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Land v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago

August 27, 2001

MAURICE LAND, PAUL GAUBIS, VARKEY ACHETTU, MONROE MORGAN AND CHARLENE JACKSON, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, A BODY POLITIC AND CORPORATE; GERY J. CHICO, INDIV. AND AS PRESIDENT OF THE CHICAGO SCHOOL REFORM BOARD OF TRUSTEES; NORMAN BOBINS, INDIV. AND AS A TRUSTEE OF THE CHICAGO SCHOOL REFORM BOARD OF TRUSTEES; TARIQ BUTT, INDIV. AND AS A TRUSTEE OF THE CHICAGO SCHOOL REFORM BOARD OF TRUSTEES; AVIS LAVELLE, INDIV. AND AS A TRUSTEE OF THE CHICAGO SCHOOL REFORM BOARD OF TRUSTEES; GENE SAFFOLD, INDIV. AND AS A TRUSTEE OF THE CHICAGO SCHOOL REFORM BOARD OF TRUSTEES; PAUL G. VALLAS, INDIV. AND AS THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THE CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS; COZETTE M. BUCKNEY, INDIV. AND AS CHIEF EDUCATION OFFICER OF THE CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS; CARLOS PONCE, INDIV. AND AS DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES FOR THE CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. 99 CH 3251 The Honorable John K. Madden, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cohen

UNPUBLISHED

On January 22, 1999, the Board of Education of the City of Chicago (the Board) "honorably terminated" 138 tenured Chicago public school teachers. The plaintiffs are five of the 138 tenured teachers who were honorably terminated. *fn1 The terminations were allegedly conducted in accordance with 1995 amendments to the Illinois School Code (the Code) (105 ILCS 5/18-1 et seq. (West 2000)). The plaintiffs sought a writ of mandamus ordering the Board to reinstate them as Chicago Public School teachers, a permanent injunction restraining the Board from terminating their employment and a declaratory judgment invalidating the Board's layoff policy as violative of their tenure rights under sections 34-84 and 34-85 of the Code (105 ILCS 5/34-84, 34-85 (West 2000)). Both the defendants and plaintiffs filed cross-motions for summary judgment. After pleading concluded, the trial court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

In 1995, the Illinois General Assembly adopted a package of school reform laws, part of which authorized the Board to "promulgate rules establishing procedures governing the layoff or reduction in force of employees and the recall of such employees." 105 ILCS 5/34-18 (31) (West 2000). In exercising this authority, the Board adopted a policy titled "Amend Board Report 95-0814-PO2 Policy Regarding Reassignment and Layoff of Regularly Certified and Appointed Teachers." According to this policy:

"Whenever an attendance center or a program is closed, there is a drop in enrollment, the educational focus of the attendance center is changed such that available teaching positions cannot accommodate some or all current regularly certified and appointed teaching staff, or when an attendance center is subject to actions taken as a result of remediation, probation, reconstitution or educational crisis, such staff will be reassigned or laid off." Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Amend Board Report 95-0814-PO2 Policy Regarding Reassignment and Layoff of Regularly Certified and Appointed Teachers §1 (hereinafter cited as Board Report).

The policy requires that a teacher be notified prior to removal *fn2 predicated on one of the reasons specified in section 1. Board Report §3. Once removed, the teacher is designated "reassigned." A reassigned teacher continues to receive full pay and benefits for a 10-month period. Board Report § 10. During this 10-month period, reassigned teachers are provided with the opportunity to seek permanent employment at another school. Board Report §5. If a reassigned teacher is unable to secure permanent employment within the prescribed period, the teacher is then laid off and "given honorable termination from service." Board Report §10. Fourteen days' advanced notice of a layoff is required. Board Report §10.

The plaintiffs received notification that their teaching positions were being closed. As a result, they were allowed 10 months to find alternate permanent employment. The plaintiffs were unable to obtain new permanent positions within the designated 10-month period. As they were unable to find new positions, plaintiffs were sent timely written notice of their "honorable termination." Based on their termination, the plaintiffs filed a complaint against the Board, individual members of the Board and individual officers of Chicago Public Schools (defendants), alleging that they had been removed from their teaching positions in violation of their tenure rights under sections 34-84 and 34-85 of the Code (105 ILCS 5/34-84, 34-85 (West 2000)).

On appeal, the plaintiffs contend: (1) they were removed from their employment contrary to sections 34-84, 34-85 and 34-18 of the Code (105 ILCS 5/34-84, 34-85, 34-18 (West 2000)); (2) they were wrongfully removed from their employment in favor of temporary teachers, probationary teachers and newly hired teachers; (3) the Board improperly delegated to individual school principals its authority to terminate teachers contrary to section 34-8.1 of the Code (105 ILCS 5/34-8.1 (West 2000)); (4) the Board's layoff policy investing principals with discretion in choosing to hire a reassigned teacher is contrary to section 34-8.1 of the Code (105 ILCS 5/34-8.1 (West 2000)); and (5) the termination denied them property rights without due process of law in violation of the United States and Illinois Constitutions (U.S. Const., amend. XIV; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 2). For the reasons set forth below, we reverse the order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants and remand this cause for further proceedings.

