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Pugliese v. State-Operated School District of The City of Newark

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

April 27, 2018

FELICIA PUGLIESE, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
STATE-OPERATED SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF NEWARK, ESSEX COUNTY, Respondent-Respondent. EDGARD CHAVEZ, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
STATE-OPERATED SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF NEWARK, ESSEX COUNTY, Respondent-Respondent.

          Argued (A-3689-15)

          Submitted (A-5527-15) February 1, 2018

          On appeal from the Commissioner of Education, Agency Docket Nos. 194-7/15 and 206-8/15.

          Richard A. Friedman argued the cause for appellant in Docket No. A-3689-15 (Zazzali, Fagella, Nowak, Kleinbaum & Friedman, attorneys; Richard A. Friedman, of counsel and on the briefs; Kaitlyn E. Dunphy and Marissa A. McAleer, on the briefs).

          Brenda C. Liss argued the cause for respondent State-Operated School District of the City of Newark in Docket No. A-3689-15 (Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti, LLP, attorneys; Brenda C. Liss, of counsel and on the brief; Fiona E. Cousland, on the brief).

          Lauren A. Jensen, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent Commissioner of Education in Docket No. A-3689-15 (Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General, attorney; Lauren A. Jensen, on the statement in lieu of brief).

          Zazzali, Fagella, Nowak, Kleinbaum & Friedman, attorneys for appellant in Docket No. A-552 7-15 (Jason E. Sokolowski and Richard A. Friedman, of counsel and on the briefs; Kaitlyn E. Dunphy and Marissa A. McAleer, on the briefs).

          Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti, LLP, attorneys for respondent State-Operated School District of the City of Newark in Docket No. A-5527-15 (Brenda C. Liss, of counsel and on the brief; Fiona E. Cousland, on the brief).

          Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General, attorney for respondent New Jersey Commissioner of Education in Docket No. A-5527-15 (Lauren A. Jensen, Deputy Attorney General, on the statement in lieu of brief).

          Before Judges Simonelli, Haas and Rothstadt.

          ROTHSTADT, J.A.D.

         In Pugliese v. State-Operated School District of City of Newark, 44 0 N.J.Super. 501 (App. Div. 2 015), we vacated and remanded for reconsideration anew an arbitrator's award sustaining tenure charges against Felicia Pugliese and Edgard Chavez, appellants in the present matters.[1] In this appeal, we are asked to construe N.J.S.A. 18A:6-14 and determine what impact our decision to remand had on the suspended educators' entitlement to back pay while the remand was pending. The statute provides for an educator's suspension without pay for 120 days or until the issuance of a final determination of the disputed tenure charges, whichever is sooner. If the matter is not resolved within 120 days, compensation must resume until a determination is reached. For the reasons that follow, we hold that the entitlement to compensation continues under the statute despite the fact there has been an initial award terminating employment that was vacated and remanded, without a dismissal of the tenure charges.

         These are the facts that give rise to these appeals. In 2012, Pugliese and Chavez were tenured teachers, employed by respondent State Operated School District of the City of Newark (District), and were the subject of tenure charges filed by their schools' principals. The District certified the tenure charges and suspended both without pay, effective September 12, 2012. Arbitration hearings ensued and on February 6, 2013, an arbitrator issued a decision sustaining the tenure charges as to Chavez, which was followed by another arbitrator's decision sustaining the charges as to Pugliese on February 15, 2013.[2] The arbitrators terminated both teachers' employment with the District. On September 16, 2013, the Chancery Division confirmed the arbitration awards.

         We reversed, vacating the arbitrators' awards and remanding both matters to the Commissioner to either decide certain legal defenses or delegate their determination to the arbitrators with instructions as to the proper "legal standards to [be] utilize[d], after which the arbitrators [were to] review the facts anew within this legal framework." Pugliese, ...


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