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Helen Cheloc v. Board of Education of the City of Elizabeth

October 3, 2012

HELEN CHELOC, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF ELIZABETH, UNION COUNTY, RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Education, Docket No. 33-09/06.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 19, 2012

Before Judges Reisner and Harris.

Appellant Helen Cheloc appeals from the Acting Commissioner of Education's November 23, 2011 order finding that: (1) Cheloc "failed to sustain her burden of establishing that she accrued tenure rights" and (2) "the [Board of Education of the City of Elizabeth (the BOE)]'s removal of [Cheloc] from her Director of Administration position in June 2006 did not violate any tenure rights, as she never possessed such protection." We affirm.

I.

A.

We derive the following facts from the hearings conducted by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The only witnesses to testify were Cheloc and two BOE employees who worked with her.

Cheloc, previously a teacher and parochial school principal, was initially employed by the BOE in December 1985 with the job title "Assistant Secretary/Director of Administration." She testified that she was certified in 1989 as a "school business administrator."*fn1 In 1995, as part of a systemic restructuring, the BOE changed Cheloc's job title to Director of Administration only.*fn2 According to the BOE job description for the Director of Administration, it did not require a school business administrator endorsement, only a bachelor's degree and experience in educational administration or business administration. In her role as Director of Administration, Cheloc reported to the newly-created position of Comptroller, and the Comptroller, in turn, reported to the BOE Business Administrator.

Cheloc testified that during the hiring process in 1985, she was informed that she was applying for a tenured position. She also submitted that the April 12, 1984 BOE minutes listed her predecessor as having been tenured. Finally, she asserted that various BOE documents state that she had attained tenure by the end of 1988, including her computerized personnel record indicating: "TENURED DATE: 12/04/1988."

In her initial position, Cheloc supervised a number of departments: accounts payable, accounts receivable, accounting, purchasing, finance, insurance, and worker's compensation. She assumed responsibility over the worker's compensation department in 1988. She testified that she had been told by the Business Administrator that worker's compensation work required the school business administrator endorsement and she learned in her coursework that "it's part of the 18A statute that insurance and risk management is the absolute responsibility of the business administrator, that only a certificated person in New Jersey Administrative Code Title [Six] can perform this duty."

In 1995, when Cheloc's title was truncated to Director of Administration, many of her former supervisory duties were transferred to the newly-created Comptroller position. Instead of managing several departments, Cheloc came to supervise worker's compensation and insurance activities, in addition to the added areas of fixed-asset inventory and reproduction. Eighty percent of her time was now devoted to insurance, risk management, and worker's compensation. A former BOE Business Administrator supposedly told Cheloc that the Director of Administration position was tenurable, and Cheloc claimed that she performed her job with the understanding that she was a tenured employee of the BOE.

On April 24, 2006, the Comptroller sent a letter to the BOE Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, recommending, among other things, the elimination of the position of Director of Administration. On June 19, 2006, that Assistant Superintendent, Aida C. Garcia, informed Cheloc in person, by handing her a letter, that she was being placed on paid administrative leave effective June 20, 2006, "pending a recommendation for the abolishment of [her] position." Cheloc was informed that she was "not allowed on any school or Board of Education property while on administrative leave," except "to return to [her] office in order to retrieve any personal effects [she] may have at that location." On June 21, 2006, the Acting Superintendent of Schools issued a memorandum listing "non-tenured personnel" slated for non-renewal of contracts for the 2006-07 school year "due to poor ...


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