Frye v. School Committee of Leicester

Decision Date28 June 1938
Citation16 N.E.2d 41,300 Mass. 537
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

December 9, 1937.


School and School Committee.

A teacher who actually served in a public school for three consecutive school years and was elected for further service shortly before the end of the third year acquired the status of employment "at . . . discretion" under G.L. (Ter Ed.) c. 71, Section 41.

The facts, that for a few months during continuous and substantial employment as a teacher in a public school for three consecutive school years, the employment was "as part time teacher" and "on a pro rata salary of $750 to a full time teacher," did not prevent his further service after the three years being "at . . . discretion" under G.L.

(Ter. Ed.) c. 71 Section 41.

PETITION for a writ of mandamus, filed in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Worcester on August 25, 1937.

The case was reported, without decision, by Donahue, J. F. P. McKeon, for the petitioner.

T. F. Larkin, for the respondent.

QUA, J. The petitioner seeks reinstatement to her position as a teacher in the public high school in Leicester. If she had acquired the status of a teacher employed "at discretion" she could be dismissed only in accordance with G.L. (Ter Ed.) c. 71, Section 42, as amended by St. 1934, c. 123, the provisions of which were not observed. The issue depends upon whether or not she had acquired that status.

Section 41 provides, in so far as here material, that the school committee "in electing a teacher . . . who has served in its public schools for the three previous consecutive school years . . . shall employ him to serve at its discretion; but any school committee may elect a teacher who has served in its schools for not less than one school year to serve at such discretion." There are explicit findings by the auditor as follows: Each school year began in September and ended the next June. The petitioner began her work in September, 1933, at the beginning of the school year 1933-1934 and taught regularly organized classes for three of the seven daily periods during that entire school year. She also had charge of a room during a study period and did some additional teaching as directed. She was reelected for the years 1934-1935, 1935-1936, and 1936-1937. "So far as it is a question of fact," she had been a regular member of the high school faculty from September, 1933, until the end of the school year 1936-1937, and taught regular classes for three consecutive school years prior to her election in May of 1936.

These findings make it plain that the petitioner had qualified to serve "at discretion" under the statute, and that it was mandatory upon the committee to classify her among the teachers so serving (Paquette v. Fall River, 278 Mass. 172 , 174), unless the respondents are entitled to prevail upon one or more of their contentions hereinafter discussed.

The respondents contend that because the last election of the petitioner by the school committee took place on May 6, 1936, before the final expiration of her third school year, she had not served "for the three previous consecutive school years" as required by the statute. This construction assumes that tenure at discretion cannot begin until there has been a formal election which must take place after the complete expiration of the three consecutive school years. The literal wording of the statute has some tendency to support this view. But a strictly literal construction of a statute is not necessarily to be adopted if the result of adopting it will be to thwart or hamper the accomplishment of the obvious purpose of ...

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