A veteran Passaic County school board member indicated that he plans to appeal an Appellate Division decision, which held that he cannot serve on a high school regional and an elementary school board simultaneously.
In 2016, Jeff Fischer, a long-term member of the Haledon Board of Education, ran unopposed for a seat on the Manchester Regional High School Board of Education. Following his election, he was granted a declaratory judgment by a Superior Court judge authorizing him to hold both elected offices. That decision was reversed by the Appellate Division on May 30, 2018.
At issue is a 2007 statute that has been interpreted as prohibiting a person from simultaneously serving on the school boards of an elementary school district and a high school regional district. Such dual service was not uncommon prior to the 2007 statute, and was viewed as beneficial to policy-setting and continuity of education for a community’s students.
Fischer has argued that the Legislature’s intention in enacting the 2007 statute was to prevent an individual from securing salary and pension benefits simultaneously through two publicly funded, elected positions. In New Jersey, however, school board membership is uncompensated, making the prohibition not applicable in his circumstances, Fischer said. He also asserted that it was in the community’s interest to allow individuals to serve on both an elementary and a high school board and contribute to the oversight of the complete K-12 education program.
The Superior Court judge agreed with him in 2016. Subsequently, the state Attorney General filed an appeal. And in a May 30 decision, the Appellate Division reversed the decision, holding that the statute does not contain language specifically exempting school board members from the prohibition against holding multiple elected positions.
Fischer has been a local school board member since the early 1970s, serving at various times on the K-8 Haledon school board and the Manchester Regional High School Board of Education. He is also a former president of NJSBA and currently serves on the Association’s Board of Directors.
In a recent article on Northjersey.com, Fischer said that, in addition to filing an appeal, he planned to seek a stay of the May 30 decision so that he can continue serving on both school boards during the appeal process.
The Appellate Division decision is “unpublished” at this time, meaning that it is not binding on any other court.