On appeal from the State Board of Education.
Bischoff, Botter and Morton I. Greenberg. The opinion of the court was delivered by Bischoff, P.J.A.D.
The sole issue presented by this appeal is whether teachers employed under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 20 U.S.C.A. § 236 et seq. , are "teaching staff members" within the meaning of the teacher tenure statute, N.J.S.A. 18A:28-5. The Commissioner of Education held that they were teaching staff members and therefore were entitled to acquire tenure. The State Board of Education on appeal held they were not and reversed. This further appeal followed.
Petitioners Ruth O'Neil, Elaine Hennessey and Marjorie Watson were members of petitioner Point Pleasant Beach Teachers Association (Association) employed by the Board of Education of
the Borough of Point Pleasant Beach of Ocean County (board) and assigned to the board's Title I program, a federally funded project providing special instruction under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 20 U.S.C.A. § 236 et seq.
The individual petitioners were all required to hold and did hold valid teaching certificates issued by the New Jersey State Board of Examiners and have taught in the Point Pleasant Beach School System for a sufficient length of time to acquire tenure. Petitioner Hennessey was initially hired by the board as a supplemental instruction teacher from January until June 1969. She was thereafter employed annually as a Title I supplementary reading teacher from October 1, 1970 until June 1976. Her daily teaching hours were four hours in 1972-73 and 1973-74, and five hours in 1974-75 and 1975-76. Petitioner Watson was employed by the board as a Title I teacher from February 1972 until June 1976. Her daily teaching hours were two hours in 1972-73, three hours in 1973-74 and four hours in 1974-75 and 1975-76. Petitioner O'Neil was continuously employed by the board as a Title I teacher from October 1, 1969 until June 1976 and acted as coordinator of the program for the 1975-76 school year. Her daily teaching hours increased from three to four hours, then five hours, and finally to six hours when she was appointed coordinator.
Petitioners were paid on an hourly basis during the school year and worked daily, the same as other teachers in the district. Petitioners' duties required them to execute weekly lesson plans, schedule pupils to receive special instruction, order supplies and materials, arrange and conduct parent conferences twice each year, maintain individual progress folders for each pupil and report the pupil's progress to the homeroom teachers, and attend PTA meetings and staff conferences. They did not, however, have any homeroom or playground duties and did not receive a free lunch period. Petitioners were covered by the Point Pleasant Beach Teachers Agreement between petitioner Association
and defendant board, although the board claims they were never mentioned in negotiations and did not receive contracts.
In December 1975 the individual petitioners sought clarification from the superintendent of schools on their right to tenure, sick leave, pension benefits and health and accident insurance. The superintendent of schools informed the president of the association that teachers under the Title I program were not entitled to fringe benefits, though the individual petitioners "probably" had part-time tenure.
On April 14, 1976 petitioners filed a petition with the Commissioner of Education seeking a declaration that they were entitled to tenure under N.J.S.A. 18A:28-5, retroactive fringe benefits and other relief. On October 1, 1976, when petitioners reported for work, they were informed that Title I funds were unavailable and that the program and their teaching positions had been discontinued.
After a hearing the Commissioner held that petitioners were entitled to part-time tenure and seniority rights as teaching staff members under their certification. He rejected petitioners' challenge to the board's abolition of the Title I program. On appeal the State Board of Education held that petitioners were hired as ...