On Appeal from New Jersey State Board of Education.
Furman, Cohen and Ashbey. The opinion of the court was delivered by Ashbey, J.s.c. (temporarily assigned).
[209 NJSuper Page 116] This is an appeal from the final decision of the State Board of Education (State Board) affirming the decision of the Commissioner of Education (Commissioner) which adopted the findings of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The State Board ruled against petitioner. Petitioner appeals and we affirm.
Petitioner is the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Education Association.*fn1 Respondent is the local board of education. Petitioner initiated this proceeding by appealing certain of respondent's decisions to the Commissioner. Respondent did not file an answer and petitioner filed a motion for default. In response to the motion the commissioner transmitted the matter to the Office of Administrative Law as a contested case.
The initial proceeding involved several issues, all but one of which have been settled. The sole question remaining is validity of the determination of the State Board that respondent had the managerial prerogative to select and assign band directors to duties on Saturdays and Sundays. The parties are agreed that the answer to this question depends upon whether, for purposes of the applicability of N.J.S.A. 18A:25-3, Saturdays and Sundays are public holidays.*fn2
Prior to the 1982-1983 school year the positions of band director and assistant band director in respondent's schools were filled by volunteers.*fn3 Beginning with the 1982-1983 school year respondent assigned staff to these positions and directed them to perform their duties on weekends. The ALJ found that the purpose of this assignment was to instruct students in connection with the band's performance, primarily at school sports events.
Petitioner, relying upon N.J.S.A. 18A:25-3, which states "[n]o teaching staff member shall be required to perform his duties on any day declared by law to be a public holiday. . . .", argued
that the band director could not be so assigned because Saturdays and Sundays were public holidays. The Commissioner decided otherwise, relying upon the language of N.J.S.A. 36:1-1, and N.J.S.A. 36:1-1.1.
N.J.S.A. 36:1-1 is the general statute enumerating public holidays. It first sets forth individual days, Labor Day, etc. to "be treated and considered as the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, and as public holidays." The statute further says "every Saturday shall, until 12 o'clock noon, be deemed a secular or business day, except . . . Saturdays shall be considered as the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, and public holidays, for all purposes whatsoever as regards the transaction of business in the public offices of this State, or counties of this State. . . ." N.J.S.A. 36:1-1.1 provides as follows:
Each Saturday in each year shall, for all purposes whatsoever as regards the transaction of business in the public offices of this State, and the counties and municipalities in this State, be considered as the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, and as public holidays.
The Commissioner's reasoning in relying upon these statutes to support his conclusion is not fully articulated. The State Board affirmed on the basis of that reasoning. We are duty bound nonetheless to affirm its determination unless its decision was arbitrary or violates legislative policies expressed or implied in the statutory scheme administered by the agency. Dore v. Bedminster Tp. Bd. of Ed., 185 N.J. Super. 447, 453 (App.Div.1979).
As in all similar educational decisions the State Board's action must be examined in the light of the legislative purpose of both the education law and the public employment law. The New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act, N.J.S.A. 34:13A-1 et seq., placed the "terms and conditions" of teaching as public employment subject to collective bargaining. The Supreme Court has ruled that ...