions on questions of fact are considered prima facie true and correct. 735 ILCS 5/3-110 (West 1994). Accordingly, these findings and Conclusions will not be disturbed unless they are contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence or an opposite Conclusion is clearly evident. Midwest Central Education Ass'n v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 277 Ill. App. 3d 440, 444, 660 N.E.2d 151 (1995). Where the question involved is one of law, such as the construction of a statute, the agency's finding is not binding on the courts. City of Freeport v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board, 135 Ill. 2d 499, 507, 554 N.E.2d 155 (1990). However, the courts will give substantial weight and deference to an interpretation of an ambiguous statute by the agency charged with the administration and enforcement of the statute. Central City Education Ass'n v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 149 Ill. 2d 496, 510, 599 N.E.2d 892 (1992).
In the case at bar, the School Board does not dispute the IELRB's findings and Conclusions on questions of fact. The School Board also does not deny that the dismissal of a FTB substitute teacher is an arbitrable subject. Rather, the School Board maintains that it is not bound by an arbitration award ordering reinstatement of a FTB substitute teacher and that therefore the IELRB incorrectly found that the School Board violated section 14(a)(8) and, derivatively, section 14(a)(1) of the Labor Relations Act.
The inquiry into whether the School Board violated section 14(a)(8) has three components: " whether the award was binding;  the content of the award; and  whether the party has complied with the award." Board of Education of Community High School District No. 155 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 247 Ill. App. 3d 337, 344- 45, 617 N.E.2d 269 (1993). Here, the sole issue is whether the arbitration award binds the School Board.
The School Board argues that the arbitration award of reinstatement was not binding because it violated section 10(b) of the Labor Relations Act, which provides in part:
"(b) The parties to the collective bargaining process shall not effect or implement a provision in a collective bargaining agreement if the implementation of that provision would be in violation of, or inconsistent with, or in conflict with any statute or statutes enacted by the General Assembly of Illinois." 115 ILCS 5/10(b)(West 1996).
Under section 10(b), it is a defense to an unfair-labor-practice charge that implementation of the provision in the collective bargaining agreement would be inconsistent with or in conflict with provisions of the School Code. Granite City Community Unit School District No. 9 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 279 Ill. App. 3d 439, 442, 664 N.E.2d 1060 (1996). As we stated in Midwest Central Education, 277 Ill. App. 3d at 445, 660 N.E.2d 151, "[i]f compliance with an award would require a violation of statute, the award is non-binding and subject to ...