Friday, August 02, 2013

Appointment of an “uncertified teacher” to fill a school district’s vacancy in an “extracurricular activity” lawful


Appointment of an “uncertified teacher” to fill a school district’s vacancy in an “extracurricular activity” lawful
Appeal of Canestraro, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 16,507

Michael Canestraro challenged various actions of the Board of Education of the William Floyd Union Free School District [William Floyd] related to his position being laid off and its refusal to appoint him to another available position.

Mr. Canestraro, certified in Performing Arts and Drama, was employed by William Floyd  as a teacher of Theater and Dance. He was granted tenure in the music tenure area in 2006. Budgetary constraints resulted in William Floyd’s eliminating a position in the music tenure area and Mr. Canestraro was notified that “his position was abolished … and that he would be placed on a preferred eligibility list.”

In his appeal to the Commissioner Mr. Canestraro asserted that he was improperly terminated as he was not the least senior person in the music tenure area. He also contended that William Floyd “violated his constitutional and statutory rights in that he was deprived of his property without due process of law” and violated Education Law §3013(3)* by employing Jennifer Roller, a non-tenured teacher, uncertified in Performing Arts and Drama, instead of appointing him to the position Director of the Children’s Theatre.

William Floyd contended that [1] Mr. Canestraro’s appeal was untimely, [2] that Mr. Canestraro lacks certification for the positions to which he claimed recall rights and [3] that Mr. Canestraro’s petition failed to state a cause of action.

After addressing a number of procedural issues, the Commissioner dismissed Mr. Canestraro’s appeal as untimely** and other procedural defects set out in the Commissioner’s determination.

The Commissioner pointed out that a petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing the facts upon which petitioner seeks relief, citing 8 NYCRR §275.10.

In this instance the Commissioner found that Mr. Canestraro’s claim that Ms. Roller was not properly certified to be the Director of the Children’s Theatre was not supported by the record. The Commissioner said that an affidavit of William Floyd’s assistant superintendent for human resources and administration indicates that the district abolished its theater program and that the Children’s Theatre at the high school is an extracurricular activity, outside of the school day.

Consequently, said the Commissioner, because the Children’s Theater was not part of William Floyd’s academic curriculum, but was an extracurricular activity, Ms. Roller was not required to be certified to hold the position of Director of the Children’s Theatre. Thus Mr. Canestraro failed to demonstrate that Ms. Roller was required to hold certification in order to be lawfully employed in this extracurricular activity.

Finally, the Commissioner ruled that Mr. Canestraro’s reliance on the “continuing wrong doctrine” was misplaced as it dis not apply in this instance and this element of his claim must also be dismissed.

* §3013(3), in pertinent part, provides: “The persons on such preferred list shall be reinstated or appointed to such vacancies in such corresponding or similar positions in the order of their length of service in the system at any time within seven years from the date of abolition or consolidation of such office or position.”

** Mr. Canestraro initially filed a Notice of Claim for reinstatement and damages but Supreme Court, Suffolk County, dismissed his Article 78 petition on the grounds that the Commissioner of Education had primary jurisdiction over the dispute [Canestraro v. William Floyd Union Free School District, Supreme Court, Suffolk County, Index No.0045692/2010]. The Commissioner noted that an unsuccessful attempt to litigate a dispute in court that does not result in a final determination on the merits may be accepted as an excuse for failing to file a timely appeal to the Commissioner, when the appeal is commenced within 30 days of receipt of the judicial determination.

The Commissioner’s decision is posted on the Internet at:

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