An arbitrator has ruled that a New Jersey teacher who was tardy to work over 100 times over the past two school years can keep his job, although he will be suspended without pay until January.
“With a decade and a half of service, progressive discipline and due process sufficiently militate against summary discharge in this case,” the state-appointed arbitrator said in his decision.
Two related decisions over the summer concerning the case of Roosevelt School teacher Arnold Anderson, drove state-appointed arbitrator David Gregory, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law in New York, to find that the school district had proven “conduct unbecoming chronic tardiness.” However, the arbitrator dismissed the charges of inefficiency brought against Anderson by the district because no formal notice of inefficiency was given to Anderson by the district, nor was he offered a 90-day period to correct any inefficiencies.
The elementary school teacher was late to work 65 times during the 2013-14 school year and an additional 46 times the following year. Few explanations were offered by Anderson concerning his tardiness, although he did say, “I have to cut out eating breakfast at home.” He added that despite his absence, he still delivered “a superb educational experience to his grateful students.”
Nevertheless, the arbitrator was skeptical of Anderson’s claim that he should not receive any disciplinary action for his lateness. According to Gregory, “his self-serving inflated characterization of his substantive abilities misses the essential point.” He went on to say that Anderson’s students need their teacher’s best efforts 100% of the time, not only when he decides to show up, writes Michelle Sahn for The East Brunswick Patch.
“At most, [Anderson] uses micro-quibbles of a few unpersuasive explanations, with a macro-default position that even when he is late he nevertheless delivers a superb educational experience to his grateful students,” Gregory wrote.
The decision stated that his lateness held no credible explanations and his ability to show up on time did not improve by withholding increment increases. However, the decision reinforced that Anderson should still receive “due process and fundamental fairness.” As such, he will remain in a “no-pay disciplinary status” until January 1. At that time he will be allowed to return to his classroom at full pay.
The decision was referenced in a tweet by Governor Chris Christie, who wrote: “Think I’m too tough on the teachers union? This is what we’re dealing with in NJ.”
While Anderson said he was “very upset” at receiving the suspension, he added that when he returns to his classroom, he “will be early.”