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Federbush v. Board of Education of Borough of Carteret

Decided: December 22, 1949.

ISABEL FEDERBUSH, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE BOROUGH OF CARTERET, MIDDLESEX COUNTY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



McGeehan, Colie and Eastwood. The opinion of the court was delivered by Eastwood, J.A.D.

Eastwood

[6 NJSuper Page 71] This is an appeal from a judgment of the State Board of Education affirming the decision of the Commissioner of Education on a stipulated issue submitted by the parties.

Appellant is and has been a teacher in the Carteret school system for twenty-six years. On June 3, 1947, the degree of Master of Arts was conferred upon her by Columbia University Teachers College, she having successfully completed her course of instruction on May 12, 1947. During the school year 1947-48, Miss Federbush received a salary of $2,900, a $150 bonus and a $150 increment, which were to become a permanent part of her salary, together with $100 for the attainment of the degree of Master of Arts. The cost of living bonus and increment were due all employees regardless of salary grade.

On September 18, 1944, the Carteret Board of Education, by resolution, adopted a guide for teachers' salaries under which a teacher holding a Master of Arts degree would arrive at a maximum yearly salary of $3,300 in his or her nineteenth teaching year. Under this guide, it was incumbent upon a teacher who planned to complete enough college work to move forward a grade during a fiscal year to so notify the supervising principal in writing prior to November 15th of the preceding fiscal year.

In December, 1946, the local Board of Education adopted an amendatory resolution, providing that the maximum for teachers with Masters' degrees be increased to $3,700 a year, effective September 1, 1947, and providing further that:

"2. The above maximums shall be reached by an annual increment of $150.00 per year on all degrees received after September 1, 1947.

"3. Teachers on maximums passing from one salary level to the next higher salary level shall receive $100.00 additional on presentation of official transcript of credit to the Supervising Principal and shall thereafter continue at the rate of $150.00 annual increment until the maximum in the new level is reached."

The Carteret Board of Education, by resolution adopted on May 14, 1947, changed the effective date of the salary guide from September 1, 1947, to May 14, 1947.

At the time of the adoption of the December, 1946, amended schedule of salaries, the appellant was receiving $2,900, the maximum salary for a teacher holding a Bachelor's degree.

On June 18, 1948, appellant filed a petition with the Commissioner of Education seeking an order that the respondent pay her an additional $300 for the 1947-48 school year, alleging that under the 1944 salary schedule she was entitled to an increase of $400 in recognition of her Master of Arts degree, but that she had received only $100. The Commissioner of Education determined "* * * that no legal grounds exist for the petitioner's claim that $300 is due to her as salary for the school year 1947-1948," and the State Board of Education affirmed the Commissioner's ruling.

Appellant contends (1) that under the salary guide of September, 1944, she automatically became entitled to the salary grade of $3,300 upon completing the work for her Master's degree on May 12, 1947, and that her status was unaffected by the December, 1946, amendment which applied to all degrees received after September 1, 1947, nor by the May 14, 1947, amendment changing the effective date of the salary guide to May 14, 1947; (2) that the amendment of December, 1946, is ambiguous and incapable of interpretation and, therefore, resort must be made to the September, 1944, salary guide; (3) that the board's action in giving her $100 for her degree and a $150 increment was a recognition of her Master's degree, but that the board erred in not placing her in the next higher grade; (4) that she had on November 5, 1946, mailed written notice of her anticipated degree in 1947; (5) that this requirement of notice was not essential, having been waived by a general letter of the supervising principal dated January 31, 1946.

The respondent contends that the intent and purpose of the board in adopting the amended salary guide clearly indicated that a teacher qualifying for an increase in grade would not receive the increase in one step, but at the end of a three year adjustment period; that prior to the December, 1946, amendment, increases were paid in three yearly increments of $100 and under the amended guide increases would, after September 1, 1947, be paid by $100 on presentation of ...


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