Tenure guarantees that teachers accused of an offense get a fair hearing. But a chronic complaint is that it can take years for the process to make its way through the system.
Why does it take so long?
Two recent documents shed some light on the issue.
The first is a chart created by the Education Action Group that tracks the laborious process of investigating, processing and defending tenure charges.
The second is a recent decision on tenure charges filed against an Egg Harbor Township teacher . The aministrative law judge hearing the charges began his recommendations with an overview of the process, which dragged on for two years. The charges were filed in 2008 and the case was not resolved until November 2010.
(The following is taken directly from the judge’s opinion)
Respondent, a teacher in the employ of the Board of Education of the Township of Egg Harbor, Atlantic County, New Jersey, is charged with conduct unbecoming a teaching staff member in violation of the provisions of the New Jersey Administrative Code, Board of Education policies and by violating the law against discrimination by harassing, intimidating and bullying, by making inappropriate racial derogatory comments toward another staff member; and by lying to an administrator during an investigation. Respondent requested a hearing and this matter was transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law on January 12, 2009, for hearing as a contested case.
A telephone prehearing conference was held on January 27, 2009, and a Prehearing Order was entered on January 29, 2009, settling the procedures to be followed at the hearing. Hearing dates were scheduled for March 31 and April 1, 2009.
On March 9, 2009, I entered an Order denying petitioner's motion to strike respondent's answer and deem the tenure charges admitted.
On March 23, 2009, the hearing dates of March 31 and April 1, 2009, were adjourned at the request of both counsel because of their inability to complete discovery, and an Order Amending Prehearing Order was entered on that date extending the discovery period and rescheduling the hearing for April 24 and 30, 2009.
The rescheduled hearing dates of April 24 and April 30, 2009, were adjourned at the request of attorney for respondent with the consent of attorney for the school district on the condition that the hearing dates be rescheduled for May 7, and May 21, 2009, with the understanding that counsel would be discussing the issue of back pay.
The hearing date of May 7, 2009, was adjourned at the hearing at the joint request of the parties because they had entered into settlement negotiations and had reached a possible settlement subject to approval by respondent Board of Education. The hearing date of May 21, 2009, was not adjourned.
On May 20, 2009, the hearing date of May 21, 2009, was adjourned at the request of attorney for the school district, based on the allegation of the respondent through counsel accusing attorney for the school district and his firm of conducting an illegal investigation of the respondent leading to the tenure charges in this case. Attorney for the school district requested an opportunity to investigate this assertion. The hearing was rescheduled for June 23, 2009.
On June 20, 2009, the hearing of June 23, 2009, was adjourned at the request of respondent because of a death in her family. The matter was rescheduled for hearing on July 15, 2009.
On July 14, 2009, the hearing scheduled for July 15, 2009, was adjourned at the request of attorney for petitioner school district because of the retention by the school district of new counsel to undertake representation of the school district. The newly- retained counsel for the school district required additional time to review the matter and prepare for hearing. The hearing was rescheduled for August 19, and September 1, 2009.
On August 14, 2009, the hearing dates of August 19, and September 1, 2009, were adjourned at the request of attorney for the school district because of the unavailability of the witnesses for the school district. Because of the extensive delay in commencing the hearing, I offered approximately twelve rescheduled dates for hearing and required that the attorneys issue subpoenas for all witnesses. As a result, I scheduled the matter for peremptory hearing on October 28, and October 29, 2009.
On October 27, 2009, attorney for respondent requested an adjournment of the peremptory hearing dates because of a court conflict, the attorney being in a trial in the Superior Court. Because of my initial refusal to adjourn the peremptory hearing dates, the attorney for the school district consented to the adjournment on the condition that respondent agree to waive salary continuation until the end of the hearing in view of her attorney's trial calendar. When the respondent agreed to this condition, the hearing dates of October 28, and October 29, 2009, were adjourned and the hearing was rescheduled for December 4, 2009 and January 28, 2010, these being dates when respondent's attorney would be available.
The hearing commenced on December 4, 2009. The continued hearing date of January 28, 2010, was adjourned on January 12, 2010, at the request of attorney for respondent because of a court conflict. The matter was rescheduled for hearing on April 1, and April 16, 2010. On those dates, hearings were held and the hearing testimony concluded on April 16, 2010. At the conclusion of the hearing, the record remained open to permit the attorneys to submit written closing arguments. The record closed on June 7, 2010, with the timely receipt of the parties written closing submissions.