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February 25, 2011

Tenure by estoppel

Tenure by estoppel
Matter of Ronga v Klein, 2011 NY Slip Op 01408, Appellate Division, First Department

A probationary administrator or teacher may attain tenure by estoppel [sometimes referred to as “tenure by acquiescence”] when a school board accepts the continued services of a teacher or administrator, but fails to take the action required by law to either grant or deny the individual tenure prior to the expiration of the administrator’s or teacher’s probationary term, McManus v Hempstead Union Free School District, 87 NY2d 183.

Richard Ronga, appointed as a probationary principal by the New York City Department of Education [DOE], challenged DOE's terminating his employment on the theory that he was denied due process as he was not give the required pre-termination notice and hearing.

Ronga contended that he had attained tenure as a principal by “estoppel” and thus he was entitled to such due process as a matter of law.

Supreme Court dismissed Ronga’s petition, which ruling was unanimously affirmed by the Appellate Division.

In contrast to Ronga’s claim that he acquired tenure by estoppel, the Appellate Division said that the record established that he did not perform the duties of a principal with DOE's knowledge or consent beyond the expiration of his probationary term.

Further, the court noted, prior to the expiration of Ronga’s probationary period DOE notified him that he would not be granted tenure. According to the decision, Ronga and DOE then negotiated and signed a resignation agreement, which Ronga attempted to revoke later that same day.

The Appellate Division concluded that Ronga failed to demonstrate that he acquired tenure by estoppel and, further, failed to sustain his burden of showing that DOE acted in bad faith when it terminated his employment as a probationary principal, “as he provides no support for his claims.”

N.B. Continuation on the payroll for a brief period after the expiration of a probationary period does not automatically result in the individual attaining tenure by estoppel [Mendez v Valenti, 101 AD2d 612]. The court ruled that as long as the termination of a probationer [in the classified service] is effected within a reasonable time, such as set to coincide with the end of the next payroll period, the courts will not deem the probationer to have obtained tenure by estoppel because of his or her continuation on the payroll following the last day of his or her probationary period.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: