Direct Administrative Review of Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board No. 09CA0027S
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cook
JUSTICE COOK delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice McCullough dissented, with opinion.
¶ 1 On March 7, 2008, Griggsville-Perry Federation of Support Personnel IFT-AFT, Local No. 4141 (the Union), filed a grievance on behalf of its member, Angie Hires, requesting that Griggsville-Perry Community Unit School District No. 4 (the District) allow Hires to continue in her current position with the District. Following a hearing, the arbitrator, Matthew
W. Finkin, sustained the grievance and directed that Hires be reinstated with back pay and any benefits that would have accumulated. The District refused to comply with the award, which is the recognized manner in which an employer may challenge the validity of an award. Central Community Unit School District No. 4 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 388 Ill. App. 3d 1060, 1066, 904 N.E.2d 640, 645 (2009). The Union filed an unfair labor practice charge, but the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) remanded the matter to the arbitrator to address this court's decision in Board of Education of Harrisburg Community Unit School District No. 3 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 227 Ill. App. 3d 208, 591 N.E.2d 85 (1992). Griggsville-Perry Federation of Support Personnel, IFT-AFT, Local No. 4141, No. 2009-CA-0027-S (IELRB Feb. 22, 2010).
¶ 2 On June 30, 2010, the arbitrator issued an amended arbitration award on remand, again directing that Hires be reinstated with back pay and any benefits that would have accrued. The District again refused to comply with the award. On February 16, 2011, the IELRB issued its opinion and order which is the subject of this appeal, ordering that the District cease and desist from refusing to comply with the arbitration award. Griggsville-Perry Federation of Support Personnel, IFT-AFT, Local No. 4141, 27 PERI ¶ 16 (IELRB 2011). On March 10, 2011, the District filed its petition for review in this court, pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 335 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994), and section 16(a) of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (115 ILCS 5/16(a) (West 2008)), arguing that Hires was an employee at will and the arbitrator exceeded his authority by implying a dismissal standard in the parties' collective-bargaining agreement. We agree and reverse.
¶ 3 Angie Hires was employed by the District as a non-certified paraprofessional in 1997. In 2003 or 2004, she began working in the media center (library) that served elementary school students. She also assisted at recess and taught keyboarding classes for third and fourth graders. In late January 2007, Hires approached Andrea Allen, the school's principal, about problems Hires was experiencing in her personal life. Hires found Allen to be sympathetic and Allen advised her to seek help. Hires sought marital counseling, which lasted about four months until it was determined that no further counseling was necessary.
¶ 4 In March 2007, Allen asked to speak to Hires. Allen told Hires that some school board members had some concerns and that Hires needed "to smile more." Allen kept a spiral-bound notebook in which she made a number of entries regarding Hires. Those entries are summarized as follows: March 9, 2007, spoke with Hires regarding her attitude; March 22, 2007, spoke with Hires regarding her attitude, she said she would strive to do better; April 30, 2007, talked to Hires again, she said she would try; October 2, 2007, Hires having trouble at home, not sleeping, cannot eat, feels terrible, Allen suggested lights off in media center; October 8, 2007, Hires no better; October 22, 2007, appointment with therapist; November 6, 2007, another teacher requested her students not be forced to have keyboarding, negativity all the time from Hires; November 13, 2007, parent's complaint that Hires did not treat kids equally and fairly.
¶ 5 Hires' official personnel file contained the following three notes written by Allen: March 9, 2007, "Spoke w/ Angie re: --smiling, treating kids nicer, etc. --let her know that bd. mbrs. had concerns." April 28, 2007, "Reminded Angie, treatment of students still needs work." October 18, 2007, "Spoke w/ Angie attitude."
¶ 6 In February 2008, the District's school board held a closed executive session. During that meeting, school board members asked Allen whether she had a strong concern about anyone. Allen responded she was concerned about Hires and recommended Hires be terminated. Allen discussed the notes in her notebook with the school board. The school board also informed Allen that it had directly received complaints about Hires.
¶ 7 On February 2, 2008, Superintendent of Schools Mike Davies informed Hires that her employment would be terminated by the school board at its meeting on March 19. The superintendent wrote:
"While reasons for non-renewal of employment are not legally required, we nevertheless want to advise you as to the deficiencies in your job performance that has led to this decision. It had been brought to your attention on various occasions over this school year and in previous school years that you do not relate well with elementary students you serve as a library assistant in the Media ...