Lynch v. Webb City School Dist. No. 92

Citation418 S.W.2d 608
Decision Date25 August 1967
Docket NumberNo. 8622,8622
PartiesBlanche Deputy LYNCH, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. WEBB CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 92, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Myers, Webster & Perry, Webb City, for defendant-appellant.

Herbert Van Fleet, Joplin, for plaintiff-respondent, Blanchard & Van Fleet, Joplin, of counsel.

STONE, Presiding Judge.

On this appeal, defendant Webb City School District No. 92 in Jasper County, Missouri (hereinafter referred to as the district) seeks to be relieved of a summary judgment in the principal sum of $3,850 entered in favor of plaintiff Blanche Deputy Lynch on Count II of her petition for salary allegedly due her as a teacher under a contract for the 1961--62 school year. Defendant's primary and principal contention is that the trial court erred in refusing to enter a summary judgment for it on Count II because 'there was no contract between the parties.' On a previous appeal, we affirmed a summary judgment for plaintiff on Count I for the balance of her salary under a contract for the 1960--61 school year. Lynch v. Webb City School District No. 92, Mo.App., 373 S.W.2d 193.

Plaintiff, a widow then fifty-eight years of age with considerable teaching experience, was first employed by the district for the 1958--59 school year. The events, out of which this suit arose, occurred during the latter part of the 1960--61 school year, her third year in the Webb City system. As shown by the minutes of a meeting of the school board held on March 10, 1961, 'the list of teachers as presented by Supt. Miner (was) reelected for the 1961--62 term' upon motion duly made, seconded and unanimously carried; and plaintiff's name was included in such 'list of teachers' made a part of the minutes of that meeting. The salary of each teacher was fixed by the graded salary schedule adopted by the board, which accorded recognition to the number of years the teacher had taught in the Webb City system and to his or her academic qualifications. Witness Madge T. James, secretary of the school board for sixteen years, agreed that it had been 'their (the board's) custom and in accord with their rules that in March of each year they elect teachers to be reemployed for the ensuing school year.'

At a special board meeting held on April 4, 1961, the minutes of the meeting of March 10 'were approved,' the ballots cast at the annual school election were canvassed, the two reelected members of the board took their oaths of office (there was no change in the membership), and the newly-constituted board organized by electing William H. Perry as president and William R. Chinn as vice-president. Section 165.320 (now § 162.301; L.1963 p. 222 § 3--30). (Except as otherwise stated, all statutory references are to RSMo 1959, V.A.M.S., and all references to rules are to the Rules of Civil Procedure, V.A.M.R.)

On April 5, 1961, Superintendent Miner (so he stated in his answers to interrogatories) 'caused to be delivered to plaintiff, a form for a contract for the 1961--62 school year together with a notice that she had 15 days thereafter in which to accept or reject said form contract,' both the 'form contract' and 'notice' being copied marginally 1 in their entirety. (Except as otherwise stated, all emphasis herein is ours.) 'About the same date' a form contract identical with the one delivered to plaintiff, except for the teacher's name and salary, was delivered to each of the other teachers who had been reelected at the board meeting of March 10. The form contracts had been prepared by the secretary of the board subsequent to that meeting, but none of them had been signed by the president of the board or attested by the secretary prior to their distribution to the reelected teachers.

On April 7, 1961, there first 'came to my attention' (so superintendent Miner stated) numerous alleged professional shortcomings on the part of plaintiff (see Lynch, supra, 373 S.W.2d at 196, 198(11)), which, however, were said to have been manifested throughout the 1960--61 school year. The superintendent also charged that plaintiff had been guilty of an 'act (which) showed disloyalty to the superintendent and to the board of education,' in that at a teachers' meeting on April 6, 1961, plaintiff had 'repeated * * * in a manner which was critical' a question which he (the superintendent) had answered three weeks previously, when plaintiff had asked 'if the board of education would use the foundation program monies for teachers' salaries or * * * for some other means' and he had 'fully explained * * * that the board of education would use the additional funds to strengthen teachers' salaries.' Plaintiff's testimony by deposition was that she simply asked the superintendent at the teachers' meeting on April 6 'if that little note (the memorandum or 'notice' copied marginally in note 1) meant that if the foundation program didn't pass we were going to get a raise anyway,' but that he became 'just really angry because I asked him this question'--'bawled me out terribly.'

