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Non-Renewal Provision in Superintendent’s Contract Voided

By on December 13, 2016 in Labor & Employment with 0 Comments

On December 1, 2016, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education (“Commissioner”) upheld an Administrative Law Judge’s determination to invalidate a non-renewal provision contained in a Superintendent’s contract. In Richardson v. Gangadin and Jersey City Education Association v. Jersey City Board of Education, the Commissioner found that a board of education and a Superintendent may not alter the statutory requirements governing the renewal of a Superintendent’s contract.

N.J.S.A. 18A:17-20.1 provides, in part, that a Superintendent will be automatically reappointed or renewed unless the board of education affirmatively provides timely notice.  Such notice must be 30 days for each year in the term of the current contract. The Jersey City Board of Education (“Board”) and the Superintendent entered into a contract that expired on June 30, 2016. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:17-20.1, the Board was required to provide notice to the Superintendent regarding reappointment by March 2, 2016.

However, the contract between the Board and Superintendent contained a provision requiring the Board to provide notice of renewal or nonrenewal to the Superintendent by December 31, 2015. The contract further stated that the Board’s failure to provide notice by December 31, 2015 means that the Board is not offering renewal of the contract.  The Board did not vote on the Superintendent’s contract on or before March 2, 2016.

A dispute arose as to whether the Superintendent was reappointed. On the one hand, the Board’s failure to vote on the contract by December 31, 2015, per the agreement between the Board and the Superintendent, deemed the Superintendent non-renewed. On the other hand, the Board’s failure to vote by March 2, 2016, per N.J.S.A. 18A:17-20.1, meant that the Superintendent was reappointed.

In affirming the ALJ, the Commissioner invalidated the contract provision requiring notice by December 31, 2015 and ruled that N.J.S.A. 18A:17-20.1 exclusively governed the notice requirements for non-renewal. First, the effect of the contract provision allowed the outgoing or old board of education to decide on the renewal or nonrenewal of the Superintendent for a term that would begin after a new board takes office – such a result is inconsistent with the well-known principle that an outgoing board cannot bind a successor board. Second, public employees and employers are prohibited from altering statutory requirements by way of a separate contract.

Here, the contract provision in question contradicts the notice requirement under N.J.S.A. 18A:17-20.1.  For these reasons, such a provision is invalid. The complete text of N.J.S.A. 18A:17-20.1 can be found here.

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Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev

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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