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Decision No. 12,925

Appeal of NINA FEIGIN from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York and Joseph A. Fernandez, Chancellor, regarding licensure.

Decision No. 12,925

(May 6, 1993)


Jeffrey S. Karp, Esq., attorney for petitioner

Hon. O. Peter Sherwood, Corporation Counsel, attorney for respondents, David L. Lock, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner seeks an order directing that she be evaluated and tested for purposes of licensure as assistant principal, special education. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner holds a New York City public school license as a principal, special education and as an assistant principal of elementary, intermediate and junior high schools, as well as New York State certification as a school administrator and a school social worker. She has worked as a teacher in the New York City school system, and since February 1986 has been employed by respondent board's special education division as a social worker.

Pursuant to regulations recently published by respondent board, an applicant for a license as assistant principal, special education must possess a valid New York City or New York State license in special education. Petitioner requested that she be allowed to participate in an examination process to be licensed as an assistant principal, special education. That request was denied because petitioner does not possess a license in special education. This appeal ensued.

A determination concerning eligibility criteria for a New York City public school license will not be annulled unless that determination was arbitrary or capricious (Matter of DeBellis, 21 Ed Dept Rep 177; DeBellis v. Commissioner, Supreme Court, Albany County, January 28, 1992, CONWAY, J., aff'd. 95 AD2d 907). Petitioner contends that there is no valid reason to require her to be certified in special education to be an assistant principal in a special education school. She points out that usually an assistant principal of a non-special education public school is not required to be certified for every discipline in which he or she is called upon to supervise. Petitioner also contends that because she is already licensed as a principal for a special education school, she is qualified to serve in the lower-level supervisory position of an assistant principal of such a school. Indeed, respondent board's regulations provide that an individual may be appointed to a position for which a license has been established if that individual has that license or an "appropriate higher license." Petitioner contends that her license as principal, special education is an appropriate higher license.

However, in the New York City public school system, assistant principals perform specialized tasks in relation to day-to-day instruction and curriculum. In fact, such assistant principals act in some respects as the chairpersons for departments in a school. Based on those duties, respondent board has established over 40 separate licensing areas for assistant principals including special education, English, Fine Arts, Electrical Trades and Nursing (see 8 NYCRR 80.2[e] and [f]). Such specialized assistant principals are more aware of the special needs of the student population they serve, serve as mentors to less experienced teachers and provide model or demonstration lessons in the subject area. In particular, assistant principals for special education would have knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 USC 1401, etseq.) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 USC 12101, etseq.). In addition, such assistant principals must have an ability to communicate with the parents and guardians of children with disabilities and a sensitivity to the personal, social, physical and educational needs of that population.

By contract, the principal of a special education school is responsible for all operations of the school. The principal oversees the entire instructional and administrative program, support services and staff, including special education teachers, school counselors, psychologists, social workers, teacher aides, administrators and support staff. It would be unrealistic to expect the principal to be licensed in each of those areas. Because the assistant principal's duties are directed to day-to-day instruction and curriculum in special education, I do not find that respondent board has acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner when it imposed the requirement that a candidate for the license of assistant principal, special education must possess a license in special education.

Nor do I find that petitioner is qualified to be an assistant principal of a special education school merely because she is licensed to be a principal of such schools. As shown above, the duties and certification requirements of assistant principal and principal of special education schools are very distinct. Under such circumstances, the license of principal, special education is not "an appropriate higher license" of the license of assistant principal, special education.