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Margaret Goode v. the City of Camden Board of Education

May 6, 2011

MARGARET GOODE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT, AND TYRONE RICHARDS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS AN EMPLOYEE OF DEFENDANT BOARD OF EDUCATION; JANICE TAYLOR, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS AN EMPLOYEE OF DEFENDANT BOARD OF EDUCATION; PATRICIA COOK, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS AN EMPLOYEE OF DEFENDANT BOARD OF EDUCATION; AND CAMDEN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION,
DEFENDANTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Docket No. L-1788-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 13, 2011

Before Judges Lihotz and J. N. Harris.

Plaintiff Margaret Goode appeals from the summary judgment dismissal of her complaint against defendant the City of Camden Board of Education*fn1 alleging violations of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), N.J.S.A. 34:19-1 to -8, because it was filed more than one year beyond the actionable event as required by N.J.S.A. 34:19-5. We affirm.

Plaintiff was hired by defendant as a science teacher for the 1990-1991 school year. She achieved tenure during the 1993-1994 school year. Plaintiff continues her employment with defendant.

The CEPA action stems from a transfer and change of job assignment. In September 2006, plaintiff voluntarily accepted a transfer she initiated to a district middle school and was initially told she would be teaching sixth grade science. Shortly after the start of the school year, plaintiff was advised the teaching position was assigned to a different teacher and she would be employed as a "science support" teacher. Plaintiff objected to this reassignment, but "was forced to accept the new position."

Plaintiff requested assistance from the Camden Education Association. A meeting with her principal Tyrone Richards was arranged. In this meeting, plaintiff learned her role was not instructional and that if she stayed at the school there were no available teaching positions. Dissatisfied, plaintiff contacted the district science supervisor Paul Mulle, who agreed to investigate and get back to her.

In October 2006, plaintiff's role again changed. In addition to assigning her as a science support teacher, Richards began utilizing her as an in-house substitute; plaintiff was required to report and provide coverage to any classroom if an assigned teacher was not available, despite her unfamiliarity with the classroom subject matter.

On February 16, 2007, Richards advised plaintiff she was being transferred to Coopers Poynt Elementary School. Plaintiff objected to the involuntary transfer but was ordered to report to her new assignment on February 20, 2007. Upon arrival at Coopers Poynt Elementary School, the principal Sandra Sims-Foster informed plaintiff there were no science positions available in the school. Sims-Foster stated she was not informed as to why plaintiff was transferred as she did not request or need additional teaching staff. She suggested that plaintiff report to the District Human Resource Office.

Plaintiff did as instructed. During the meeting, the director, Garnell Bailey, misstated plaintiff's qualifications and eligibility to teach middle school science and that her transfer to Coopers Poynt Elementary School was voluntary. The following day, Bailey advised plaintiff would be transferred to Powell Elementary School. After one day of performing non-teaching assignments, plaintiff was told by Powell's principal she had no open teaching positions, but asked whether plaintiff would teach the individual students science to free up the classroom teachers for alternative tasks. Plaintiff objected to this role but nevertheless assumed it for a short period. She then was asked to act as an in-house substitute in a special education classroom, which she performed until January 16, 2008.

Plaintiff wrote to Mulle, challenging her "illegal transfer to Coopers Po[y]nt [Elementary] School." Plaintiff was transferred to another district middle school in 2008, working as an in-house substitute for the remainder of the 2007-2008 school year. Starting in September 2008, plaintiff was ultimately assigned as a science teacher at Cream School, where she remains.

Through this turbulent period, plaintiff never suffered a loss of pay or benefits. With each transfer her salary, benefits and tenure remained unchanged.

Plaintiff's CEPA complaint was filed on April 14, 2008, alleging an adverse employment action by being transferred to Coopers Poynt Elementary School on February 16, 2007 and the ...


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