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May 04, 2011

Reassigning work formerly performed by an individual laid off after his or her position is abolished

Reassigning work formerly performed by an individual laid off after his or her position is abolished
Matter of Kelly Krause and the Spencer-Van Etten CSD, Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 15,516

The lesson in this decision is that although it is not unlawful to reassign or redistribute the work performed by the former incumbent of a position that has been abolished to other staff members, the individual or individuals to whom the work is assigned must be qualified to perform the duties assigned to them.

The Spencer-Van Etten Central School District employed Kelly Krause as a full-time home economics teacher beginning with the 2000-2001 school year. During the 2004-2005 school year, Krause taught three Home and Career Skills courses to seventh grade students and two related courses to high school students.

At its July 12, 2005 meeting, the District’s Board adopted a resolution abolishing a number of teaching positions, including its full-time Home and Career Skills teaching position. Krause was laid off and her name was placed on a preferred eligible list for the Home and Career Skills title.

The District, however, continued to offer Home and Career Skills courses during the 2005-2006 school year. These courses, however, were assigned to five of the District’s incumbent teachers, none of whom was certified to teach Home and Career Skills.

Krause appealed to the Commissioner of Education, contending that the District’s actions with respect to the Home and Career Skills curriculum did not meet regulatory requirements.*

The Commissioner ruled that the District had improperly assigned teachers who lacked the required certification to teach its Home and Career Skills courses. He also found the Krause was on the “preferred eligible list” and remained available to teach the course during the time at issue here.

Noting that Education Law §3009 prohibits boards of education from employing unqualified teachers, the Commissioner said that the District’s practice of assigning teachers without the requisite Family and Consumer Sciences/Home Economics certification to teach the entire core curriculum in effect circumvents both the certification requirements and the incidental teaching regulations.

Although he said that the District improperly assigned uncertified teachers to its Home and Career Skills courses, the Commissioner concluded that the District had not created a specific position mandating the use of the preferred list to fill the vacancy. In the words of the Commissioner”

The record here shows that no vacancy occurred and no new position was created; instead, [the District’s] former teaching duties were redistributed albeit to teachers who lacked the proper certification. If, as a result of this decision, the District creates a new position in Home and Career Skills, [Krause] may indeed be entitled to such position by virtue of her place on the preferred eligible list of candidates.

The Commissioner ordered the District to “cease assigning teachers who lack the appropriate Family and Consumer Sciences or Home Economics certification to its seventh grade Home and Career Skills classes, review its curriculum, and comply with Education Law §3013 in the filling of any future vacancies.”

* The Home and Career Skills core curriculum prepared by the State Education Department (“SED”) identifies four process skills and ten content areas to be included in the course. The curriculum also notes that a certified Family and Consumer Sciences teacher must teach the course.

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