TIME New Jersey

Teacher Who Was Late to Work 111 Times in 2 Years Will Keep His Job

Teachers Desk in a Classroom
Getty Images

The teacher claimed that the quality of his teaching outweighed his tardiness

(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) — An elementary school teacher has been allowed to keep his job even though he was late for work 111 times over a two-year period.

In a decision filed Aug. 19, an arbitrator rejected an attempt by the Roosevelt Elementary School to fire 15-year veteran Arnold Anderson from his $90,000-a-year job, saying he was entitled to progressive discipline.

Anderson was late 46 times in the most recent school year through March 20 and 65 times in the previous school year, the arbitrator said. But the arbitrator criticized Anderson’s claim that the quality of his teaching outweighed his tardiness.

He relied on “micro-quibbles of a few unpersuasive explanations, with a macro-default position that even when he is late he nevertheless delivers a superb educational experience to his grateful students,” the arbitrator wrote.

The arbitrator found that the district failed to provide Anderson with due process by providing him with a formal notice of inefficiency or by giving him 90 days to correct his failings before terminating his employment.

The district has withheld raises for his tardiness and Anderson will remain suspended without pay until Jan. 1.

New state regulations that cover the filing of tenure charges require rulings by state-appointed arbitrators that once took years to occur within 90 days, making it easier to accuse teachers of inefficiency.

TIME New Jersey

Bear Family Returns to New Jersey Neighborhood for Another Day Trip

Homeowners are amused but concerned.

There’s nothing like a lazy summer outing. And for one family of bears, a northern New Jersey neighborhood is so much fun, they came back for another trip.

The bear family seems to include a mother and her cubs. Their kiddie pool adventure in that neighborhood went viral last week, and on Wednesday, the group returned to the same neighborhood, this time to pick through trash and recycling.

David Horowitz, a neighbor who lives across the street, took photos of the family’s return to the area.

Tim Basso, the homeowner whose kiddie pool was the site of the bears swim trip last week, said that while the bears are amusing, their return is concerning.

“I don’t want to turn my back for too long on my kids if they’re playing in the backyard,” he told NBC New York.

Read next: Watching This Little Bear Roll Down a Hill Is the Answer to Your Woes

Listen to the most important stories of the day

TIME New Jersey

Judge Approves Gov. Christie’s $225 Million Settlement With Exxon

Chris Christie
Brian Snyder—Reuters New Jersey Governor Chris Christie waits at the Voters First Presidential Forum in Manchester, N.H. on Aug. 3, 2015.

The deal is less than the $8.9 billion the state originally sought

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey judge approved a $225 million deal Tuesday between Gov. Chris Christie’s administration and ExxonMobil over dozens of polluted sites and nearly 2,000 retail gas stations.

Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan ruled that while the deal is much less than the $8.9 billion the state originally sought, it is a “reasonable compromise” considering “substantial litigation risks” faced by the state in the 11-year-old case that spanned Democratic and Republican governors.

The Christie administration has called the deal as the nation’s second-largest of its kind against a corporate polluter.

The deal was criticized by environmental groups and Democrats who control the state Legislature. They say the settlement is just a fraction of the billions of dollars New Jersey should have recovered.

Hogan opens his 81-page ruling with a quote from a previous, unrelated case: “Nearly any consent decree can be viewed simultaneously as ‘a crackdown or a sellout.'”

The settlement is “fair, reasonable, in the public interest, and consistent with the goals of the Spill Compensation and Control Act,” the judge wrote.

Under law, about $50 million of the settlement will go toward site remediation. Another roughly $50 million will go toward the state’s private legal costs. The rest is slated to go into the general fund.

New Jersey sued Exxon Mobil for natural resources damage in 2004. The idea was to hold the company responsible not only for cleaning up polluted areas, which include two oil refineries in Bayonne and Linden, as well as other sites and retail gas stations across New Jersey, but to compensate the public for the harm.

The Exxon case went to trial last year, but the settlement was struck before a judge issued a ruling. The deal covered properties such as the gas stations that were not part of the lawsuit. It calls for the oil company to pay for environmental remediation at the sites for an as-yet-unknown cost.

Environmental advocates complain that the amount of cleanup the company must do is less under the settlement than it would have been if the state had prevailed in the lawsuit. For instance, a state expert said the cleanup and restoration of one site would have come to $2.7 billion. But under the agreement, the company could do a lower-cost remediation rather than a full restoration.

Environmentalists and critics of Christie contend the deal was a giveaway for a major company.

 

TIME New Jersey

Small Earthquake Hits New Jersey

United States Geological Survey

78 people initially reported feeling the quake

(BERNARDSVILLE, N.J.) — People in parts of New Jersey got an early wake-up call Friday from a small earthquake that caused no damage or injuries.

The magnitude-2.7 quake hit around 3:41 a.m., roughly 2 miles north of Bernardsville, about 35 miles west of New York City, at a depth of 3 1/2 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was initially recorded as a 2.5 magnitude.

