Monday, August 10, 2015

An educator’s preferred list eligibility rights depend on his or her tenure area


An educator’s preferred list eligibility rights depend on his or her tenure area
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 16,801

A duly certified public school administrator [Administrator] employed by the Perry Central School District challenged the district school board’s [Board] decision not to appoint her to a secondary principal position following the abolishment of her position as middle school principal. 

The Board had voted to abolish the position of middle school principal for economic reasons effective June 30, 2014.  The secondary principal position was to become vacant July 1, 2014 when the incumbent of that position would move to a new position as superintendent of schools. A notice was posted regarding the open position of secondary principal and Administrator claimed that she had a right being appointed to the secondary principal position.  The Board told Administrator that she would not automatically be appointed to the position.* 

Administrator contended that she was entitled to the position of secondary principal “because the position is substantially similar to her abolished position of middle school principal” and in the same general tenure area of “principal.”  Administrator also alleged that she was being terminated without due process in violation of Education Law §§3012, 3020, and 3020-a.

In rebuttal, the Board argued that:

1. Administrator failed to meet her burden of proof in showing that the district has a general tenure area of principal;

2. Administrator did not show that she is the senior administrator in that tenure area such that she is entitled to the position of secondary principal; and
 
3. Administrator has failed to show that the district acted in bad faith by abolishing the position of middle school principal.

The Commissioner dismissed Administrator’s appeal claiming that she is entitled to the position of secondary principal because it is similar to her previously abolished middle school principal position and in the same general principal tenure area. The Commissioner explained that the Board has demonstrated, “on the record,” that it has established narrow tenure areas with regard to principals within the district, not one general principal tenure area as Administrator contended.

The Board admitted that “it has not been consistent in its appointment of elementary principals, with past appointment resolutions referencing the elementary principal tenure area.” However, said the Commissioner, it appears that Board “has otherwise consistently applied narrow administrative tenure areas and this [admission] appears to be an error with respect to one employee rather than a conscious decision to revert to a general principal tenure area for all principals.”

The Commissioner’s decision also noted that the Board’s resolution appointing Administrator “on probation” and the Board’s resolution appointing her “on tenure” very explicitly appointed her to the Middle School Principal tenure area.  Thus, concluded the Commissioner, the Board met its burden of proof to show that the Perry Central School District has narrow tenure areas for its principal positions.

Finding that the secondary principal position is not in the same tenure area as Administrator’s abolished position of middle school principal, the Commissioner ruled that Administrator is not entitled to appointment to the secondary principal position, presumably from a preferred eligible list established upon the abolishment of the middle school principal position. 

As to Administrator’s claim that she was terminated without due process, the Commissioner said that the school board explained that the abolition of Administrator’s position resulted from a reorganization of its schools to a pre-kindergarten through sixth grade and seventh grade through twelfth grade configurations that would result in cost savings to the district at a time of fiscal difficulties.  Thus, said the Commissioner, Administrator has not demonstrated that she was denied administrative due process when she was advised that her position was abolished and that she would be terminated as a result of that action, and this branch of her appeal must also be dismissed.

*At the time Administrator filed her appeal to the Commissioner, the position of secondary principal had not yet been filled.  

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
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The Layoff, Preferred List and Reinstatement Manual - a 645 page e-book reviewing the relevant laws, rules and regulations and summarizing selected court and administrative decisions involving layoff issues. For more information click on http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/
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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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