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KADETSKY v. EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP BOARD OF EDUC.

September 10, 2001

MARK C. KADETSKY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP BOARD OF EDUCATION, HOWARD MINNICHBACH, BOARD MEMBER, RALPH A. RIDOLFINO, PRINCIPAL, EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL, DR. JEAN LEVINE, DEPARTMENT HEAD, JOINTLY, SEVERALLY, AND IN THE ALTERNATIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Orlofsky, District Judge:

      OPINION

This hotly contested employment dispute raises the question of whether the continuous acrimony between a public high school teacher and his supervisors rises to the level of a violation of the teacher's constitutional and federal statutory rights. While I acknowledge that the events that are the subject of this lawsuit have vexed all parties involved, after consideration of the summary judgment record, I conclude that Plaintiff's claims do not constitute violations of the Constitution of the United States or federal law.

Plaintiff, Mark Kadetsky, a tenured high school band director at Egg Harbor Township High School, brought this federal action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983*fn1, alleging that the actions of the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education and several of its employees constituted retaliatory conduct in violation of Kadetsky's First Amendment rights of free speech and petition and his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process. Plaintiff also alleged pendant state claims under the New Jersey State Constitution, New Jersey's Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), and common law claims of defamation.

I previously concluded in this case that Plaintiff had failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted on his CEPA and federal due process claims. See Kadetsky v. Egg Harbor Township Board of Education, 82 F. Supp.2d 327, 338, 340 (D.N.J. 2000) ("Kadetsky I").

Defendants now move for Summary Judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, on Plaintiff's remaining claims; specifically, violations of his First Amendment rights to petition and free speech under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violation of his right to due process under the New Jersey Constitution, and common law claims of defamation. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)*fn2 and 1367(a)*fn3.

For the reasons set forth below, I shall grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's federal law claims and decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining pendant state claims. Accordingly, Plaintiff's state law claims shall be dismissed without prejudice to his right to pursue such claims in state court. I intimate no opinion as to the merits of Kadetsky's state law claims.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are many and were set out in Kadetsky and will not be repeated here. For purposes of this opinion, a brief summary will suffice.

Kadetsky became the band director at Egg Harbor Township High School in the 1995-96 school year. His employment contract was renewed in successive years until 1998, the year when Kadetsky was slated to receive tenure. See Complaint at ¶¶ 10, 11. Kadetsky contends that beginning in January, 1998, the Principal of Egg Harbor Township High School, Ralph A. Ridolfino ("Ridolfino"), and Kadetsky's immediate superior, Music Department Head, Dr. Jean Levine ("Levine"), set out to create a false record of poor work performance in order to prevent Kadetsky from obtaining tenure. Id. at ¶ 12.

On February 25, 1998, Kadetsky took an "emergency personal day" to meet with his union representative to discuss the allegedly false records that Levine and Ridolfino were putting into his personnel file. As a result, Ridolfino sent a letter accusing Kadetsky of insubordination for taking a personal day without permission. Id. at ¶ 14.

On or about March 9, 1998, Kadetsky filed a formal grievance with the Teacher's Association to have this letter removed from his personnel file. Id. at ¶ 15. Kadetsky also sent a handwritten note to the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Leonard Kelpsh ("Kelpsh"), requesting his assistance in dealing with the problems he was encountering with his supervisor, Levine. Id. at ¶ 16.

Kadetsky alleges that in retaliation for filing the grievance and for his written appeal to Kelpsh, Ridolfino and Levine "engineered" a complaint from the parents of one of Kadetsky's band students. The complaint centered around Kadetsky's behavior toward a student on a school trip. Id. at ¶ 17.

Kadetsky further alleges that in retaliation for a report he filed concerning Ridolfino's improper behavior on school trips, lodged in May of 1996, Ridolfino and Levine retaliated by accusing Kadetsky of insubordination and failure to follow administrative procedures. Id. at ¶¶ 26, 30E.

In April, 1998, Kadetsky was informed that he would not receive a contract of employment for the 1998-99 school year. Id. at ¶¶ 18, 30G. Kadetsky sought a hearing before the Egg Harbor Board of Education regarding the issues affecting his bid for tenure and the complaints made about him by Ridolfino and Levine. Id. at ¶ 32. As a result of the Board's investigation, Kadetsky's personnel file was purged, Levine was removed from her position as Kadetsky's supervisor and appointed to a basic skills and elementary school music position, and Kadetsky was granted tenure after receiving a contract of employment for the 1998-99 school year. Id. at ¶ 33.

II. THE LEGAL STANDARD GOVERNING A MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

"On a motion for summary judgment, the court must determine whether the evidence shows that `there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Abraham v. Raso, 183 F.3d 279, 287 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). "Any factual dispute invoked by the nonmoving party to resist summary judgment must be both material in the sense of bearing on an essential element of the plaintiff's claim and genuine in the sense that a reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party." Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-251 (1986)). "In opposing summary judgment, a party `must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts,' Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), but a court should not prevent a case from reaching a jury simply because the court favors one of several reasonable views of the evidence." Abraham, 183 F.3d at 287. "[T]he judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; see also Abraham, 183 F.3d at 287. "Thus, while the nonmoving party must present enough evidence to demonstrate a dispute is genuine, all inferences ...


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