Seventy-eight people initially reported feeling it, USGS geophysicist Zachery Reeves said.

Stuart Heiser, who was visiting family in Morris Plains, felt the house shake and heard an explosion that sounded like a tree had fallen.

“It lasted one second, but it was definitely loud enough and physically violent enough to wake everyone up,” Heiser said.

The quake struck along a branch of the Ramapo Fault, said Won-Young-Kim, who heads the seismic network for Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Such small earthquakes happen in the region every few years, he said, but “we can’t rule out bigger ones because a magnitude 5 hit around New York Harbor in the 1870s.”

The last earthquake reported in New Jersey had a magnitude of 1.9 and happened about 17 miles east-southeast of Trenton on Dec. 13, 2014.

TIME Theme Parks

Here’s What It’s Like To Ride A 2,000-foot-long Slip-n-slide

At 1,975 feet long, the water slide at Action Park in Vernon, N.J. is the world’s longest. Though, water slide is a generous term–think more like the ultimate slip-and-slide.

The attraction, which was featured on Travel Channel’s “Xtreme Waterpark,” was originally built in New Zealand by the show’s host Jimi Hunt before it was disassembled and shipped over to the U.S. It was officially sanctioned as the world’s longest by the Guinness World Records in July.

Action Park is home more than 30 rides, including another record setter, a ride called the “ZeroG”–the world’s tallest and only double-looping drop box waterslide.

Take a look at what it’s like to zoom your way down the slip-and-slide of your wildest childhood dreams.

TIME Horse Racing

Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah Finishes First at the Haskell Invitational

American Pharoah Wins Haskell Invitational
Staton Rabin—AP Victor Espinoza aboard Triple Crown champion Amiercan Pharoah heads down the stretch in the lead of the 2015 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.

The three-year-old horse is said to be retiring later this year

American Pharoah finished first at the Haskell Invitational Stakes in New Jersey on Sunday, two months after becoming only the twelfth Triple Crown winner in a century.

“This horse, he just keeps bringing it,” Bob Baffert, the horse’s trainer, told the Associated Press. “He’s just a great horse.”

American Pharoah finished the mile-and-an-eighth course in just under a minute and 48 seconds, pulling ahead of the horse Competitive Edge in the final stretch after maintaining a second-place stride for most of the race. The victory earned the horse’s team a purse of $1.75 million, bringing his career winnings to more than $5.5 million.

Nearly 61,000 spectators came to the Monmouth County race track to watch the celebrated colt race. Barring a moment when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was booed in the winners’ circle, the crowd, Baffert said, was electric.

“I couldn’t believe the crowd, how loud it was,” he said to the Associated Press, his voice cracking with emotion. “It was a great crowd. I love bringing my horses here. Thank you for being behind Pharoah the whole way.”

It is reported that the colt, who turned three in Februrary, will retire from competitive racing in October — notably younger than most of his peers, who sometimes continue to race into their teens.

TIME Aviation

12 Flights Hit by Lasers Over New Jersey

There were no major injuries or accidents

Eleven commercial flights and one military aircraft reported being hit by laser beams this week while flying over New Jersey, the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday.

The FAA said the twelve laser incidents, all reported between 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., did not cause any notable injuries or accidents, though one pilot reported blurred vision, according to CNN. Federal authorities have not determined where the laser—or lasers—originated, and whether they were related, though an investigation is underway.

Aiming a laser at an aircraft is “a serious safety risk and violates federal law,” according to the FAA. Laser pointers can compromise the vision of commercial pilots, endangering the crew and the hundreds of passengers who may be on board.

“This is an assault on a pilot as far as I’m concerned,” Rich Frankel, an FBI special agent in-charge in New Jersey, told ABC. “It is a criminal matter. You’re putting the lives of not just the pilot but everyone on the plane at risk.”

The number of flights reporting laser incidents has risen dramatically over the past 10 years, according to FAA data. In 2014, there were 3894 reported incidents of lasers aimed at aircraft, a ten-fold increase from the 384 reports in 2006.

MONEY Student Loans

Win the Lottery, Get Your Student Loan Paid Off

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Oliver Cleve—Getty Images

New Jersey Assemblyman John Burzichelli has proposed a new kind of lottery in which the winners would get their student loan debt erased.

Student loan debt has been one of the hotter political topics of the past few years, generating a collection of proposed solutions like free community college, a student borrower’s bill of rights and changes to the bankruptcy law, to name a few. A state lawmaker in New Jersey just tossed out another idea: a debt-payoff lottery.

Of course, anyone with student loan debt could enter their state’s lottery (though not all states have them) for the chance to win and pay off their loans that way, but Assemblyman John Burzichelli proposed a smaller, targeted lottery for people with education debt, reports NJ.com.

