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Decision No. 13,010

Appeal of Margaret LaForty from action of the Board of Education of the Watertown City School District relating to teaching assignment.

Decision No. 13,010

(September 17, 1993)

Bernard F. Ashe, Esq., attorney for petitioner, Gerard John DeWolf, Esq., of counsel

O'Hara & O'Connell, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Joseph G. Shields, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals from a teaching assignment given her by respondent and asserts that such assignment violates the workload limitations set forth in '100.2(i) of the Commissioner's Regulations. Petitioner seeks an order directing respondent to conform its assignments to the requirements of '100.2(i) and to reimburse her a monetary sum to compensate for respondent's violation of this regulation. The appeal must be dismissed.

The facts are not disputed by the parties. Commencing in September 1992, petitioner was assigned to the computer lab in one of respondent's elementary schools. All of the students in the elementary school are divided into groups and rotate into the computer lab at various times throughout the year. On five of the seven days of the instructional cycle, petitioner was assigned to instruct seven class periods each day. On the two remaining days, she was assigned to six class periods. For six days out of the seven-day instructional cycle, petitioner's daily teaching load exceeded 150 pupils.

Petitioner asserts that her teaching assignment violates '100.2(i) which provides:

The number of daily periods of classroom instruction for a teacher should not exceed five. A school requiring of any teacher more than six teaching periods a day, or a daily teaching load of more than 150 pupils, should be able to justify the deviation from this policy.

As a threshold matter, respondent contends that this appeal, commenced on October 9, 1992 of the 1992-93 school year, is not timely. Respondent further contends that the total number of students in petitioner's classes is justifiable in light of the focus of the computer lab curriculum on teaching computer proficiency rather than simply computer literacy. Respondent contends that given this focus, it is essential that each student at the elementary school level be provided with equal access to the computer lab to complete the course curricula. Each of the 1,250 students is assigned to a group which makes three eight-day rotations to the lab at various times throughout the year, thereby permitting each of the students equal access to one of the 29 computers in the computer lab.

Respondent further asserts that petitioner has a lighter teaching load on 48 days than the other special area teachers of the elementary school (the other special areas being art, music, and physical education), and she has the same teaching load as the other special area teachers 168 days out of the school year. Further, she has fewer lesson plans to prepare than any other teacher in the elementary school since she prepares 72 lessons for the entire year and repeats these lessons to the various groups of students who rotate into the computer lab.

I will first address the procedural issue of timeliness. The Commissioner's Regulations at '275.16 requires that appeals be initiated within 30 days of the act or event complained of. Since petitioner commenced her appeal within 30 days of the commencement of the school year on September 14, 1992, I find the appeal timely. To the extent that Appeal of McGann-Masucci, 29 Ed Dept Rep 106 held that challenges to teacher work assignments must be brought within 30 days after a teacher knew or should have known of the assignment, it is hereby overruled.

Respondent concedes that petitioner is assigned more than six teaching periods a day on some instructional days and that her teaching load regularly exceeds 150 students. The issue presented here is whether respondent has provided justification for petitioner's assignment. I find that respondent has demonstrated such justification and that petitioner's workload does not preclude effective teaching. In this instance, petitioner has 240 or 280 minutes of instructional time, 40 minutes of planning time, 30 minutes for lunch and 82 minutes of unassigned time per day. Petitioner has the same or a lighter teaching load than the other special area teachers. In addition, petitioner is not required to grade any projects or assignments because the students do not receive a grade in computer lab. Finally, petitioner has not shown that the students, who each have their own computer on which to work, have been adversely affected by petitioner's workload.

The intent of '100.2(i) is to maintain quality instruction for pupils (Appeal of McGann-Masucci, supra; Matter of Borden, 26 id. 237; Appeal of Ames, et al., 26 id. 266). Based on the record before me, I am unable to conclude that petitioner's teaching assignment materially impaired her ability to provide her pupils with quality instruction time.