Employees in charter schools do not acquire tenure in the same manner as do employees in other public schools. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-14, an employee of a charter school does not accrue tenure pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:17-2, N.J.S.A. 18A:17-3, or N.J.S.A. 18A:28-5. Instead the employee acquires “streamline tenure” pursuant to guidelines promulgated by the commissioner, and the school’s charter, which shall specify the security and protection to be afforded to the employee in accordance with the guidelines.
“Streamline tenure” is further defined in N.J.A.C. 6A:11-1.2 as the tenure process for all charter school teaching staff members, janitors and secretaries who are either newly employed in a charter school or employed in a charter school while on leave from a district board of education.
“Streamline tenure” is additionally clarified in N.J.A.C. 6A:11-6.2 as follows:
All teaching staff members, janitors, and secretaries shall acquire streamline tenure in a charter school after five consecutive full academic years of effective employment as determined by the department-approved educator evaluation system established by each charter school and in accordance with the charter school’s uniform policies and procedures. Streamline tenure policies shall be developed and adopted by each charter school’s board of trustees prior to June 30, 2013.
All teaching staff members, janitors, and secretaries who have acquired streamline tenure prior to June 30, 2013, shall retain streamline tenure status and shall not be dismissed or reduced in compensation except for inefficiency, incapacity, or conduct unbecoming.
The education commissioner may void acquired streamline tenure status for all applicable charter school employees if stipulated in the terms of probation pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:11-2.4
This section of charter school administrative code, adopted in 2013, repealed and replaced the former standard for charter school tenure acquisition for teaching staff members, janitors and secretaries. The former standard called for acquisition of streamline tenure in charter schools after three consecutive academic years, together with employment at the beginning of the next succeeding academic year, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:28-5(b), 18A:28-6, and 18A:17-2(b)2.
The following conclusions can be drawn regarding charter school tenure acquisition.
Teaching staff members (those employees who need to possess a certificate issued by the State Board of Examiners), janitors and secretaries are the only charter school employees who receive tenure pursuant to statute and administrative code.
Employees hired after June 30, 2013 must serve five full consecutive academic years of effective employment. Effective employment will be determined pursuant to the charter school’s NJDOE approved educator evaluation system. Partial years of service do not count. The years must be consecutive. If there is a break in either full or consecutive years of service, the slate is wiped clean and the five years of service begins anew.
Teaching staff members, janitors and secretaries who acquired streamline tenure before June 30, 2013, retain streamline tenure status.
Teaching staff members, janitors and secretaries who did not acquire streamline tenure before June 30, 2013, have nothing for their service before that date. The slate was wiped clean and those employees need to serve a new five consecutive years of effective employment in order to acquire streamline tenure.
For those who had service in the charter school (one or two consecutive full academic years of effective employment), the charter school would have the following choices:
- Starting with the 2013-2014 academic year, serve five consecutive full academic years of effective employment to acquire streamline tenure. No credit for previous service given. Streamline tenure would be acquired after the 2017-2018 academic year.
- By charter school policy or collectively negotiated contract, if the charter school employees are unionized, acknowledge some or all years of service prior to June 30, 2013 and give tenure-like protection after a given period of time with actual streamline tenure being acquired after the 2017-2018 academic year. The years for which tenure-like protection would be granted would be up to the board of trustees.
For example, the board of trustees could “count” service for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 academic years and grant contractual superintendent-like tenure after the 2015-2016 academic year (five years of service in the charter school) for 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 and then “real” streamline tenure after 2017-2018. The requirements for contractual tenure would be up to each charter school board of trustees.
Absent a discretionary act by the charter school as set forth above, no credit for service prior to June 30, 2013 can be given.
Should a charter school board of trustees wish to proceed in this policy area, assistance can be obtained from the NJSBA Policy Services section, which can provide sample streamline tenure policies and/or assist in new policy development.
While there are several absolutes in the charter school tenure acquisition area, there are many gray areas, particularly for those employees whose service started before June 30, 2013 and who did not serve the requisite time to acquire streamline tenure. Board trustees are encouraged to consult with their board attorney for guidance in this area.