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Matawan Regional Teachers Association and Estate of Russell L. Thomas v. Board of Education of Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District

Decided: June 12, 1985.

MATAWAN REGIONAL TEACHERS ASSOCIATION AND ESTATE OF RUSSELL L. THOMAS, CHARLENE CANZANO, JUDITH ANN HOLMES, RICHARD POST AND HELEN L. KOSTYK, APPELLANTS,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE MATAWAN-ABERDEEN REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, RESPONDENT



On appeal from the State Board of Education.

Matthews, Furman and Havey. The opinion of the court was delivered by Furman, J.A.D.

Furman

[202 NJSuper Page 144] Matawan Regional Teachers Association, the Estate of Russell Thomas, Charlene Canzano, Judith Ann Holmes, Richard Post and Helen Kostyk appeal from a decision of the State Board of Education, which upheld the Board of Education of the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District (Board) in denying applications by the four individual plaintiffs for additional

paid sick leave days under N.J.S.A. 18A:30-6 and remanding to the Board the application on behalf of Thomas's estate.

N.J.S.A. 18A:30-6 provides:

When absence, under the circumstances described in section 18A:30-1 of this article, exceeds the annual sick leave and the accumulated sick leave, the board of education may pay any such person each day's salary less the pay of a substitute, if a substitute is employed or the estimated cost of the employment of a substitute if none is employed, for such length of time as may be determined by the board of education in each individual case. A day's salary is defined as 1/200 of the annual salary.

N.J.S.A. 18A:30-6 prescribes no specific legislative standards to govern the exercise of discretion by boards of education in resolving whether to pay teachers for sick leave days beyond their annual and accumulated sick leave. The issue of unconstitutionality is not raised. Plaintiffs do not challenge the statute on the ground of lack of adequate legislative standards, see Sheeran v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, Inc., 80 N.J. 548, 558 (1979).

In Bd. of Ed. Piscataway Tp. v. Piscataway Main., 152 N.J. Super. 235 (App.Div.1977), we held that, because the grant of extra sick leave days under N.J.S.A. 18A:30-6 is discretionary, a board of education could not negotiate away that discretion in its collective agreement with an employee association; a clause in the agreement granting extended paid sick leave as of right was beyond the scope of negotiability and invalid because of its conflict with the board's statutory obligation to deal with "each individual case."

In Molina v. Bd. of Ed., 1983 S.L.D. , the Commissioner of Education approved the promulgation of policy guidelines by boards of education for the exercise of their discretion under N.J.S.A. 18A:30-6. According to Molina, such policy guidelines should be "clear and consistent . . . applicable to all persons in substantially similar circumstances;" any specific limitation, such as one limiting paid sick leave to once only during the course of any individual teacher's service, should be communicated to employees in advance "so they will know what to expect." But the policy guidelines before the Commissioner

in Molina made an exception for applications in "special cases," e.g., such as, if granted, would impose an intolerable financial burden on the school district or, if denied, would induce a premature return to employment, risking aggravation or new disability, by a teacher in need of income; or the loss of that teacher to other employment.

Molina approved but did not require policy guidelines for the award of extended paid sick leave by boards of education under N.J.S.A. 18A:30-6. No policy guidelines, written or otherwise, had been established by defendant Board on the appeal before us. A Board member testified that, in weighing application under N.J.S.A. 18A:30-6, he had given consideration to the applicant's length of service and imminence of his retirement. He had favored granting extended paid sick leave as "a bridge to retirement." The Deputy Superintendent of the school district agreed in his testimony that those two factors had been treated as significant by the Board on past applications, together with the details of the individual application, the nature of the sickness or injury and the number of extra days requested.

Thomas was a 19-year employee who suffered from a heart and a thyroid condition. He sought one additional week's paid sick leave at the end of the school year. He had also applied for a disability retirement. As a result of administrative oversight or confusion, no decision was rendered on his application for one week's ...


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