Before Judges Stern, Kestin and Steinberg.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kestin, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
On appeal from the Public Employment Relations Commission.
The Jackson Township Board of Education (Board) appeals from a scope of negotiations determination by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) which declared as arbitrable a grievance filed by the Jackson Education Association (JEA) on behalf of James Scelba. We affirm.
At the time of the events at issue, Scelba had been employed as a teacher in the Jackson School District for about twenty-five years. He had served as coach and head coach of the high school golf team for nearly twenty of those years. On June 2, 1998, Ralph Carretta, the Director of Athletics, informed Scelba that his separate contract for the extracurricular coaching position would not be renewed for the following school year.
At Scelba's request, Carretta confirmed this communication in writing with the reasons for his decision. In a memorandum dated June 15, Carretta stated that Scelba had "not been offered the Varsity Head Golf Coach for not reaching your goals of 1997 ... as set out in your 1997 evaluation." Those goals were:
1. Mr. Scelba should have "get togethers" at least 1 or 2 nights a week during the summer.
2. Start middle school golf "clubs".
3. Sign students up for adult school golf clinics.
4. Run golf tournament for fundraiser.
Subsequently, the Superintendent of Schools sent the Board a memorandum stating his reasons for declining to recommend a renewal of Scelba's coaching contract. By memorandum dated July 17, the Superintendent advised Scelba that the Superintendent's determination was based upon Scelba's "failure to achieve the goals set for you by ... Carretta ... over the past three years." Scelba requested a Donaldson *fn1 "hearing", and appeared before the Board with JEA representatives and others. After considering statements made and documents submitted in support of Scelba's reappointment, the Board determined to follow the Superintendent's recommendation and appointed another staff member to the coaching position.
On Scelba's behalf, the JEA invoked the grievance procedure in its contract with the Board, contending that the "disciplinary removal" of Scelba from the coaching position violated several enumerated provisions of the contract. The grievance was denied at the first three, local, steps. The JEA then filed a request with PERC that the matter be submitted to arbitration, the final step of the contractual grievance procedure.
At about the same time, a petition was filed with the Commissioner of Education, seeking Selba's reinstatement as golf coach on the ground that the Board had failed to provide the written notice and statement of reasons required by law. At the time the briefs in this appeal were filed that matter was still pending.
In response to the JEA's request for arbitration, the Board filed a scope-of-negotiations petition with PERC, seeking to restrain the arbitration on the ground that N.J.S.A. 18A:27-4.1, enacted in 1995, had placed disputes ...