Strict compliance with evaluation procedures excused in view of evidence attesting to the terminated probationary teacher’s poor performance in class
Matter of Brown v Board of Educ. of the City School Dist. of the City of New York, 2011 NY Slip Op 07908, Appellate Division, First Department
A probationary teacher served with the New York City School System for three years and was terminated at the end of his third year. Consistent with a review procedure set forth in the collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Education and the teacher’s employee organization, the teacher appealed his temination to the Department of Education's Office of Appeal and Review [OAR].
The teacher’s principal and assistant principal were called as witnesses by the Department of Education at the OAR hearing during which they testified about the teacher’s poor performance in class management and engagement of students. Also introduced in the course of the hearing was the teacher’s Annual Professional Performance Review and Report on Probationary Service of Pedagogical Employee [APPR] that indicated a "U-rating."
In addition to cross-examining the DOE's witnesses, the teacher pointed out that the APPR report was deficient in several respects, namely that no documentation was annexed to the APPR as required by the Chancellor's rating handbook and that sections of the report were left blank. Ultimately the teacher was denied his Certification of Completion of Probation, whereupon he initiated an Article 78 proceeding challenging the determination to terminate him.
Supreme Court found that the Board of Education’s determination that resulted in the teacher’s unsatisfactory performance rating and his being discontinued from service was in violation of lawful procedure in that “the APPR report was not in strict compliance with the procedures set forth in the Rating Handbook promulgated by the Chancellor.”
The Appellate Division, however, unanimously reversed Supreme Court’s ruling “on the law” and reinstated the Board of Education’s decision to terminate the teacher.
The Appellate Division said that the teacher had failed to demonstrate that his termination as a probationary employee was arbitrary and capricious or was made in bad faith, noting that the teacher did not dispute that the evidence adduced at the hearing from the principal and assistant principal. That evidence, said the court, provided "ample ground for his discontinuance."
The court said that the principal and the assistant principal described teacher's poor performance in class management and engagement of students, which descriptions were based on their personal classroom observations. Under these circumstances, said the Appellate Division, any deficiencies in the APPR report "do not render the determination to discontinue his employment arbitrary and capricious" as the hearing testimony provided ample grounds for terminating the teacher.