These are two actions brought in the Superior Court by the four persons who, collectively, comprised the group of four certificated and tenured school adjustment counselors (G.L.c. 71, §§ 38G [as appearing in
All parties have appealed
1. The trial judge found, and no one any longer questions, that the vote of February 7, 1975, was adopted by the committee as "an administrative matter based upon reasons of economy and efficiency and entirely relevant to the [s]chool [c]ommittee's task of building and maintaining an efficient school system." The judge also found that the plaintiffs had failed to sustain the burden of proving the allegations of their complaints to the effect that the vote was a subterfuge or had been taken in bad faith. No one questions the power of a simple majority of a school committee, acting in good faith, to abolish a position held
We look first at the actual effect of the vote (note 4, supra). We note first that the vote did not assign or contain any offer to assign any of the plaintiffs to any other position in the school system. Contrast Downey v. School Comm. of Lowell, 305 Mass. at 330; Kelley v. School Comm. of Watertown, 330 Mass. at 151; Jantzen v. School Comm. of Chelmsford, 332 Mass. at 176; Kaplan v. School Comm. of Melrose, 363 Mass. at 334-335; Clark v. Mt. Greylock Regional Sch. Dist. 3 Mass. App. Ct. at 551. And we note that the source of the payment of each plaintiff's salary for the upcoming school year 1975-1976 was
We consider next the meaning which has been attributed to the words "good cause" as used in § 42 (note 6, supra). The quoted words have been held to include "any ground which is put forward by the committee in good faith and which is not arbitrary, irrational, unreasonable, or irrelevant to the committee's task of building up and maintaining an efficient school system. Rinaldo v. School Comm. of Revere, 294 Mass. 167, 169." Davis v. School Comm. of Somerville, 307 Mass. 354, 362 (1940). It is at this point in our analysis that there emerges a sensible basis for harmonizing (A) a school committee's power to abolish a position held by a tenured teacher (in good faith and for good cause) and (B) the protections afforded to such a teacher by the provisions of G.L.c. 71, § 42, namely, that the abolition of the position constitutes "good cause" for the "dismissal" of such a teacher within the meaning and for the purposes of § 42.
We think such a solution consistent with the provisions of § 42 itself (note 6, supra), which excuses compliance with its requirements in the single instance in which the dismissal of a tenured teacher is prompted by a shrinking school enrollment. We think such a solution also provides a proper balance between and among (a) the "general charge of all the public schools" which is entrusted to a
2. As already recited, the judge determined (contrary to what we have just held) that the vote of February 7, 1975, did not result in the dismissal of any plaintiff within the meaning of G.L.c. 71, § 42. He nevertheless ordered the committee to offer the plaintiffs other positions in the school system, ones which the judge clearly expected might carry salaries less than those which the plaintiffs had received as school adjustment counselors.
3. One of the prayers of both complaints was that the court assess costs and attorney's fees in favor of the plaintiffs in connection with these proceedings. The question of such fees was raised with the judge when the plaintiffs rested their cases. The judge indicated that he would hold a hearing on that question at a later time if he should be disposed to enter a judgment favorable to the plaintiffs. No such hearing appears ever to have been held. The judgment awarded the plaintiffs substantive relief and court costs, but nothing for attorney's fees. The plaintiffs thereupon filed timely motions to amend the judgment (Mass.R.Civ.P. 59[e], 365 Mass. 828 ) so as to include a provision for their reasonable attorney's fees. The motions were denied, and the plaintiffs seasonably appealed from the "decision of the [c]ourt not to act [on their motions] at this time." The plaintiffs prevailed in the Superior Court, and they have prevailed in this court. Accordingly, they are now entitled to reasonable attorney's fees in both courts in accordance with the provisions of G.L.c. 71, § 43B. Black v. School Comm. of Malden, 369 Mass. 657, 663-665 (1976). Such fees are to be determined (within the limit set by § 43B) and awarded in connection with the further proceedings required by part 2 of this opinion.
The orders denying the motions to amend the judgment are reversed. The judgment is reversed, and the cases are remanded to the Superior Court for the further proceedings required by this opinion and for the entry of a new final judgment which is otherwise consistent with this opinion. The plaintiffs are to have costs of appeal, within the limitation imposed by G.L.c. 71, § 43B.