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Elizabeth Education Association v. Elizabeth Board of Education

June 5, 2012

ELIZABETH EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ELIZABETH BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Docket No. L-3861-10.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued: January 25, 2012

Before Judges Cuff and Waugh.

Plaintiff Elizabeth Education Association (EEA) served a request on defendant Elizabeth Board of Education (Board) pursuant to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 to -12, seeking the names of teachers reemployed for the 2010-11 school year, the certifications issued by the Department of Education for each reemployed teacher, and the employment history in the district for each teacher. Defendant appeals from an order providing plaintiff with access to certain information existing as of June 18, 2010. We affirm.

During Spring 2010, defendant Board announced a major reduction in force that included elimination of tenured teaching positions. On June 18, 2010, the President of plaintiff EEA made an OPRA request for the following:

Names of teachers who were reemployed for the 2010-2011 school year, their certifications issued by the New Jersey Board of Examiners and their employment histories in the district. The employment histories shall include their assignments and their dates of absences indicating whether paid or unpaid.

By letter dated June 28, 2010, the School Business Administrator denied the request. He explained that the Board "does not maintain an information report or retrievable records with the names of teachers who were reemployed for the 2010-11 school year, their certifications issued by the New Jersey Board of Examiners and their employment histories in the district . . . ." He also explained that the Board was not required to maintain these reports; therefore, he denied the request. On October 1, 2010, EEA filed a verified complaint and order to show cause seeking access to the requested public records.

In response to the order to show cause, the Board submitted a certification explaining that the Board does not maintain the requested information in a retrievable report. The Board asserted a response to this request would impose a substantial burden on the Board because staff would have to review individual records to assemble the information. Furthermore, the Board asserted that as the bargaining representative for the teachers, the EEA had the information regarding employed teachers and work histories in its database and could obtain certification information from the Department of Education or its members.

Before the return date, the Board provided a list of teachers reemployed as of September 2011 but did not provide any records of certifications or work histories. The EEA responded that the list was inaccurate and did not satisfy the initial request.

On March 30, 2011, Judge William Daniel entered an order requiring the Board to comply with the June 18, 2010 OPRA request by providing the EEA [w]ith access to the following information existing as of June 18, 2010:

Names of teachers reemployed for the 2010-2011 school year.

Their certifications issued by the New Jersey Board of Examiners.

Their employment information to the extent allowable by ...


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