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Perri v. Board of Education of the Township of Belleville

October 7, 2009

DEBORAH PERRI, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE TOWNSHIP OF BELLEVILLE, ESSEX COUNTY, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from a Final Agency Decision of the Commissioner of Education, Docket No. 416-11/06.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 15, 2009

Before Judges Parrillo and Ashrafi.

Appellant Deborah Perri appeals from a September 10, 2008 final decision of the Commissioner of Education (Commissioner) dismissing her petition and concluding that appellant had not acquired tenure in the position of Director of Student Services and did not possess the requisite certification for the position of Supervisor of Pupil Personnel Services, to which she had been reassigned. We affirm.

The facts are essentially not in dispute. Perri has been employed by the Township of Belleville Board of Education (Board) since 1977, first as a physical and health education teacher and then from 1988 through the 1997-98 school year as a substance awareness coordinator. On November 18, 1997, application was made on Perri's behalf to the New Jersey Department of Education (Department) for a Director of Student Personnel Services endorsement, the predecessor to the Director of School Counseling endorsement. One of the functions of the Director of Student Personnel Services position was the district-wide supervision of guidance counselors. In December 1997, the Department responded to Perri, listing the following requirements she needed to fulfill to be eligible for a Director of Student Personnel Services endorsement:

(1) a regular New Jersey Student Personnel Services endorsement;

(2) official evidence of three years successful experience in school personnel work;

(3) eighteen additional semester hour credits in guidance.

All agree that to date, Perri has not satisfied these requirements.

On July 27, 1998, the Board approved a job description under the title of Director of Student Services, a title unrecognized by the Department. One of the responsibilities detailed was the supervision of all the district's guidance counselors. Among other listed qualifications for the position was a "Principal or Administrator's Certification." By letter of September 1, 1998, the Board's acting Superintendent of Schools, Joseph Ciccone, notified Perri of her appointment to the Director of Student Services position. At the time of her appointment, Perri held a Principal/Supervisor endorsement. She did not then, and never has, held a Director of Student Personnel Services endorsement or a Director of School Counseling endorsement.*fn1

At the time of the creation of the unrecognized position, the Board also employed Dr. Richard Benninger as Director of Pupil Personnel Services, an approved position. For a few months, both Perri and Dr. Benninger were responsible for district-wide supervision of guidance counselors. Soon after, Dr. Benninger retired, and was not replaced. Perri continued to supervise guidance counselors district-wide and continued in the position until October 16, 2006.

In September 2006, the Essex County Superintendent of Schools, Anthony Marino, advised Dr. Edward Kliszus, the Board's Superintendent of Schools, that the Director of Student Services was an unauthorized title that would not be recognized by the Department. Kliszus was further advised that as the responsibilities of the Director of Student Services position included supervision of the Guidance Department, the Department would not approve the use of the title. The required certificates for an individual with district-wide supervisory responsibility of the Guidance Department are Director of Student Personnel Services or Director of School Counseling Services, both of which would allow the use of a recognized title, but neither of which Perri held.

As directed, the Board abolished the Director of Student Services position and, as of October 17, 2006, employed Perri as Supervisor of Pupil Personnel Services/Guidance, a title in which Perri was thought qualified to serve by virtue of her current certifications of principal/supervisor/school administrator, despite the fact that the duties of the newly created supervisor position were identical to the duties she had performed as a Director. Her compensation for the position was calculated in ...


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