On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County and Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Gloucester County.
Before Judges Pressler, Wallace and Carchman.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carchman, J.s.c, (temporarily assigned).
These two appeals, which were consolidated for purposes of this opinion, require us to address the issue of whether, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:28-6.1, teachers "received" by a new school district as a result of the discontinuance of school activities by a "sending" district are entitled to reimbursement for unused sick time consistent with the same benefit received by the teachers in the "receiving" district. In both cases, the trial Judges determined the answer in the negative and denied such benefits. Subsequent to the trial court decisions in these cases, we decided In re Arbitration between Bd. of Educ. of Buena Reg. School Dist. v. Buena Reg. Educ. Assoc., 300 N.J. Super. 415 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 151 N.J. 466 (1997) (In re Arbitration). We conclude that extending our holding in In re Arbitration to the facts of this case entitles the teachers to such benefits and, accordingly, we reverse.
The underlying facts in both appeals are not in dispute.The Board of Education of the Buena Regional School District (BRSD) is a regional school district comprised of the Borough of Buena and Buena Vista Township in Atlantic County. In December 1992, BRSD entered into a Sending/Receiving Agreement (S/R Agreement) with the Borough of Newfield School District (Newfield), by which, beginning in September 1993, Newfield effectively closed its schools and sent its kindergarten through sixth grade students to BRSD. The S/R Agreement specifically provided in Paragraph 5 that the receiving district (BRSD) would provide the sending district's (Newfield) tenured teachers with the benefits mandated 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.
Ten tenured Newfield teachers were reassigned to BRSD pursuant to the regionalization S/R Agreement and began teaching in the BRSD in September 1993. All three appellants, Marion Alford, Mary Frances Giglio and Marianne Sooy, were among the tenured teachers reassigned to BRSD by the December 1992 S/R Agreement. All three had previously taught in Newfield for over twenty years each.
The Buena Regional Collective Bargaining Agreement (Collective Bargaining Agreement) had been in effect prior to the execution date of the S/R Agreement and was renewed on July 1, 1993, after the September, 1993 S/R Agreement effective date. Article IX of the renewed Collective Bargaining Agreement provides for reimbursement of unused sick leave for certain teachers:
9.1 - Sick Leave. Each employee shall be entitled to 10 cumulative days per school year for sick leave under N.J.S.A. 18A:30-1 et seq.
9.2.1. - After 15 years of continuous service with this district, an employee who ceases his employment for any reason (except termination for just cause by the Board), shall be entitled to payment for unused sick leave accumulated during employment in this school district according to the formula below. Sick leave accumulated with and/or carried over from other school districts shall not be eligible for payment.
9.2.2 - The words "continuous service" shall mean employment by this school district for 15 or more successive full school years (a full school year shall mean 90 days or more of employment during an academic year); continuity shall not be interrupted by approved leaves of absence or by military service, but such leaves and military service shall not be counted toward achieving the 15 full years required.
9.2.3 - The payment shall be calculated by use of the following formula: 25% X current annual salary X 1/200 X accumulated sick days. For 12- month employees, the fraction shall be 1/240 instead of 1/200. "Current annual salary" shall mean the annual salary in effect for employee on employee's last day of teaching after 90 teaching days during the last academic year with this school district. Accumulated sick days shall not exceed 10 days per year as currently provided by law, notwithstanding any future increase in sick days granted by law. Accumulated sick days shall be calculated as the unused sick days which accumulated after 90 teaching days during the last academic year of employment. Notification to Board for payment must be given by February 1 of the year prior to ceasing employment. If no notification is given the teacher will collect the following year. Employee may choose to receive payment in two installments across tax years. If the employee dies before payment, the money will go to the estate.
Alford, Giglio and Sooy claim that they are entitled to sick-leave reimbursement benefits under the BRDS ...