On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County.
Approved for Publication May 7, 1997.
Before Judges Long, Skillman and A.a. Rodriguez. The opinion of the court was delivered by Skillman, J.A.D.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Skillman
The opinion of the court was delivered by
This appeal involves the interpretation of N.J.S.A. 18A:28-6.1, which provides that when a school district discontinues a school and enters into an agreement to send its students to another district, the receiving district must offer employment to the tenured teachers in the discontinued school and preserve their basic employment rights including "seniority."
On December 19, 1992, the Board of Education of the Borough of Newfield (Newfield Board) entered into an agreement with the Board of Education of the Buena Regional School District (Buena Board), effective July 1, 1993, to expand their previous send-receiving relationship, which had covered grades seven through twelve, to include grades K through six. Paragraph five of this agreement provided in pertinent part:
All Sending District's teaching staff members who have tenure as of June 30, 1993 will be employed by Receiving District as required by N.J.S.A. 18A:28-6.1. All such transferred teaching staff will receive compensation and benefits based on the Receiving District's contractual agreements effective July 1, 1993.
Pursuant to this agreement, ten tenured elementary school teachers formerly employed by the Newfield Board became employed by the Buena Board.
Thereafter, the Buena Board entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Buena Regional Education Association (Buena Education Association) covering the period from July 1, 1993, to June 30, 1996. This agreement included a multi-step salary guide under which teachers were compensated in accordance with their years of service. The ten teachers who had transferred from the Newfield district were given full credit for their service in Newfield in determining their compensation under this salary guide.
The collective bargaining agreement also contained a "longevity" provision, which provided:
Employees shall receive an additional increment of $300.00 for 15 years, $600.00 for 20 years, $325.00 for 25 years, $325.00 for 30 years to be added to their salary at the completion of the fifteenth, twentieth, twenty-fifth and thirtieth years of service in the Buena Regional School District. During the 1994-95 and following school years, the amounts shall be $300.00 for 15 years, $700.00 for 20 years, $325.00 for 25 years and $325.00 for 30 years.
Although the Buena Board recognized the transferred teachers' service in the Newfield district for other purposes, it decided that only service in the Buena district would be counted in determining eligibility for additional compensation under this provision. The Buena Board applied this decision not only to the ten elementary school teachers transferred to the Buena district in 1993 but also to two upper grade teachers transferred in 1973 who had previously received such longevity payments based in part on service in the Newfield district.
The Buena Education Association grieved this decision and ultimately the dispute was submitted to arbitration. The arbitrator sustained the grievance, ruling that the transferred teachers "service in the Newfield School District shall be deemed years of service in Buena for the purpose of longevity under ... ...