A-3515-06T1: On appeal from the Public Employment Relations Commission, Docket No. SN-2007-016. A-3138-07T1: On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Docket No. L-4867-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Sabatino and Simonelli.
In these back-to-back appeals, petitioner Board of Education of the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District (Board) appeals from the denial by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) of its request to restrain binding arbitration of a grievance filed by respondent ManalapanEnglishtown Education Association (Association) on behalf of a reinstated teacher, Charlotte Klumb (Klumb), who returned to work following an ordinary disability retirement. The Board contests Klumb's placement on the master's degree salary guide. The Board also appeals from the February 19, 2008 Law Division order denying its application to vacate the arbitration award and confirming the award. We affirm.
We summarize the facts relevant to our review from the record and from our Supreme Court's opinion in the related litigation in Klumb v. Board of Educ., 199 N.J. 14 (2009). Klumb was a elementary school teacher in the school district from 1968 to 1986. From October 1985 to June 1987, she had several approved leaves of absence in order to obtain treatment for alcoholism and mental health issues. Id. at 20.
On February 4, 1988, the Board filed tenure charges against Klumb for "incapacity, excessive absenteeism and insubordination." In April 1988, Klumb applied for and was granted an ordinary disability pension by the Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund ("TPAF"). The Board then amended Klumb's status to "voluntary sick leave disability" and abandoned the tenure charges. Ibid.
In May 1994, Klumb requested reinstatement. The TPAF denied the request. In 1998, the TPAF reconsidered its decision after concluding that Klumb's disability had "disappeared or substantially diminished to the point that she [could] resume her former teaching duties without restriction." The TPAF ordered that Board to reinstate Klumb. The Board objected and requested a hearing before the Office of Administrative Law. Notwithstanding such request, the Board subsequently interviewed Klumb but did not hire her. Id. at 20-21.
On April 29, 2002, Klumb filed a complaint in the Law Division, seeking reinstatement. By order, entered April 29, 2003, Judge Gilroy transferred the matter to the Commissioner of Education (Commissioner) "pursuant to Rule 1:13-4 for a determination of the issues in dispute." A hearing was subsequently held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who decided in the Board's favor. On June 16, 2005, the Commissioner rendered a decision rejecting the ALJ's decision and ordering Klumb reinstated to her tenured teaching position as of March 1, 1999, "with all emoluments and back pay to which she is entitled[.]" Klumb, supra, 199 N.J. at 21. The Commissioner did not determine the amount of back pay to which Klumb was entitled, nor did he address Klumb's salary or her placement on the teacher's salary guide.
The Board appealed the Commissioner's decision to the State Board of Education (State Board). In the interim, the Board rehired Klumb for the 2005-2006 school year as a seventh-grade study skills language arts teacher. The Board placed Klumb on step 6 of the master's degree salary guide at a salary of $46,800, which is the salary level she would have attained on March 1, 1999, with no credit for her prior teaching experience with the Board.
Klumb has a masters degree in education, she is certified to teach kindergarten through eighth grade, and she is certified as an elementary supervisor and principal. Prior to her disability retirement, she had reached the top step (step 16) of the master's degree salary guide. She maintained that she was entitled to placement on the top step of the master's degree salary guide, with a salary of $79,365, based on her eighteen years of teaching experience with the Board and on the seven years between 1999 and 2005, when the Board failed to hire her.
On January 4, 2006, the State Board affirmed the Commissioner's decision to reinstate Klumb with back pay. On February 17, 2006, the Board filed an appeal with the Appellate Division.
On April 27, 2006, Klumb filed a supplement to her Law Division complaint, seeking back pay from March 1, 1999 to the date of her rehire, and a salary in accordance with the master's degree salary guide. On August 4, 2006, Judge English stayed the action pending resolution of the Board's appeal of the State Board's decision. The Board then filed an appeal from the August 4, 2006 order.
In June 2006, on Klumb's behalf, the Association filed a grievance over Klumb's placement on the mater's degree salary guide. On August 24, 2006, the Association filed a demand for binding arbitration of the grievance, alleging that the Board placed Klumb on an improper step on the salary guide for the 2005-2006 and the 2006-2007 school ...