Goldmann, Freund and Foley. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, S.j.a.d.
The decision in this case turns on the meaning of the words "three consecutive calendar years" in N.J.S.A. 18:13-16, which deals with the tenure of public school teachers, principals and superintendents. The matter comes before us by way of appeal from the decision of the Commissioner of Education determining that respondent Schumacher acquired tenure as principal in the Manchester Township school system on the completion of employment for three consecutive calendar years, from July 1, 1959 to June 30, 1962.
Schumacher was appointed principal by resolution of the Board of Education of Manchester Township adopted May 14, 1959, and a two-year contract was entered into providing for his employment from July 1, 1959 to June 30, 1961. He was reappointed principal by resolution dated May 11, 1961, and a one-year contract was executed providing for his employment from July 1, 1961 to June 30, 1962. Each of the contracts contained a clause permitting either party to terminate the employment by giving the other 60 days' written notice of such intention. Neither party gave written notice. At a regular meeting held on May 10, 1962, the board of education voted that "an employment contract be denied Mr. Schumacher."
Schumacher contends that by virtue of the terms of his employment and the board's failure to give him 60 days' notice of intention to terminate his contract, he acquired tenure pursuant to condition (a) of N.J.S.A. 18:13-16. The full text of that statute is:
"The services of all teachers, principals, superintendents and assistant superintendents, of the public schools, excepting those who are not the holders of proper teachers' certificates in full force and effect, shall be during good behavior and efficiency, (a) after the expiration of a period of employment of three consecutive calendar years in that district unless a shorter period is fixed by the employing board, or (b) after employment for three consecutive academic years together with employment at the beginning of the next succeeding academic year, or (c) after employment, within a period of any four consecutive
academic years, for the equivalent of more than three academic years, some part of which must be served in an academic year after July first, one thousand nine hundred and forty; provided , that the time any teacher, principal or supervising principal had taught in the district in which he was employed at the end of the academic year immediately preceding July first, one thousand nine hundred and forty, shall be counted in determining such period or periods of employment in that district.
An academic year, for the purpose of this section, means the period between the time school opens in the district after the general summer vacation until the next succeeding summer vacation."
The board, on the other hand, claims that "calendar years," as used in the statute, can only be construed to mean periods beginning January 1 and ending December 31 of each year. It reckons Schumacher's employment as follows:
July 1, 1959 to December 31, 1959 6 months
January 1, 1960 to December 31, 1960 1 year
January 1, 1961 to December 31, 1961 1 year
January 1, 1962 to June 30, 1962 6 months
The argument of the board is that this employment does not constitute "three consecutive calendar years" within the meaning of the statute, but only two.
It is not disputed that Schumacher was employed as principal in the Manchester Township school system for 36 consecutive months, ...