On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Ocean County.
Brody, Gruccio and D'Annunzio. The opinion of the court was delivered by D'Annunzio, J.A.D. Gruccio, J.A.D., dissenting.
Lacey Township Education Association (Association) appeals from a May 4, 1990 Chancery Division judgment vacating an arbitration award because it "was procured by undue means within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 2A:24-8(a)." This ruling was based on the trial judge's finding that the award interfered with a management prerogative. We now reverse.
This litigation arises out of the observation and evaluation of a tenured teacher, Mary Ann Mutter, by an evaluator, Robert Ranta. Ranta observed Mutter in her English class on September 22, 1987. A post-observation conference between Ranta and Mutter was scheduled and held shortly thereafter.
Article XXI, c. 3 of the collective bargaining agreement provides:
A teacher shall be given a copy of any class visit or evaluation report prepared by his evaluators before any conference to discuss it. If a teacher or the administration, having received a copy of a class visit or evaluation report, wishes one or two days delay before conferring on the subject matter of the report, such limited delay shall be a matter of right. No such report shall be submitted to the central office, placed in the teacher's file or otherwise acted upon without prior conference with the teacher.
It is conceded that Mutter did not receive a copy of the evaluation report prior to her conference with Ranta. It also is conceded that the report did not exist when Mutter and Ranta conferred, but that it was prepared by Ranta after the conference.
The Association filed a grievance seeking to have Ms. Mutter "made whole." At level three of the grievance procedure the dispute was before the Board of Education (Board). The Board rejected those aspects of the grievance which attacked the substance of the report and the overall rating that Ms. Mutter
eventually received. Regarding the procedural aspects of the evaluation, the Board's decision stated that "the Administration is directed to comply in the future with the provision of Article XXI C3 of the contract." Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, the Association filed a demand for arbitration. The demand described the dispute as follows:
1. Changing from a satisfactory evaluation rating to an unsatisfactory rating.
2. Conference conducted prior to written report being distributed as ...