Lack of standing and failure to name a necessary party dooms an appeal to the Commissioner of Education
Appeal of Martha Kavanaugh, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 16,870
Martha Kavanaugh, a tenured teacher employed by the Hamburg Central School District, filed a petition asking the Commissioner of Education to rescind the Board of Education’s decision granting James Martinez tenure as an elementary school principal “pending an investigation by the State Education Department’s Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability and referral of the matter to law enforcement.”
Kavanaugh’s petition contained some 200 paragraphs setting out Martinez’s employment history in the district and alleged various acts of misconduct, harassment, intimidation, and impropriety by Martinezand others that Kavanaugh contended “raise questions as to his moral character.”
The Commissioner dismissed Kavanaugh’s appeal, noting two critical procedural difficulties barring consideration of her appeal.
First the Commissioner held that Kavanaugh lacked standing to challenge granting tenure to Martinez, explaining that an individual may not maintain an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310 unless he or she can show he or she is aggrieved in the sense that he or she has suffered personal damage or injury to his or her civil, personal or property rights. In other words, “Only persons who are directly affected by the action being appealed have standing to bring an appeal.”
Rather than setting out any facts or evidence that her civil, personal or property rights were, or are, directly adversely affected by the School Board’s granting tenure to Martinez, the Commissioner said Kavanaugh's petition “expresses concern that others may be harmed by Martinez’s continued employment.”
In addition, the Commissioner found that Kavanaugh failed to name to a necessary partly, Martinez, as a respondent in her appeal.
It is well settled that “a party whose rights would be adversely affected by a determination of an appeal to the Commissioner in favor of a petitioner is a necessary party and must be joined as such.” Here, were Kavanaugh to prevail in the appeal, clearly Martinez’s rights could be adversely affected.
The decision is posted on the Internet at: