Rules protect teachers from being deprived of seniority credit in a tenure area if they unwittingly accept, and serve in, out-of-area assignments
Valhalla abolished two positions in the English 7-12 tenure area at the end of the 2010-2011 academic year and determined that Cronk was the “least senior” teacher in the English 7-12 tenure area because she had earned no seniority for the purposes of layoff as she taught computer classes rather than English classes. Accordingly Valhalla terminated Cronk's employment and [presumably] placed her name on a preferred list.
Cronk then submitted a letter to the Commissioner that clearly requested permission to amend her petition for the express purpose of joining the two teachers as necessary parties and enclosed along with it a copy of the proposed pleading, with proof of service on all parties. Subsequently Cronk received a response from the State Education Department stating that "the amended petition has been accepted for consideration." In view of this, said the Appellate Division, the Commissioner's determination that Cronk “neither sought nor received permission to join any additional parties" lacks a rational basis and, thus, was properly annulled by Supreme Court.
The Appellate Division said that “Even according deference to the Commissioner's construction and interpretation of the regulations, as we must," it could not agree that this interpretation is rational or reasonable,” explaining that “Nowhere in the language of 8 NYCRR 30-1.9 (c) is there a requirement that professional educators must first spend some of their time teaching within their probationary or acquired tenure areas before earning the right to consent to an out-of-area assignment.”