A former West New York assistant principal who got caught fabricating why she fell down the stairs is getting her job back, the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division ruled.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“We affirm the arbitrator’s determination that [Amada] Sanjuan was not entitled to backpay withheld from her during her suspension-without-pay period based upon his determination that her conduct was unbecoming of a teaching staff member,” Appellate Court Judges Thomas Sumners, Francis Vernoia, and Stephen Petrillo ruled today.
“We reverse and remand because upon determining Sanjuan’s conduct was unbecoming but that she should not be terminated, the arbitrator lacked the statutory authority to demote her from her assistant principal position and he could only reduce her salary. Sanjuan should be reinstated to her assistant principal position.”
Furthermore, the court said on remand that the arbitrator must determine if Sanjuan’s salary should be further reduced through a suspension, withholding salary increments, or a combination of both.
Originally hired as a bilingual education teacher in 1997, Sanjuan was named assistant principal in 2019. Her slip-and-fall incident took place at Memorial High School on February 12th, 2020, where she was discovered by a custodian and a teacher.
While she told the board’s benefits coordinator that a piece of paper caused her to fall, surveillance footage from the incident showed that she placed the paper on the stairs after the fact before returning to the spot where she had fallen.
As a result, on August 31st 2020, the board of education certified tenure charges against Sanjuan, alleging conduct unbecoming of an employee and issuing a 120-day suspension without pay.
“The Board alleged that Sanjuan attempted to ‘manipulate the scene’ of her fall and made a ‘false report of the incident’; ‘continued lying’; her incident report statement constituted ‘insurance fraud’; was insubordinate for refusing to disclose the name of the person who told her about the dissemination of the surveillance video; and other just cause,” the ruling notes.
The commissioner of education reviewed the charges and said they were enough to “warrant dismissal or reduction in salary,” but still sent the case to an arbitrator – who ruled that she should be reinstated as a teacher rather than being dismissed.
He also recommended an additional 60-day suspension without pay.
“The arbitrator’s belief––confirmed by the trial court––that he had the authority under our tenure laws to demote Sanjuan to a classroom teaching position from her tenured assistant principal position for unbecoming conduct was mistaken,” the court explained.
“N.J.S.A. 18A:6-10 requires that no tenured employee of the public school system ‘shall be dismissed or reduced in compensation …. except for inefficiency, incapacity, unbecoming conduct, or other just cause.’ Similarly, under N.J.S.A. 18A:6-16, this disciplinary limitation is reiterated wherein it states that for tenure charges to proceed to an arbitrator the Commissioner must ‘determine that such charge is sufficient to warrant dismissal or reduction in salary.’”
Additionally, the court explained that under state guidelines, the arbitrator does not have the authority to demote a teacher.
“Because our Legislature chose not to include demotion as a penalty for a teaching staff member, an arbitrator has no authority to impose that form of disciplinary action upon finding that a board of education sustained tenure charges,” they wrote.
“Moreover, neither party contended before the arbitrator that in lieu of terminating Sanjuan, he had the authority to demote her to her former classroom teaching position.”
Teachers assigned to this Liar Vice Principal’s school should immediately request to be re-assigned to a different school, and ALL parents of students unfortunate enough to be assigned to the same school as this Liar and poor example for a vice principal should DEMAND that either this corrupt Vice principal be given the new job description of janitor, to remove paper from stairways, etc., or that their children be transferred to other schools. The Commissioner of Education should have fired this corrupt vice principal for “unbecoming conduct” instead of passing the buck to an arbitrator. Instead, because of a loophole, or, the totally misguided interpretation of existing law here by the Superior Court Appellate Division, this corrupt, lying excuse for an educator and a vice principal should get her job back?! Outrageous. West New York Board of Education MUST appeal this ruling to NJ Supreme Court. Integrity is at stake here, and what types of role models in our schools in West New York, we want our children to have.
She should be made to write “I must not tell lies” ten thousand times.
It does not make ANY sense that a panel of THREE judges would allow this woman to continue to be an educator and role model for children when the law clearly states that a teacher can be demoted or fired for conduct unbecoming of a teacher.
Thus, there is something behind the scenes we are not being told.
I suspect the judges did what they were instructed to do by those who appoint them.
If we had a media that cared about truth and justice in NJ, they would be investigating this woman’s donations to democrat politicians.
This is New Jersey, after all.
its all about the political ties here in Hudson County and especially in West New York….this will continue until EVERYONE has the balls to stand up to the puppet master and rid him for good…. hopefully she will be assigned to the Central Office where she can remain till she retires where mostly everyone walks on eggshells and is so fearful to say or do anything