His bill describes a lottery in which borrowers can register information about their debt to play, and they can buy tickets online, according to the news report. Someone else can also buy a lottery ticket (no more than $3) to benefit a borrower. Borrowers could not spend more than 15% of their loan balances on the lottery tickets — the typical borrower who graduated from a New Jersey school in 2014 had $28,109 in loans, according to the Project on Student Debt, and 15% of that is $4,216. Like any other lottery winners, borrowers would be subject to taxes on their prize. If a borrower wins a pot that exceeds his or her debt, the remaining prize money would go to other borrowers.

While the number of people who could enter a student-loan-payoff lottery is smaller than the potential number of ticket holders in a general lottery, the odds of winning likely wouldn’t be great. Imagine getting to the point where you’ve maxed out your allotment of ticket purchases and realizing you spent thousands of dollars for a chance at paying off your debt, when you could have just paid off thousands of dollars in debt. That would be depressing. Then again, that’s how these things work. With every purchase, there’s always the argument that the money could have been better spent.

Meanwhile, as this bill lingers in the New Jersey Legislature, millions of borrowers across the nation have student loans to pay. Maybe a few of them will win lottery jackpots and use them to pay off their debts, but most people need to figure out a way to afford these things with the financial resources they’ve got. Failing to pay your student loan bills will certainly destroy your credit, and you may have your wages garnished or tax refunds seized, if you default on federal loans. If you’re concerned about your ability to repay your student loans, talk to your servicer (the company that handles your loan payments) and look into any student loan repayment options that could make your debt manageable.

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MONEY Autos

Here’s Another Reason to Hate the New Jersey Turnpike

Vehicles on the Pulaski Skyway at the entrance to the New Jersey Turnpike near Newark, New Jersey
Julio Cortez—AP Vehicles on the Pulaski Skyway at the entrance to the New Jersey Turnpike near Newark, New Jersey

The haters have good reason to hate, hate, hate, hate.

Once again, New Jersey has been named the Most Hated in the Nation, this time by survey by YouGov.com. In fact, it’s the only state that’s disliked more than it’s liked. Survey participants bestowed an overall favorable opinion upon every other state except the Garden State—only New Jersey had more haters than likers, with a net -10% rating.

“People in New Jersey are unusually likely to take a hardnosed attitude towards life,” the researchers wrote in a section attempting to explain what makes New Jerseyans so unloved. “They’re also unusually likely—compared to Americans in the rest of the country—to say that they enjoying going out drinking in bars.”

The outsider dislike of New Jersey may be shaped by the way people are exposed to the state, such as via “The Jersey Shore,” “Real Housewives,” or those sweet guys from “The Sopranos.”

It’s also no coincidence that the photo chosen by YouGov to accompany the study’s results showed cars on a traffic-clogged road, with two signs indicating a choice of the Garden State Parkway and, most notorious of all, the New Jersey Turnpike. Besides traffic and the “hardnosed attitude” of drivers, the Turnpike is notorious for greedily gobbling up billions of your toll dollars.

According to the 2015 report from the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, toll agencies in the United States collected $13 billion in toll revenues in 2013, the year covered in the new study. Of that sum, roughly $4 billion—nearly one-third of the total for the entire country—comes from tolls paid by drivers in the New York tri-state area.

The MTA’s bridges and tunnels, which include the Throgs Neck, Bronx-Whitestone, and Verrazano-Narrows bridges and the Queens Midtown Tunnel, took in the third-most toll revenues of all agencies in the nation, with $1.227 billion. In second place, the Port Authority, which oversees the George Washington Bridge and both the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, received $1.33 billion in tolls.

And in first place, bringing home a whopping $1.413 billion in gross revenues to the Garden State, is the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

[UPDATE: A previous version of this story stated that the New Jersey Turnpike charged rates that were “vastly more expensive” than most toll roads in the country. In fact, the per-mile rates charged by the Turnpike ranked 15th most expensive in a recent study of 37 toll roads.]

States have been adding more tolls for years, as a way to boost revenues without raising taxes, so expect more of the same. As NJ.com pointed out, New Jersey Turnpike officials expect to take in $1.48 billion in tolls in 2015. And the money paid for drivers heading from New Jersey into Manhattan may come close to beating even that: The four bridges and tunnels operated by the Port Authority are on pace to collect $1.51 billion in tolls this year.

MORE: 4 Tips to Avoid Road Tolls This Summer

TIME States

Proposed Law in New Jersey Would Keep the Walking Dead From Driving

More than 300 dead people received official documents or licenses

The “walking dead” are aiming higher—and in New Jersey, it appears they have been driving.

But on Thursday, NJ.com reports, the state’s Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee released a bill to put an end to the behavior.

This legislative move follows a state audit in March that revealed the Motor Vehicle Commission had issued official documents, such as licenses, to more than 300 people who were already deceased. The proposed law would require that the Commission cross-check their records with the Social Security Administration databases to avoid issuing significant legal documents to anyone no longer alive.

If the bill sponsored by State Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo is eventually passed, it could only improve the reputation of New Jersey drivers by ensuring, well, that they’re all alive.

[NJ.com]

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