On appeal from the State Board of Education.
Brody, Gaynor and Baime. The opinion of the court was delivered by Brody, J.A.D.
Petitioners William Moore, Albert Clark, Arthur Molnar and Edward Kelly are teachers employed by appellant Board of Education of the Cape May County Vocational-Technical School District. Moore was hired in 1970, Clark in 1973, Molnar in 1980 and Kelly in 1981. Petitioners contend that, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:29-11, they are entitled to be placed on a higher step of the District's salary schedule because of their active military service before appellant hired them. Appellant contends that petitioners received their full military service credit at the time of hiring when it advanced them one step on its schedule for each two years of military service, the same credit appellant gave all new teachers for their prior teaching experience.
The Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education adopted the initial decision of an administrative law
judge (ALJ) who had determined that the statute requires appellant to advance each petitioner a full step, not to exceed four, for each year of military service. The ALJ ordered that the adjustment be made as of February 3, 1983, for Moore and Clark, the date petitioners filed their petitions, and as of July 1983 for Molnar and Kelly, the date they received their regular teaching certificates. Without further elaboration, the ALJ stated, "It has been established that veterans who served on active military duty . . . are eligible for military service credit under the statute."
In affirming, the State Board added only that petitioners "are entitled to receive equivalent years of employment credit as if employed as teachers during their time of military service for up to four years' service. Lavin v. Board of Education of the Borough of Hackensack, 90 N.J. 145." We remand for a calculation of the military service credit that may be due each petitioner in light of our interpretation of the relevant statutes.*fn1
N.J.S.A. 18A:29-11 provides that a full-time teaching staff member, except one who is the holder of only an emergency certificate,
shall be entitled to receive equivalent years of employment credit for [active military] service as if he had been employed for the same period of time in some publicly owned and operated college, school or institution of learning in this or any other state or territory of the United States, except that the period of such service shall not be credited toward more than four employment or adjustment increments.
For a local district that paid its teachers no more than the statutory minimum salary, the phrase "years of employment credit" in N.J.S.A. 18A:29-11 referred to advancement on the N.J.S.A. 18A:29-7 minimum salary schedule of one step for each year of employment. N.J.S.A. 18A:29-6 defined "year of employment," as used on that schedule, to mean
employment by a member for one academic year in any publicly owned and operated college, school or other institution of learning for one academic year in this or any other state or territory of the United States;
Thus a teacher who qualified for the military service credit was entitled to be advanced one step on the minimum salary schedule for each year of military service as if he or she had been employed ...