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Decision No. 13,214

Appeal of THOMAS PASSINO, as President of the Indian River Education Association, from action of the Board of Education of the Indian River Central School District regarding shared decisionmaking.

Decision No. 13,214

(July 11, 1994)

Bernard F. Ashe, Esq., attorney for petitioner, Mary Scalise Perillo and Rocco A. Solimando, Esqs., of counsel

Grossman Kinney Dwyer Reitz & Harrigan, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Susan T. Johns and Marc H. Reitz, Esqs., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the adoption by the Board of Education of the Indian River Central School District ("respondent") of a shared decisionmaking plan without the endorsement of the teacher representatives on respondent's shared decisionmaking committee. The appeal must be sustained in part.

Petitioner is president of the teachers association and a member of respondent's shared decisionmaking committee. In the fall of 1992, respondent formed a district compact committee ("the committee") to develop and adopt a plan for the participation by teachers, parents and school administrators in school-based planning and shared decisionmaking, pursuant to 8 NYCRR 100.11. In December 1993, the proposed plan was submitted to respondent. Respondent had concerns about the plan involving building compact teams (BCTs) and suggested changes. The facts are in dispute as to whether those changes were significant, since petitioner describes them as substantial while respondent contends they are minor.

Several meetings were scheduled to allow the committee to discuss the proposed changes with respondent, but inclement weather forced their cancellation. On January 11, 1994, three members of respondent's board met with the committee. The suggested changes were discussed at length but the meeting was adjourned without final resolution. On January 12, 1994, the president of respondent's board contacted the co-chair of the committee to discuss the proposed changes to the plan. The co-chair then contacted other committee members to seek their verbal endorsement so that respondent board could adopt the plan at a special meeting scheduled to be held on January 13, 1994. Although the plan did not have to be filed with the State Education Department ("SED") until February 1, respondent apparently wished to adopt the plan prior to the retirement of its superintendent on January 14, 1994. The co-chair obtained the verbal endorsement of 15 of the 24 committee members.

Subsequently, the co-chair of the committee met with petitioner to discuss the modified plan. Petitioner indicated that he wanted to see the final version before he could determine whether or not he was comfortable with the proposed changes. Petitioner was not provided with a final, typed version of the plan until January 25, 1994, after it had already been adopted by respondent.

This appeal ensued. Petitioner's request for interim relief pending a final determination on the merits was denied on March 15, 1994. Respondent's shared decisionmaking plan was approved by SED on March 22, 1994. On May 24, 1994, the Commissioner of Education heard oral argument by the parties on this appeal.

Petitioner alleges that respondent improperly made significant changes to the shared decisionmaking plan. Petitioner also alleges that respondent is required to obtain petitioner's endorsement before approving and submitting the district's compact plan. Petitioner further alleges that since his organization did not endorse respondent's plan, SED should not have approved it.

Respondent contends that pursuant to 8 NYCRR 100.11(d), it is required to develop a shared decisionmaking plan in full collaboration with a committee and seek the endorsement of that plan before its adoption, but is not required under the regulations to obtain the endorsement.

The record in this case indicates that the disputed changes concerned the composition, quorum requirements and dispute resolution procedures for the building compact teams. I agree with petitioner that these changes, sought by respondent's board, were significant. When respondent sought those changes, it was obligated to discuss them with petitioner and other designated representatives in a manner consistent with the shared decisionmaking regulations. They provide, in pertinent part, that a plan shall be adopted only after "consultation with and full participation of" designated representatives. See '100.11(d)(1). Respondent's hasty effort to adopt the plan before the resignation of its superintendent caused it to ask the committee's representatives to ratify a part of the plan containing significant changes without meaningful "consultation ... and full participation of" the committee. This process vitiated the possibility of thoughtful consideration and debate required by the regulations.

Moreover, while respondent is correct that it is not required to obtain the endorsement of designated representatives, under the facts of this case, the plan was altered so significantly that respondent was required to send the revised plan back to the committee to at least seek its endorsement before adopting the revised plan and submitting it to SED.

By circumventing the committee process, respondent has failed to comply with not only the letter of the regulation, but its spirit as well. 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 achieve the important goals of shared decisionmaking.

I have considered the parties' remaining contentions and find them without merit.

THE APPEAL IS SUSTAINED IN PART.

IT IS ORDERED that respondent submit the plan which it previously sent to the State Education Department to the District Compact Committee for its review of that portion of the plan concerning building compact teams. After fully consulting with the committee and seeking its endorsement on that portion of the plan, the board of education must readopt the final plan and forward it to the State Education Department for review in accordance with 8 NYCRR 100.11.

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