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Decision No. 13,202

Appeal of RUTH EMLER, individually and as President of the Massapequa Federation of Teachers, from action of the Board of Education of the Massapequa Union Free School District, relating to shared decisionmaking.

Appeal of DIANE KRAKOFF, from action of the Board of Education of the Massapequa Union Free School District, relating to shared decisionmaking.

Appeal of CHRISTINE WILSON, from action of the Board of Education of the Massapequa Union Free School District, relating to shared decisionmaking.

Appeal of DONNA WHITING, from action of the Board of Education of the Massapequa Union Free School District, relating to shared decisionmaking.

Appeal of KATHLEEN A. SULLIVAN, from action of the Board of Education of the Massapequa Union Free School District, relating to shared decisionmaking.

Appeal of LINDA PELLIZZI, from action of the Board of Education of the Massapequa Union Free School District, relating to shared decisionmaking.

Decision No. 13,202

(June 10, 1994)

James R. Sandner, Esq., attorney for petitioner Ruth Emler, Conrad W. Lower, Esq., of counsel

Van Nostrand and Martin, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Joanne Allar Albertsen, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the submission by the Board of Education of the Massapequa Union Free School District's ("respondent") to the State Education Department ("SED") of a shared decisionmaking plan, alleging violations of the Commissioner's regulations relating to the adoption of that plan. Because all six appeals relate to the same plan, they are consolidated for decision. The appeals are sustained.

Petitioners are a teacher and parent representatives of a committee ("planning team"), established pursuant to 8 NYCRR 100.11, to assist in the development of a shared decisionmaking plan required by that regulation. In March 1993, respondent created the planning team. On December 2, 1993, a draft plan was submitted to respondent. The planning team subsequently considered questions and concerns raised at respondent's December 2, 1993 meeting and on January 6, 1994 presented a revised plan to respondent. On January 19, 1994, the planning team met and considered further revisions to the draft plan. Those recommended changes were summarized in a memorandum submitted by the superintendent along with the draft plan at respondent's January 20, 1994 meeting. At that meeting, respondent adopted the shared decisionmaking plan.

Apparently, at the request of respondent, the superintendent subsequently deleted references to the steering/advisory committee and, where necessary, replaced the references with "central administration" or similar language. On January 27, 1994, the superintendent sent the plan to the planning team for their endorsement. On or about January 31, 1994, the teachers' union and parent members on the planning team decided not to endorse the plan because of the changes. No further action was taken by the board of education. Nevertheless, on February 18, 1994, respondent submitted the plan, as modified by the superintendent, to SED for approval. These appeals followed.

Petitioners assert that respondent violated 8 NYCRR 100.11 by the manner in which the plan was adopted. Specifically, they assert that the planning team's endorsement was not sought until after the respondent had already adopted the plan. Further, they contend that the plan, as submitted to SED, was never properly adopted by respondent. Respondent contends that the plan was adopted in accordance with the Commissioner's regulations and that any changes made after the January 20, 1994 adoption were proper because neither the regulation nor SED require the continued existence of the planning team after the plan is developed.

On April 1, 1994, SED approved the plan on the limited basis that it contained the elements required by 8 NYCRR 100.11(c). However, the manner in which the plan was developed is the issue before me now ripe for review. Section 100.11(d)(1) of the Commissioner's regulation provides in pertinent part:

The district's plan shall be adopted by the board of education or BOCES at a public meeting after consultation with and full participation by the designated representatives of the administrators, teachers, and parents, and after seeking endorsement of the plan by such designated representatives.

Petitioners correctly assert that respondent did not adopt the district's shared decisionmaking plan in accordance with '100.11(d)(1). The regulations require that the plan be adopted by respondent after seeking the endorsement of the planning team. The record reflects that a plan was adopted by respondent board of education on January 20, 1994. Respondent's superintendent subsequently altered the plan by removing its references to the steering/advisory committee. After those changes were made, the plan was sent to the planning team for its review and endorsement. The planning team refused to endorse the altered plan and respondent took no action to adopt it. Instead, on February 18, 1994, respondent sent the revised but unadopted plan to SED as its final plan.

Respondent contends that its circumvention of the regulatory requirements for the adoption of the plan was justified because neither SED nor the Commissioner's regulations contemplate a planning team's continued existence beyond the development of a plan. I find respondent's argument unpersuasive. It is noteworthy that neither SED nor the Commissioner's regulations prohibit the continued existence of a planning team beyond the initial development of a plan. To comply with the letter of the regulation, respondent, after deleting references in the plan to the steering/advisory committee, was required to send the revised plan back to the planning team to seek its endorsement before adopting the revised plan and submitting it to SED.

By circumventing the regulatory requirements, respondent also failed to comply with the spirit of the regulation. The purpose of shared decisionmaking is to foster communication among all parties involved in the critical job of educating our children (Appeal of Wilson, 33 Ed Dept Rep 79). Only through cooperation can the parties hope to comply with the purpose of the regulation and achieve the important goals of shared decisionmaking.

I have reviewed petitioners' remaining contentions and find them without merit.

THE APPEAL IS SUSTAINED.

IT IS ORDERED that respondent submit the plan which it previously sent to the State Education Department to the planning team for its review. After full consultation with the planning team and after seeking its endorsement, the board of education must adopt a final plan and forward the same to the State Education Department in accordance with 8 NYCRR 100.11.

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