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In re Masiello

Decided: January 20, 1958.


On appeal from decision of State Board of Education to the Superior Court, Appellate Division; certified by the Supreme Court on its own motion prior to hearing in the Appellate Division.

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Heher, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs, Francis and Proctor. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.


In November 1955 appellant Joseph J. Masiello, Jr. applied to the State Board of Examiners for a school administrator's certificate. The application was denied on the ground that he did not have the necessary qualifications. Subsequent appeals to the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education resulted in affirmances of the denial. Review was then sought in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court but we certified under R.R. 1:10-1(a).

N.J.S.A. 18:2-4(e) authorizes the State Board of Education to:

"Make and enforce rules and regulations for the granting of appropriate certificates or licenses to teach or to administer, direct, or supervise, the teaching, instruction or educational guidance of pupils in public schools operated by boards of education, for each of which certificates a fee of not less than $5.00 shall be charged."

Rules and regulations adopted pursuant to this statute are administered by the State Board of Examiners, the

agency to which the task of issuing the certificates is assigned. N.J.S.A. 18:13-1.

Possession of the school administrator's certificate sought by Masiello is essential for the position of supervising principal or superintendent of schools. To obtain it, certain qualifications established by the State Board of Education must be satisfied. One of them is at the heart of this controversy. It provides that the applicant must have

" Three years of experience as a vice principal, when so designated by a board of education and properly certificated as a principal, spending more than half time in the fields of administration or supervision, * * *." (Emphasis supplied)

Masiello asserted compliance with this standard, but the Board of Examiners declared to the contrary, basing its decision on the undisputed facts.

In order to understand the positions of the parties, some reference to the circumstances is necessary.

Masiello was employed as a teacher in the public school system in Madison, New Jersey, on September 1, 1935. On March 25, 1942, the local board of education created three new offices designated Dean of Boys, Dean of Girls and Director of Guidance in the Madison High School, where he was then teaching. The organizational chart before us illustrates the nature and stature of these positions by paralleling them on a horizontal line immediately below the office of Principal. They were designed to relieve the principal of certain duties, some of them supervisory and administrative. The title "Dean" was selected instead of "Assistant Principal" because the board felt that it sounded more authoritative. Masiello was appointed Dean of Boys and was given an increase in salary. Thereafter, his teaching burden was lessened and he spent about four-sevenths of each school day in supervisory or administrative work. However, he was never specifically designated "vice principal."

On April 20, 1944, during his tenure as Dean of Boys, the Board of Examiners issued to him a letter of eligibility for a supervisor's certificate. The record indicates that

under the then current rules, such a certificate would qualify the holder to serve as "principal of any school." However, Masiello never paid the requisite $5 fee or obtained the certificate. He resigned from the high school on September 11, 1946 to become field representative of the New Jersey Education Association.

On April 7, 1948 he was advised by the State Board that he was eligible for a high school principal's certificate. Some correspondence followed, apparently in furtherance of an effort on his part to demonstrate that his previous work as Dean of Boys met the test for a supervising principal's certificate. The Board declined to accept that experience as sufficient for the purpose, but did issue to him a statement of eligibility as high school principal on September 20, 1948. His status then remained at rest until he requested the school administrator's certificate in November 1955.

Masiello maintains that his service as Dean of Boys should be considered the equivalent of the required experience as vice-principal. The State Board of Education counters by pointing to the organizational chart showing three of the high school officers, Dean of Boys, Dean of Girls and Director of Guidance, on the same level of authority, with no person designated as vice-principal. And it urges that designation as such is demanded by the rule in order to avoid any question as to occupancy of the status necessary to qualify for a school administrator's post. Moreover, says the Board, appellant was never "properly certificated" as a principal while functioning as Dean of Boys, and possession of the certificate cannot be brushed aside as a mere formality by one who has received a statement of eligibility to acquire it. Our attention is called also to the fact that under Rule 23, which was ...

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