Lost Creek School Tp., Vigo County v. York, 26965.

Docket Nº26965.
Citation21 N.E.2d 58, 215 Ind. 636
Case DateMay 22, 1939
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Appeal from Putnam Circuit Court; Courtland C. Gillen, Judge.

B F. Small and A. L. Miller, both of Terre Haute, James &amp Allee, of Greencastle, and Wallace, Raudel & Wallace, of Terre Haute, for appellant.

Paul Shafer and Thos. F. O'Mara, both of Terre Haute, and Lyon & Abrams, of Greencastle, for appellees.

SHAKE Judge.

This appeal presents two major questions. These are: (1) How are the terms of an indefinite contract of a permanent tenure teacher to be ascertained; and (2) what remedies are available to the teacher when such a contract has been unlawfully breached by the school corporation?

On June 6, 1930, appellee York entered into a written contract with the trustee of Lost Creek School Township, Vigo County, to teach in and serve as principal of the Glenn High School therein for an eight and one-half months' school year commencing on August 29, 1930, at an annual salary of $2,400. Prior thereto York had served as a teacher in said school township for more than five consecutive years. The contract of June 6, 1930, expired on May 1, 1931. For five years following York tendered his services to the trustee at or before the beginning of each school term and demanded employment as a permanent teacher of said township. His offers to teach were refused. In his complaint York set out the contract of June 6, 1930, and alleged that it had ever since been and was in full force and effect; that he had at all times stood ready and willing to perform the same; and he demanded judgment for damages for the breach thereof for the school years 1931-1932 to and including 1935-1936 at $2,400 per year, aggregating $12,400. The appellant answered by general denial and, also, that prior to the commencement of the school year 1931-1932 York resigned as a teacher of said township. York denied that he ever resigned and the cause was tried by the court without a jury. The contract of June 6, 1930, was introduced at the trial. There was no evidence of any other agreement entered into between the parties subsequent thereto. The court originally made a finding and rendered judgment in York's favor for $12,000, but pending appellant's motion for a new trial it entered an order that if York would remit $7,200 the motion for a new trial would be denied. A remittitur, in compliance with the court's order, was filed, and judgment was rendered for $4,800. York filed a motion asking that interest be added to the judgment from June 1, 1933, but the motion was overruled for want of diligence on his part in the prosecution of the action. The errors assigned by the appellant relate to the granting of leave to appellee York to file the remittitur above referred to and to the overruling of the appellant's motion for a new trial. By the latter assignment it is charged that the decision of the court is not sustained by sufficient evidence and that it is contrary to law. Appellee York has assigned cross-errors upon the order requiring him to remit the sum of $7,200 or suffer a new trial to be granted and upon the overruling of his motion to modify the judgment with respect to interest.

Appellee York contends that the terms of the indefinite contract which he is seeking to enforce are to be found in the 1930 written contract, which was the last express agreement between the parties and the one under which he served immediately prior to his discharge by the school township. He says that in the absence of an express writing entered into between the parties after the expiration of the 1930 contract, it is continuing and supplies the terms and fixes the compensation which he is entitled to recover. To sustain his position he leans upon the language of Section 1 of the act of 1927 (Ch. 97, Acts 1927, § 28-4307, Burns' 1933, Sec. 6003, Baldwin's Ind.St.1934), where it is stated that, 'upon the expiration of any contract between such school corporation and a permanent teacher, such contract shall be deemed to continue in effect for an indefinite period * * *.' On the other hand, appellant denies that the 1930 contract supplies the terms of the teacher's indefinite contract. It asserts that, as a permanent tenure teacher, York has merely a functional relationship; a recognized right to be re-employed; an indefinite contract entitling him to a definite contract; and that until he acquires such definite contract he has no rights that can be enforced in an action at law. It is therefore of first and prime importance to determine the nature of the 'indefinite contract' referred to in the Teachers' Tenure Act and upon which appellee York is seeking to recover.

