On appeal from the State Board of Education.
King, O'Brien and Simpson. The opinion of the court was delivered by O'Brien, J.A.D.
[210 NJSuper Page 151] Petitioner appeals from a decision of the State Board of Education (State Board) dismissing his petition as time barred
pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6:24-1.2. We reverse and remand for a hearing on the merits of the petition.
Petitioner was first employed by the Board of Education of the City of Trenton (Board) on March 17, 1980 as a learning disability teacher consultant (LDTC). At that time he was placed at step 11 of the learning consultants' salary guide. For the following school year, 1980-1981, petitioner was placed at step 12 of the salary guide. On the merits of the controversy, the Board contends that for the 1980-1981 school year petitioner should have remained at step 11 of the salary guide pursuant to the negotiated bargaining agreement between the Board and the Education Association representing petitioner. That agreement provided:
Each teacher shall be placed on his proper step of the salary schedule as of the beginning of the school year for the duration of this contract. Any teacher employed prior to February 1st of any school year shall be given full credit for one (1) year of service toward the next increment step for the following year.
Since petitioner was hired after February 1, 1980, the Board contends he should have remained at step 11 of the salary guide for the school year 1980-1981. Notwithstanding this alleged mistake, petitioner was placed at step 13 for the 1981-1982 school year, and step 14 for the 1982-1983 school year. Each year he was paid in accordance with the salary guide for the step in which he had been placed.
On May 20, 1983, petitioner accepted a contract offered by the Board for the 1983-1984 school year, at an annual salary of $27,227 which corresponded to step 15 of the guide. The agreement noted that the salary was to be adjusted upon ratification of a new bargaining agreement. Beginning on September 1, 1983, petitioner was employed at step 15 of the original guide and paid the salary corresponding to that step. A new negotiated bargaining agreement between the Board and the Education Association was adopted by the Board on October 4, 1983. Upon adoption of the new agreement, petitioner was reduced from step 15 to step 14 and began receiving
the salary corresponding to that step under the new guide, i.e., $27,751. The new salary for step 15 was $28,569.
The first check paid to petitioner at the reduced step on the salary guide was received on November 9, 1983. Petitioner immediately complained to the personnel and business office. On December 16, 1983, petitioner's attorney informed the New Jersey Education Association of petitioner's circumstance, with a copy of the letter sent to the Board.
On January 30, 1984, petitioner sent a letter to an assistant superintendent-business administrator of the Board which reads as follows:
I have sought legal counsel and have been apprised by Mr. Richard A. Friedman, Attorney-at-law, that the Board of Education cannot ...