On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Monmouth County, Docket No. C-171-11.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Nugent and Carchman.
Defendant Holmdel Township Education Association (HTEA) appeals from an order of the Chancery Division staying an arbitration filed on behalf of its member, William Cullen. HTEA sought to arbitrate Cullen's grievance against plaintiff Holmdel Township Board of Education (the Board), which resulted from the Board's decision not to renew Cullen's contract. The trial judge concluded that the non-renewal of Cullen's contract was not subject to the grievance procedure outlined in the contract between the parties (the HTEA contract) and stayed the arbitration. She also dismissed HTEA's counterclaim seeking arbitration. We affirm.
The facts are not in significant dispute. Cullen was employed by the Board in the area of technology support. He did not have a certified position; he was ineligible for tenure. Cullen and all other technology support personnel were hired annually, and their contracts were subject to annual renewal.
On April 28, 2011, Barbara Duncan, Superintendent of Schools, advised Cullen that his contract would not be renewed for the 2011-2012 school year. His employment was not terminated during either the 2010-2011 school year or the contract year, and he was compensated through June 30, 2011, pursuant to his contract.
HTEA challenged the action of the Superintendent of Schools and filed a grievance, claiming said action was "without just cause."
HTEA was advised on May 5, 2011 that, pursuant to the terms of the HTEA contract, it could not grieve a non-renewal. The Public Employment Relations Commission refused to enjoin arbitration. Subsequently, the Board filed an action in the Superior Court to enjoin arbitration.
Several provisions of the HTEA contract are relevant to the parties' dispute. Article 6, Section K of the contract provides:
K. Employees will be provided the right to grieve under the "just cause" provision for any disciplinary action taken by the District against the employee. This grievance/just cause contractual application shall not apply to any non-renewals for any members.
Members assigned to this category shall serve a sixty (60) day probation period which shall be credited upon completion for all benefits and seniority purposes. Any member who serves satisfactorily beyond this probationary period and is terminated shall be subject to the just cause provision contained within this contract pursuant to Article-3 grievance.
In addition, HTEA references Article 42, which provides: "Employees['] seniority/job shall be deemed lost for the ...