Below is the actual court ruling.
In a published decision issued on February 8, 2017, the New Jersey Appellate Division interpreted the Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”) to require each public body to provide Rice notice whenever it intends to act on a matter that could adversely affect an employee’s rights regardless of whether the public body discusses or states an intention to discuss the matter in closed session.Breaking with established legal precedent, the Court held in Kean Federation of Teachers v. Morell, A-5481-14T3 (App. Div. Feb. 8, 2017) that an employee’s notice rights are triggered whenever his/her name or position is placed on a board agenda for action, regardless of whether or not there is an intent by the board to discuss the matter. The Court stated as follows:
We now hold that a public body is required to send out a Rice notice any time it has placed on its agenda any matters involving the employment, appointment, termination of employment, terms and conditions of employment, evaluation of the performance of, promotion, or disciplining of any specific…employee.
As a published opinion, all New Jersey boards of education are expressly required to comply with this decision unless or until it is stayed, reversed or modified by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Therefore, it is the recommendation of this office that effective immediately all boards begin providing Rice notice to each employee whose name or position is placed on an agenda for an employment-related purpose. This includes not only the annual list of renewals and non-renewals at issue in Kean, but extends to, among other things, accepting a resignation or retirement, approving a child-rearing leave of absence, granting a sabbatical leave, or effectuating the voluntary or involuntary transfer of personnel.
In Kean, the Court also addressed the responsibility of local boards to make all minutes “promptly available” for review by the public. Although the Court declined to impose a specific 45 day timeframe for disclosure, as such a bright light rule would unnecessarily “invite continuous judicial involvement,” it also emphasized that waiting two or three months to release minutes would not comply with OPMA’s mandate. The Court explained that boards must affirmatively act to ensure that minutes are made promptly available, emphasizing that “[t]he approval of meeting minutes cannot be treated as a mere ministerial function, or worse yet, a technical annoyance.”
Therefore, although the Court did not impose any specific timing requirement on the publication of open or appropriately redacted executive session minutes, this office encourages all boards to approve at each board meeting all minutes from the prior meeting so as to ensure they are made “promptly available” to the public. We recognize that this may not be practical in all situations, particularly if the board meets twice monthly or if the minutes reflect a contentious or lengthy closed session hearing. However, as a general principal, it is recommended that all meeting minutes, open and appropriately redacted closed, be approved on a monthly basis absent extenuating circumstances.
What is a RICE notice/letter:
A RICE letter informs you that the BOE will be discussing your position in the district and affords you the right to have the discussion made public. The notification must be provided by the Board specific to a particular meeting and specific to the individual.
I will keep you posted on any updates.
Best Regards,Paula Bethea
Archives for February 2017
I was alerted to the fact that the Appellate Court has ruled that a RICE notice/letter had to be sent out to staff ANYTIME an employee’s employment status MIGHT be discussed.
What is a RICE notice/letter:
The South Orange and Maplewood BOE is adhering to guidance from their legal counsel – Staff who received a RICE notice/letter prior to the Feb 27, 2017 BOE meeting, they are receiving this notice 48 hours before the BOE will be discussing their employment. Please let me know if there are any questions.
I will keep you posted on any new updates.
Here is an official statement from SOMEA leadership on the significance of wearing our shirts on Thursday, February 16, 2017
“March 2nd, 2017 is the official start of contract negotiations between the South Orange-Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA) and the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education. As a show of unity and support for all 700+ members of SOMEA, whose voices will be represented at the negotiations table, SOMEA leadership is asking that members wear their official SOMEA t-shirts in their respective buildings and worksites on various dates throughout the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year. This action is meant to be a demonstration of support and solidarity among our membership, as we embark on our negotiations with the Board. It is meant to celebrate the many things that the members of SOMEA make happen in and outside of the classroom on a daily basis. It is important for us to be unified and to acknowledge our contributions to making the School District of South Orange and Maplewood one of the most sought after school districts in the state.”
We would like to thank Phil McCormick who is the Pride Chair of SOMEA
It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Peter Cross ( CHS-Class of 1954.) He was a beloved teacher, coach and a wonderful guidance counselor during his 35 year career at Columbia High School. Mr. Cross also has a “Special Award” named after him in the CHS Athletic Hall of Fame.
Memorial Services will be held Thursday February 16th 6-9 PM
D’Elia Funeral Home
Route 70 & Vermont Ave
Lakewood, NJ 08701
A proud US Army Veteran, Mr. Cross will be laid to rest in a private family only service at a Military Cemetery in Southern New Jersey.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the SOMEA Scholarship Fund in the name of Peter L. Cross
SOMEA Scholarship Fund
c/o Athletic Office
Columbia High School
17 Parker Avenue
Maplewood, NJ 07040
Please keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.