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Spiewak v. Board of Education of Rutherford

Decided: June 22, 1981.

RITA SPIEWAK, PEGGY DABINETT, PATRICIA O'REILLY AND THE RUTHERFORD EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF RUTHERFORD, RESPONDENT



On appeal from the New Jersey State Board of Education.

Allcorn, Pressler and Furman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Pressler, J.A.D.

Pressler

This is a teacher-tenure controversy.

Petitioners Rita Spiewak and Peggy Dabinett have each been employed by the Rutherford Board of Education (district) since the early 1970s as "Beadleston" supplementary teachers of the handicapped,*fn1 and petitioner Patricia O'Reilly has been employed by the Rutherford Board of Education since February 1973 as a "Title I" remedial reading teacher. All three appeal from a determination of the State Board of Education denying them status as members of the teaching staff of the district and accordingly declaring them ineligible for the acquisition of tenure. In so concluding, the State Board reversed the contrary conclusion of the Commissioner of Education, who had generally accepted the recommendations of the hearing examiner.

The State Board's sole expressed basis for its action was its reliance on this court's opinion in Point Pleasant Beach Teacher's Ass'n v. Callam , 173 N.J. Super. 11 (App.Div.1980), certif. den. 84 N.J. 469 (1980). We reverse. For the reasons herein set forth, it is our view that the holding of Point Pleasant Beach is inapplicable to the undisputed facts of this case and that its holding has been overbroadly interpreted by the State Board. Indeed, we are not without reservations as to the viability of the apparent breadth of the Point Pleasant Beach holding.

The reference point in this, as in all teacher-tenure controversies, must be N.J.S.A. 18A:28-5, which provides in relevant part

that all teaching staff members holding the "proper certificates" shall be under tenure after employment by the district for:

(a) three consecutive calendar years, or any shorter period which may be fixed by the employing board for such purpose; or

(b) three consecutive academic years, together with employment at the beginning of the next succeeding academic year; or

(c) the equivalent of more than three academic years within a period of any four consecutive academic years;

"Teaching staff member" is defined by N.J.S.A. 18A:1-1 as

The facts here compel the conclusion that all three petitioners are encompassed by the definition of teaching staff member and that each, at the time of the administrative hearing, had met ...


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