Skip to main content

Search Google Appliance

Search Google Appliance

Decision No. 13,732

Appeal of JOSEPH and DIANE PERINO, on behalf of KAREN PERINO, ROBERT and GLADYS DECOSTANZO, on behalf of CHRISTOPHER DECOSTANZO, and GERALD TRACY, on behalf of NICOLE TRACY, from action of the Board of Education of the East Islip Union Free School District, and Michael F. Griffin, Superintendent, regarding class rank.

Decision No. 13,732

(February 5, 1997)

Wasserman & Stein, Esqs., attorneys for petitioners, Lewis M. Wasserman, Esq., of counsel

Ingerman, Smith, Greenberg, Gross, Richmond, Heidelberger, Reich & Scricca, L.L.P., attorneys for respondents, Christopher Venator, Esq., of counsel

SHELDON, Acting Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal respondents' implementation of a new class ranking policy. The appeal must be dismissed.

In October 1993, the East Islip Union Free School District ("district") formed a committee to study the district's class ranking policy. After a two-year review process, which included input by an outside consultant, the committee recommended that the district adopt a new class ranking policy. In April 1995, respondent board adopted the committee's recommendations and decided to implement the new class ranking policy beginning with the class of 1996.

During the 1995-96 school year, Karen Perino and Nicole Tracy were seniors and Christopher DeCostanzo was a sophomore at the district's high school. Accordingly, the senior class ranking of all three students would be calculated pursuant to the district's new policy.

The district's previous class ranking policy determined class rank based on a system of grade weighting. Under this policy, honors courses were more heavily weighted than Regents courses and Regents courses were more heavily weighted than general high school courses. In addition, a student's class rank was based on the grades he or she achieved in English, social studies, math, science, foreign language and physical education during grades nine through June of grade eleven.

The district's new class ranking policy is also based on a system of grade weighting. Under the new policy, honors courses are more heavily weighted than Regents courses, and Regents courses are more heavily weighted than general high school courses. However, less relative weight is assigned to honors and Regents courses under the new policy as compared to the old policy. In addition, the new policy bases a student's class rank on the grades he or she receives in all courses, except physical education, during grades nine through eleven, and in any high school accelerated courses taken in junior high school.

Petitioners commenced this appeal and requested a stay to prevent the implementation of the district's new class ranking policy. On November 7, 1995, Commissioner Mills denied petitioners' stay request.

Petitioners contend that respondents' decision to implement the new class ranking policy beginning with the class of 1996 retroactively penalizes their children who made course selections based on the old policy. Accordingly, petitioners maintain that respondents' actions are arbitrary and capricious and violate petitioners' due process rights. Petitioners further maintain that respondents should be estopped from applying the new policy to their children.

Respondents contend that the new policy is being applied prospectively, as petitioners' children have never been ranked under the old policy. Respondents further contend that the district developed the new policy after extensive analysis and maintain that the policy is reasonable. Respondents also argue that petitioners have failed to show that they have been adversely affected by the new policy. Respondents maintain that the benefits of immediate implementation far outweigh any disadvantages and contend that any impact is de minimus.

The determination of class rank is a decision for the local board of education that should not be altered unless it is arbitrary and irrational (Appeals of Mulder, 35 Ed Dept Rep 340; Appeal of Maloney, 33 id. 154; Appeal of Kuttner, 32 id. 39). As long as the local policy in question is not wholly without rational basis, the Commissioner will not impose a different policy (Appeal of Tenbus and Kraack, 35 Ed Dept Rep 320).

In this case, there is no basis to determine that the district's new class ranking policy is irrational or unreasonable. The record indicates that the district conducted extensive study before adopting a new policy. In addition, the district's old policy was so heavily weighted that a student who received an A in a general high school course was assigned the same number of value points as a student who received a D in an honors course. Accordingly, it appears that the district's decision to decrease the degree of grade weighting was reasonable.

Moreover, I cannot conclude that respondents' decision to implement the new policy beginning with the class of 1996 was irrational. None of petitioners' children have ever been ranked under the old policy and Christopher will not be ranked under the new policy until 1997-98. Furthermore, petitioners' claims that their children would have planned their schedules differently are purely speculative and without basis. In addition, the Commissioner has previously permitted the immediate implementation of a grade weighting system (See, Appeal of Goldstein, 29 Ed Dept Rep 42).

The record indicates that respondents immediately implemented the new policy to remedy certain inequities. Further, when petitioners objected to immediate implementation, the superintendent directed a comparison of the prior senior class' ranking under the new and old policies. This analysis revealed that the rankings under the two systems were not significantly different. Accordingly, respondents decided to implement the new policy beginning with the class of 1996. Based on the record, I cannot conclude that this decision was arbitrary or unreasonable.

In addition, it does not appear that petitioners' children have been substantially harmed by the new policy. In their reply, petitioners allege that Karen Perino ranked 37 and Nicole Tracy ranked 33. Petitioners further contend that both Karen and Nicole would have ranked at least 3 places higher if they had been ranked under the old policy. Even if I accept these contentions, I do not find that this difference is so significant as to render respondents' implementation irrational.

In this appeal, petitioners have also alleged that respondents retroactively implemented the new class ranking policy in violation of petitioners' constitutional right to due process. It is well settled that Education Law '310 is not the proper forum to decide novel questions of constitutional law (Appeal of Franzenburg, 33 Ed Dept Rep 284; Appeal of Silano, 33 id. 20).

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

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE