A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Appellate Division Rules School Boards Must Notify Tenured Teachers of Job Consequences Prior to Voluntary Transfer to Part-Time Positions

By: Becky Batista, Law Clerk

Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq.

On June 6, 2022, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued a published decision in Parsells v. Board of Education of Somerville in which it decided that school boards have a duty to notify full-time teachers, in advance, of adverse job consequences before they are appointed to part-time teaching positions, even when the teacher voluntarily seeks the part-time position. In reaching this decision, the Appellate Division reviewed the holding of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association v. Board of Education of Bridgewater-Raritan School District.

This case concerned a tenured, full-time teacher, who requested a voluntary transfer to a part-time teaching position with health benefits for the 2016-17 school year. The Board approved her request. The teacher discussed her work status with the District for the 2018-2019 school year, at which time the District informed her that she had no automatic entitlement to a full-time teaching position and that she relinquished her rights when she applied for and accepted the part-time teaching position. The District required her to apply and interview for a full-time teaching position; ultimately the District did not select her for a full-time teaching position. She appealed to the Commissioner, arguing that the Board denied her tenure rights and that she had not voluntarily relinquished her tenure rights by accepting a part-time position.

An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found in favor of the Board, concluding that the teacher had voluntarily stepped down from her full-time teaching position and as such had no right to return to it. The Commissioner reversed the ALJ’s initial decision and ordered the Board to reinstate the teacher to a full-time teaching position, finding that Bridgewater-Raritan supported the findings that the teacher did not waive any rights to her full-time position. The Commissioner further held that the Board had a separate duty to inform her of the consequences of transferring to a part-time position before she voluntarily changed jobs. The Board appealed the Commissioner’s final decision to the Appellate Division arguing that the Supreme Court’s decision in Bridgewater-Raritan was misinterpreted to require advance notice from the Board without an express statutory provision.

The Appellate Division viewed the issue as whether Bridgewater-Raritan compels school boards to notify in advance a full-time tenured teacher who voluntarily takes a part-time teaching position that she is at risk of not getting her full-time job back. The Appellate Division concluded that it does, and it is a proper and logical extension of the Court’s holding in Bridgewater-Raritan. In reaching this conclusion, the Appellate Division reasoned that tenured full-time teachers, a class of employees with substantial protections under the Tenure Act, are entitled to advanced notice about the consequences of voluntarily transferring from full-time teaching to part-time. They further held that “no specific statutory provision is needed to trigger this duty.”

The Court affirmed the Commissioner’s findings and noted that this duty facilities disclosure of important information to teachers who must live with the consequences of their decisions.

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About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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