1. Summary Judgment

Our review of the circuit court's grant of summary judgment is de novo. Natale v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, 314 Ill. App. 3d 885, 888 (2000). Summary judgment is properly granted where "the pleadings, depositions, admissions, and affidavits on file, when taken together in the light most favorable to the non-movant, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Freemont Casualty Insurance Co. v. Ace-Chicago Great Dane Corp., 317 Ill. App. 3d 67, 73 (2000). In situations where both parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, "they agree that no material issue of fact exists and that only a question of law is involved." Robson v. Electrical Contractors Ass'n Local 134 IBEW Joint Pension Trust, 312 Ill. App. 3d 374, 380 (2000). While it is well established that constitutional issues and issues regarding statutory construction are both questions of law (E&E Hauling, Inc. v. Ryan, 306 Ill. App. 3d 131, 136 (1999)), "the mere filing of cross-motions for summary judgment does not require that the court grant the requested relief to one of the parties where genuine issues of fact exist precluding summary judgment in favor of either party" (Travelers Insurance Co. of Illinois v. Eljer Manufacturing, Inc., 307 Ill. App. 3d 872, 878 (1999)).

In support of their cross-motion for summary judgment, the defendants submitted the affidavit of Xiomara Metcalfe, director, Chicago Public Schools, bureau of recruitment and substitute services, department of human resources. In her affidavit, Metcalfe alleges that "[alt]hough [Monroe] Morgan was slated for honorable termination on January 22, 1999, he was able to secure appointment to a permanent position at Spaulding High School effective January 22, 1999. Accordingly, he was never terminated from service and never lost any salary, benefits or seniority as a result of having been a reassigned teacher." *fn3

The record reflects that Monroe Morgan filed an affidavit to rebut the defendants' assertion that he was never laid off. In his affidavit, Morgan alleges that "although it is true that I was able to secure a position at Spalding High School effective January 22, 1999, the position that I obtained was not a teaching position."

The defendants argue that because Morgan obtained a "teaching position" at Spalding High School on the day he was scheduled to be laid off, they are entitled to summary judgment on Morgan's claims. The record is devoid, however, of any evidence demonstrating that the position Morgan obtained at Spalding High School on January 22, 1999, was a "teaching" position. In fact, Morgan's own affidavit refutes this assertion, stating that the position he obtained at Spalding High School was "not a teaching position." Furthermore, Metcalfe's affidavit only states that Morgan secured a "permanent" position at Spalding High School, not a teaching position.

A careful review of the Board's policy in its entirety demonstrates that a reassigned tenured teacher must obtain an alternate teaching position in order to avoid layoff. Here it is unclear exactly what type of position Morgan obtained at Spalding High School and whether this was a teaching or a non teaching position. Metcalfe's assertion in her affidavit that Morgan "never lost any salary, benefits or seniority" as the result of his reassignment makes the determination even more puzzling. Although the Board's policy provides a reassigned teacher with full pay and benefits for the 10-month interim period, it is unclear whether Morgan received full pay and benefits during this period or after securing the position at Spalding High School. On these facts, this court cannot ascertain whether Morgan was laid off under the Board's policy. Accordingly, as genuine issues of material fact remain, the trial court's grant of summary judgment with respect to plaintiff Monroe Morgan is reversed.

A. Statutory Interpretation

The plaintiffs first argue that summary judgment should be granted in their favor based upon the plain meaning of sections 34-84, 34-85 and 34-18 of the Code (105 ILCS 5/34-84, 34-85, 34-18 (West 2000)). Both sections 34-84 and 34-85 state that tenured teachers can only be "removed" based upon "cause," and then only after receiving notice and a hearing. 105 ILCS 5/34-84, 34-85 (West 2000). Section 34-18 (31), on the other hand, grants the Board the authority to "promulgate rules establishing procedures governing the layoff or reduction in force of employees." 105 ILCS 5/34-18 (31) (West 1998). The plaintiffs argue that sections 34-84 and 34-85 of the Code are exceptions to the Board's general power to lay off employees in section 34-18. To support this argument, the plaintiffs quote the introductory language of section 34-18, which states: "The Board shall exercise general supervision and jurisdiction over the public education and public school system of the city, and, except as otherwise provided by this Article, shall have power * * * ." (Emphasis added.) 105 ILCS 5/34-18 (West 2000). Based upon this introductory language, the plaintiffs assert that the provisions of sections 34-84 and 34-85 are "expressly excepted from the general application of the enumerated provisions of Section 34-18."

The defendants respond that the 1995 amendment to section 34-18, authorizing the Board to adopt its own layoff procedure, reflects a clear intent by the legislature to provide "the Board [with] greater flexibility when laying off tenured teachers." According to the defendants, the amendment to section 34-18 is a "distinct statutory provision" governing layoffs of employees as opposed to sections 34-84 and 34-85, which solely govern the removal of tenured teachers for cause.

When a court is called upon to interpret a statute, primary importance is placed on ascertaining and giving "effect to the true intent and meaning of the legislature." Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 309 Ill. App. 3d 88, 93 (1999). "Where the language of a statutory provision is clear and unambiguous, the plain and ordinary meaning of the words will be given effect without resorting to extrinsic aids for construction." Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, 309 Ill. App. 3d at 93-94. Therefore, courts should first "look to the language of the statute as the best indication of legislative intent." In re Application for Judgment & Sale of Delinquent Properties for the Tax Year 1989, 167 Ill. 2d 161, 168 (1995). In addition to the plain language of a statute, an "amendment [to that statute] is also an appropriate source for determining legislative intent." Chicago School Reform Board ...


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