TRENTON, N.J. -- An elementary school teacher who was allowed to keep his job despite being late for work 111 times in two years said Friday that breakfast is to blame for his tardiness.
"I have a bad habit of eating breakfast in the morning and I lost track of time," 15-year veteran teacher Arnold Anderson told The Associated Press.
In a decision filed Aug. 19, an arbitrator in New Jersey rejected an attempt by the Roosevelt Elementary School to fire Anderson from his $90,000-a-year job, saying he was entitled to progressive discipline. But the arbitrator also criticized Anderson's claim that the quality of his teaching outweighed his tardiness.
He was late 46 times in the most recent school year through March 20 and 65 times in the previous school year, the arbitrator said.
Anderson said he was one to two minutes late to school "at the most" but was prepared and was never late for class.
"I have to cut out eating breakfast at home," he said Friday.
On Thursday, Anderson told CBS New York station WCBS-TV that nearly all the instances of tardiness happened during an unwritten grace period for teacher arrivals in the few minutes before classes begin.
"You clock in, there's a long line and stuff like that, so you have a three-minute window," Anderson said. "In the two years, I was late more than 10 minutes only once, and I mean, you know, my car broke down."
Anderson remains suspended without pay until Jan. 1.
A message seeking comment was left Friday with the school superintendent's office.
The arbitrator found that the district failed to provide Anderson with due process by not providing him with a formal notice of inefficiency or giving him 90 days to correct his failings before terminating his employment.
Gov. Chris Christie referenced the case in a tweet on Friday.
Anderson said he was "very upset" to be suspended but conceded that losing his job would have been worse.
When he returns to school in January, "I will be early," he said.
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