Tuesday, August 05, 2014

School board’s abolishment of library media specialist positions challenged


School board’s abolishment of library media specialist positions challenged
Appeal to the Commissioner of Education, Appeal #16,631

The School Board abolished six library media specialist positions in the district. One of the media specialists [MS] appealed the Board’s action on behalf of herself and the five other media specialists, alleging that [1] its elementary schools still contain the same library facilities and resources to which elementary students have regular access and [2] the School Board created literacy centers at each of its elementary schools at which each elementary school class receives one reading class per week taught by newly-employed reading teachers and teaching assistants.

Specifically, MS alleged that the Board’s action effectively closed every elementary school library and discontinued the provision of library services, in violation of 8 NYCRR §91.1. As redress, she asked that the Commissioner direct the Board to reinstate her and the other five media specialists to their former positions with back pay and benefits.

Initially the Commissioner observed that “the appeal must be dismissed” for a number of procedural reasons, including:

1. To the extent that MS attempted to assert claims on behalf of “all elementary students” in the district, she lacks standing to do so.  An individual may not maintain an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310 unless aggrieved in the sense that he or she has suffered personal damage or injury to his or her civil, personal or property rights.

2. Although MS had standing to bring this appeal on her own behalf to the extent she has been aggrieved by the abolition of her position, the Commissioner explained that she lacked standing to assert the rights of others both with respect to the abolition of the library media specialist positions and to the alleged inadequacy of the school district providing school library services.

3. MS’s appeal failed to join necessary parties, i.e., the least senior of the district’s reading teachers, including, where appropriate, the newly hired reading teachers employed to teach reading classes at the literacy centers in each elementary school. 

The Commissioner then said that “Even if [MS’s] application and appeal were not dismissed on procedural grounds, they would be dismissed on the merits.” 

Explaining that in an appeal to the Commissioner the 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, the Commissioner said that [1] MS failed to establish facts sufficient to warrant the removal of the board and [2] MS failed to articulate any decision, order, rule or regulation of the Board of Regents or the Commissioner of Education that members of the School Board willfully disobeyed.

As to MS’s request that the Commissioner “discipline and/or reprimand members of the district’s staff,” the Commissioner noted that it is a board of education rather than the Commissioner of Education that has the authority to take disciplinary action against a school district employee.

Responding to MS’s request that the Commissioner “conduct and investigation” the Commissioner said that he “lacks the authority to conduct an investigation as requested by MS. Further, an appeal to the Commissioner of Education pursuant to Education Law §310 is appellate in nature and does not provide for investigations.

The Commissioner then dismissed MS’s appeal.

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

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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