A New Jersey elementary school teacher can keep his $90,000-per-year job, despite having been late for work 111 times in the past two years, USA Today is reporting.
Arnold Anderson has been teaching math at Roosevelt Elementary School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, for the past 14 years. By all accounts, he's a great teacher, says the state arbitrator assigned to his case -- when he shows up to work on time, that is. And even when he's late, he's prepared, does a good job, and the students seem to like him. So there's that.
But still, 111 tardies -- at least 46 times this year and 65 times the year before -- is a bit much, says the school district, and initiated termination proceedings against him. However, because of New Jersey's laws regarding teacher tenure, a school district can't just fire a teacher. Instead, the case goes to arbitration.
In fact, until 2012 it was even harder to get rid of a teacher in New Jersey than it is now, says the Courier News. A 2012 law, the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey, or TeachNJ, passed by Governor (and 2016 Republican presidential candidate) Chris Christie, sought to streamline the process of removing bad teachers from New Jersey classrooms. Prior to the new law, firing a bad teacher could take years, thanks to tenure; the new law requires teacher firings to be referred to an arbitrator, and a decision to be handed down within 90 days.
Since the law, "dozens" of cases have been submitted for arbitration. However, the overwhelming majority of arbitrator decisions have resulted not in teacher firings, but in progressive discipline, usually suspensions.
And in fact, a job suspension is just what Mr. Anderson will be getting: suspension with loss of pay, until he is allowed to return to work in January.
The arbitrator, whose name has not been released, found the teacher's excuse for his chronic tardiness problem ("I have a bad habit of eating breakfast in the morning, and I lost track of time") flimsy in the extreme. Nevertheless, he concluded the Mr. Anderson is a good teacher -- "even when he is late he nevertheless delivers a superb educational experience to his grateful students."
He also found fault with the way the school district handled his firing, not giving him time to correct his behavior before resulting to firing.
Mr. Anderson has since promised to stay on the straight-and-narrow. When he returns to work in January, the New Jersey teacher says, "I will be early."
[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock/iravgustin]