On April 1, 2021, the New Jersey Board of Examiners revoked the teaching certificates of a teacher five years after she had been terminated as a tenured computer instructor for inefficiency and conduct unbecoming pursuant to the TEACH NJ statutes.
In a lengthy procedural history beginning with the certification of tenure charges against the computer teacher on April 23, 2015 and decided on June 27, 2016, the TEACH NJ arbitrator sustained 22 of the 23 charges against the teacher (one was withdrawn by the district). The arbitrator found that in the 2014-2015 school year, the teacher repeatedly failed to acknowledge and cooperate with the administration with regard to submitting reports and meeting deadlines, failed to acknowledge feedback in observations, falsified student records by giving students A+ grades who either did not take or did not complete the final exam, left students unattended and failed to report to team teaching assignments — among other charges.
The matter was thereafter referred to the Board of Examiners as is required in tenure removal matters. The Board of Examiners reviewed the arbitration decision on March 1, 2018 and issued an order to show cause as to why the conduct found should not result in the revocation of her Teacher of Electronic Technology Certificate of Eligibility and her Teacher of Electronic Technology Standard Certificate.
After receiving the responsive papers, the board found that there may be material facts in dispute, limited to the subject of the penalty. The matter was transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing limited only to penalty. The administrative law judge issued a decision on April 20, 2020 finding that the teacher’s conduct “was not just unbecoming, but ‘outrageously inappropriate.’” The judge also held that the teacher demonstrated no remorse or explanation for her actions and sought only to blame others including district personnel, and her own husband. As such, the judge ordered the revocation of the teacher’s two teaching certificates.
The Board of Examiners would have normally decided whether to accept, modify or reject the judge’s decision. However, prior to the May 20, 2020 meeting, the teacher requested to appear in-person at the board’s meeting. While not required to do so, the board permitted this request and attempted to have the teacher appear at the board’s next virtual meeting. The teacher did not want to appear virtually and sought to appear at the meeting in-person. Because an in-person appearance was not permitted due to the pandemic, the matter was extended until April 1, 2021 at which point no more extensions of time could be granted and the teacher made a statement at the virtual meeting.
The board thereafter adopted the administrative law judge’s initial decision in full and revoked the teacher’s certificates effective immediately. More information on this matter can be found at the following link.
Boards of Education are reminded of the importance of carefully drafted tenure charges and documentation, as these records may be relied upon, not just for tenure purposes, but by other agencies, such as the Board of Examiners, at a later time.
Questions regarding this matter should be discussed with the board attorney or with NJSBA’s Legal, Labor Relations and Policy Department at (609) 278-5254.