School boards have a legal duty to fill certain vacant positions in a timely manner. A recent, somewhat unusual case from the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas illustrates the consequences of not fulfilling that responsibility.
The Superintendent of the North Schuylkill School District resigned in June 2007, and the Board initially employed a Substitute Superintendent while advertising the vacancy. At the same time, the Board submitted a mandate waiver application to PDE seeking approval to name its Solicitor as Interim Superintendent despite the Solicitor having neither a teaching degree nor Superintendent’s letter of eligibility. PDE denied the mandate waiver on those grounds in September 2007, but the Board appointed the Solicitor to the role two weeks later for the remainder of the school year. The Solicitor assumed the Superintendent’s duties and the District submitted a revised mandate waiver application seeking relief from the School Code’s requirements concerning Superintendent qualifications. PDE again refused in April 2008, but one month later, the Board hired the Solicitor to act as Interim Superintendent for the 2008-2009 school year. A third mandate waiver application was submitted to PDE.
A group of citizens filed a Petition to remove the Board Members under Section 318 of the School Code for failing to fulfill their mandated duties. The Judge granted the Petition and removed the Board Members after finding that the Board never intended to appoint a qualified Superintendent. The Judge also enjoined the outgoing Board from serving on the School Board for a period of five years.
The circumstances in this case, while odd, demonstrate the importance for Board Members to appoint a qualified Superintendent within mandated timelines.