In 1933 the General Assembly undertook to repeal the tenure act insofar as it applied to school townships, and this promptly presented the queston of the status of those who became tenure teachers before the repeal. This court took the position in State ex rel. Anderson v. Brand, Ind.Sup.1937, 5 N.E.2d 531, 913, 7 N.E.2d 777, 110 A.L.R. 778, that the tenure rights of a permanent teacher were purely statutory and not contractual, and were therefore subject to being dissolved by the repeal of the act out of which they arose. Subsequently the decision of this court was reversed by the Supreme Court of the United States. State of Indiana ex rel. Anderson v. Brand, 1938, 303 U.S. 95, 58 S.Ct. 443, 82 L.Ed. 685, 113 A.L.R. 1482. We respectfully bow in deference to the opinion and mandate of that high tribunal, and it therefore can not be gain-said that this appellee York is a permanent tenure teacher of Lost Creek School Township and the holder of an indefinite contract. We have carefully scrutinized the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Anderson case, supra, with a view of ascertaining the full import thereof to the end that our decision may be brought in harmony therewith. It does not appear that said court went further than to hold that the rights of the appellant therein arose out of contract, entitling them to protection under the Federal Constitution. We do not find that the precise nature of the contractual rights acquired, or the manner of their enforcement, were considered.

We deem it pertinent to note the place that the Teachers' Tenure Act of 1927 occupies in the legislative scheme and its relationship to other existing statutes relating to the subject of teachers' contracts and compensation. It was pointed out by this court in Board of School Com'rs v. State ex rel. Wolfolk, 1936, 209 Ind. 498, 503, 199 N.E. 569, that in determining the nature and terms of a contract between a teacher and a school corporation under the tenure act, said act must be construed with the teachers' contract acts of 1899 and 1921 as constituting one law on the subject. The last section of the tenure act of 1927 (Ch. 97, § 6, Acts 1927, § 28-4312, Burns' 1933, Sec. 6008, Baldwin's Ind.St. 1934) provides that it 'shall be construed as supplementary to an Act of the General Assembly, page 195, Acts 1921, entitled 'An act concerning teachers' contracts and providing for the repeal of conflicting laws.'' The functions of a supplementary act and its effect upon existing statutory law were clearly stated by this court in McCleary v. Babcock, 1907, 169 Ind. 228, 233, 82 N.E. 453, 455, where it was said: 'A supplemental act has quite a different meaning [from an act to amend]. 'It signifies something additional, something added to supply what is wanting.' * * * It is that which supplies a deficiency, adds to, or completes, or extends that which is already in existence, without changing or modifying the original.'

The school act of 1921 provides that: 'All contracts hereafter made by and between teachers and school corporations shall be in writing; shall state the date of the beginning of the school term, the number of months in the school term, the total amount of the salary to be paid during the school year, and the number of payments that shall be made during the school year.' Acts 1921, Ch. 91, § 1, § 28-4304, Burns' 1933, Sec. 5990, Baldwin's Ind.St.1934.

In view of the fact that the Teachers' Tenure Act of 1927 is a supplemental law and was not intended to change or modify pre-existing statutes, but rather to add new provisions tereto, it must be conclused that no teacher's contract in this state, be it tenure or otherwise, can be enforced unless it complies with the provisions of the act of 1921, quoted above. This conclusion calls for us to say whether an indefinite tenure contract brought into being as alleged in the complaint of the appellee York, can be deemed to be in writing and contain the specific terms required by the act of 1921. It seems clear that this can not be true, unless the tenure relationship had the effect of rendering York's 1930 contract a continuing one, so that it may be said to supply the essential elements with respect to the date of beginning of the period of service, the number of months in such term, and the amount of salary to be paid.

In Spice Valley School Tp. v. Rizer, 1938, 15 N.E.2d 390, this court held that an action to enforce a tenure contract was not based upon the last executed written agreement and that such agreement was not a necessary exhibit to the complaint. In School City of Peru v. State ex rel. Youngblood, 1937, 212 Ind. 255, pages 261, 262, 7 N.E.2d 176, at page 178, 1002, 9 N.E.2d 80, we said:

'There is nothing in the [Teachers' Tenure] act specifying a particular position for any teacher. The act provides that a teacher who has been employed continuously for five successive years, and thereafter enters into a teacher contract for further service, shall become a permanent teacher in such corporation. It does not...

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  • Lost Creek Sch. Tp., Vigo Cnty. v. York, 26965.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • May 22, 1939
    ...215 Ind. 63621 N.E.2d 58LOST CREEK SCHOOL TP., VIGO COUNTYv.YORK et al.No. 26965.Supreme Court of Indiana.May 22, Action by Ivan Ray York and others against Lost Creek School Township, Vigo County, Indiana, to recover for breach of alleged employment contract. From a judgment for the plaint......

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