NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Arnold Anderson, a teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School, was reported late 46 times during the 2013-2014 school year and 65 times in the previous school year by the school's principal.
According to the charge against him, he was late by five minutes or more on sixteen occasions.
The city school district pressed for Anderson's termination from Roosevelt Elementary School as a result of continuous tardiness, but Anderson argued that the school's principal was out to get him.
The arbitrator judging Anderson's case sided with the school district on the issue of latenesses, saying, " The Roosevelt school principal meticulously tracked respondents' cascades of tardiness, none of which is plausibly explained by [Anderson]."
State-appointed arbitrator David Gregory rejected the argument that the quality of Anderson's teaching overshadowed or excused his repeated tardiness.
Anderson's excuses, according to Gregory, included "self-serving inflated characterizations of his substantive abilities," such as his assertion that Anderson provided a "superb educational experience to his grateful students."
Gregory pointed out, "[Anderson's] students are fully entitled to receive his very best efforts for the entire period, and not merely for that remaining portion… following Anderson's chronically late arrivals."
But Anderson says he was never late to teaching students, and was only late by more than ten minutes on one occasion.
“I was never late to teach students, no,” Anderson told CBS New York. “You clock in, there’s a long line and stuff like that, so you have a three-minute window. In the two years, I was late more than 10 minutes only once — and I mean, you know, my car broke down.”
Gregory also concluded that termination was not appropriate because the district is required to use progressive disciplinary measures prior to termination.
Arbitrator Gregory said the district failed to provide the teacher with due process by not providing him with a formal notice of inefficiency or by giving him 90 days to correct his failings.
Gregory also noted that the school district had already withheld salary increases from Anderson as discipline for his tardiness.
Instead of termination, Anderson will serve an unpaid suspension until January 1, 2016.
This decision is one of many given this year by arbitrators under the new Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACH NJ).
Gov. Chris Christie signed the tenure reform law in 2012, who’s purpose is to make easier the removal of bad educators from classrooms, although most of the decisions this year have allowed those teachers to return to their jobs.
While tenure cases were shortened from multiple years to 90 days, most of the allegedly inefficient teachers were returned to their classrooms after job suspensions.
There are numerous reasons for arbitrators to do so: a district might not have followed evaluation procedures, or made mistakes of facts, or the decision could have been affected by labor unions, nepotism, politics, discrimination, arbitrariness, or capriciousness.
In Anderson’s case, the arbitrator felt that “progressive discipline” was better suited than termination and also that the district could not fire Anderson because he did not receive a formal notice of inefficiency, and did not receive a required 90-day period to correct those inefficiencies.
MyCentralJersey.com's Sergio Bichao broke the story, noting that the new law enabled the case to move forward because Anderson had received back-to-back negative evaluations:
The tenure reform law, signed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2012, is supposed to make it easier to remove bad educators from the classrooms, although most of the arbitration decisions this year have returned teachers to their jobs, favoring job suspensions rather than terminations.
Christie tweeted about the case, sharing an Associated Press article on the case and saying, "Think I'm too tough on the teachers union? This is what we're dealing with in NJ…"
Anderson told Bichao he will return to teaching at Roosevelt in January, and that he will be "early" to work.