Whatever the precipitating cause (here immaterial) may have been, the superintendent called plaintiff to his office on April 7 and asked her to resign. According to the superintendent, 'plaintiff (then) said she would resign, that she would not work where she was not wanted.' Although conceding that she had commented to two other teachers that 'I wouldn't want to teach where they didn't want me,' plaintiff insisted that she did not so state to the superintendent and 'never did say I would resign,' and her testimony that, when the superintendent 'handed me a piece of paper and pencil * * * and said 'write your resignation out for next year,'' she had refused in this wise, 'Mr. Miner, I am not going to sign this; I have done nothing I should resign for,' stands undenied. However, it would be as inutile as it would be tedious for us to pursue further the subject of plaintiff's alleged resignation, since on the same state of facts we held on the previous appeal that there was no genuine good faith issue (a) as to whether plaintiff actually had tendered her resignation or (b) as to whether the board had accepted it (Lynch, supra, 373 S.W.2d at 197--198(9)) and on this appeal no reason why we properly should or could depart from our former holding is suggested. Cf. Midwestern Machinery Co. v. Parsons, Mo.App., 415 S.W.2d 545. For that matter, defendant does not now rely upon plaintiff's alleged resignation but, as we have noted, contends that no contract for the 1961--62 school year was entered into.

Plaintiff signed the form contract 'the next day' after it was delivered to her on April 5 but left it in her desk until the afternoon of April 11. A meeting of the school board was to be held that evening. About 4 P.M. on that date she went to the superintendent's office intending to leave her signed contract there. However, the office was closed, so she immediately proceeded to the home of William R. Chinn, a member and vice-president of the board, and between 4:30 and 5 P.M. delivered to Mr. Chinn personally a sealed envelope which, as she then informed him, contained her signed contract. Mr. Chinn did not open the sealed envelope but took it to the board meeting that evening. Plaintiff was not present at the meeting. No statement by Mr. Chinn or any other member of the board, either by deposition, answer to interrogatories or affidavit (Rule 74.04), appears in the transcript, but the secretary of the board testified by deposition that the sealed envelope was delivered to her as 'the meeting was just starting.' Without the envelope having been opened and (insofar as the record shows) without either statement or inquiry by Mr. Chinn or any other member of the board, the superintendent advised the board that plaintiff had returned her contract unsigned and recommended that 'plaintiff be notified that her service (would be) terminated at the end of 1960--61 school year,' and the board accepted and approved that recommendation. In his answers to interrogatories, the superintendent stated that 'after the board had acted * * * the contract was handed to me.' When the secretary of the board was asked 'it was not until after the meeting of April 11th was held that the envelope * * * was opened, is that right,' her laconic, enigmatic response was 'it was opened.'

A special meeting of the board was held on April 13, 1961. At that meeting, the superintendent told the board that 'in fact the plaintiff had returned the contract for the 1961--62 school year signed by her and that the signed contract had been in the possession of the secretary of the board, in an unopened envelope, at the meeting of April 11, 1961,' taking the position however that the instrument was not 'a contract.' After presenting various 'reasons why (plaintiff should) not be retained as a teacher,' namely, plaintiff's alleged professional shortcomings and transgressions including the alleged 'act of disloyalty' discussed above (see Lynch, supra, 373 S.W.2d at 196), the superintendent then 'recommended (to) the board of education that (plaintiff) be notified that her contract be terminated immediately.' Whereupon, the board adopted a motion (with four members voting 'yes,' 'Chinn passing,' and the sixth member having left before the vote) that plaintiff 'has violated the rules and regulations of the board of education and that her services and contract be terminated immediately,' and thereafter another motion (with five members voting 'yes') that plaintiff 'be paid the balance of her contract for the 1960--61 term but that her services for the year be terminated immediately.' Plaintiff and her attorney were present at the meeting of April 13, and the board was then informed of plaintiff's position that she had a contract for the 1961--62 school year.

On the following day, to wit, on April 14, 1961, two written notices signed by the president and secretary of the board were served on ...

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