TRENTON, NJ -- The Supreme Court of New Jersey affirmed on Monday that the termination of Newark Public Schools employee Brenda Miller was in violation of her tenure rights, marking the end to a case nearly five years in the making.
In July 2012, the school district reassigned Miller, then a longtime secretarial employee protected under the Civil Service Act, to a confidential assistant position, which lacked the civil protections afforded previously afforded to her. Upon reassignment, the district advised Miller that she could return to a civil service title within three years.
More than two years later, Miller was terminated and appealed the decision to the Civil Service Commission, arguing that it violated her tenure rights because she was entitled to return to the permanent classified position she held prior to her reassignment.
Miller brought her complaint to the New Jersey commissioner of education following dismissal by the Civil Service Commission, additionally claiming that she had tenure in her previous position and that Vanessa Rodriquez, the district chief talent officer who issued Miller’s termination, lacked the authority to issue such a decision.
The commissioner rejected the claims, leading Miller to appeal again, contending that her tenure credits accrued prior to her 2012 reassignment should not be limited. The state appellate division reversed the commissioner’s decision in Miller’s favor.
The Supreme Court’s final decision in favor of Miller was met with dissent from Justices Jaynee LaVecchia and Anne M. Patterson, citing interpretation of tenure accrual rights under Title 18A, which states that district employees must hold a position for three consecutive years in order to qualify for tenure.
Newark Public Schools could not be reached for comment.