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Decision No. 13,029

Appeal of CONSTANCE REED, DONNA HITT, PAUL A. DEYSENROTH III and KATHERINE WHEELER from action of the South Kortright Central School District regarding shared decision making.

Decision No. 13,029

(October 21, 1993)

Scolaro, Shulman, Cohen, Lawler, Burstein & Ferrara, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Norman H. Gross, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the decision of the South Kortright Central School District ("respondent") to employ a home and careers/health teacher upon the recommendation of the district's shared decision making committee. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioners are residents of respondent's district. In April 1993, respondent voted to offer Judy Ogden a probationary appointment, effective September 1993, to fill the vacant position for a home and careers/health teacher. The district's shared decision making committee recommended the appointment to the superintendent who then recommended the appointment to respondent's board. Petitioners sought the appointment of another teacher to the position. This appeal ensued.

Petitioners allege that the recommendation by the shared decision making committee ("the planning committee") violates Commissioner's regulations governing shared decision making (8 NYCRR '100.11). Petitioners request that I set aside respondent's hiring decision.

Respondent contends that petitioners have failed to either state a claim upon which relief can be granted or include a clear and concise statement of their claim. Respondent also contends that petitioners lack standing to seek review of respondent's employment decision and that they failed to join Judy Ogden as a party.

Before reaching the merits of this appeal, I will address the procedural issues. Petitioners request that Judy Ogden's appointment be set aside and that respondent undertake the hiring process anew. Since a decision on the merits would involve the rights of Ms. Ogden, she is a necessary party to this proceeding and, therefore, should have been joined as a party (Appeal of Kalinowski, 32 Ed Dept Rep 476; Appeal of Healy, 29 id. 391; Appeal of Zimmerman, 28 id. 382). There is no evidence that Ms. Ogden has been joined as a party in this appeal and, therefore, it must be dismissed.

Respondent also maintains that this matter must be dismissed since petitioners lack standing to challenge an employment decision. Petitioners are taxpayers and residents of the district. However, there is no claim that they were individually affected by the hiring decision. Neither one's status as a resident of the district or as a parent of a student in the district automatically confers the capacity to seek judicial review of the actions of the board of education with respect to its employees (Appeal of Pecorale, et al., 31 Ed Dept Rep 493; Appeal of Strober, 30 id. 4). Accordingly, petitioners lack standing to bring this appeal, and their claims must be dismissed on that basis as well.

Although the case must be dismissed on procedural grounds, I will address the merits to provide guidance on matters of shared decision making. Petitioners claim that the selection of Ms. Ogden violated the Commissioner's regulations on shared decision making. Those regulations, which were promulgated in March 1992, were intended to foster a process of school-based planning and shared decision making to improve the educational performance of all students. To realize its goal, the regulation requires every board of education to develop a district plan in collaboration with a planning committee composed of the superintendent of schools, administrators, teachers and parents.

Petitioners seem to argue that since respondent has not adopted a district plan, the planning committee was not authorized to participate in school based planning. Petitioners' claim is without merit. The ad hoc participation of the planning committee in a hiring decision does not violate the shared decision making regulation. To the contrary, respondent's decision to involve the committee in its hiring decision before it had adopted its final shared decision making plan was not only laudable, it is consistent with the overall goal of shared decision making to foster greater involvement of parents, teachers and school administrators in decisions affecting students. Accordingly, I find no basis to conclude that the committee's participation in a hiring decision was improper.