Skip to main content

Decision No. 13,542

Appeal of MARIO V. COLLELUORI, MICHAEL STERN and BENJAMIN TAUBENFELD from action of Wendy Sherman, individually and as President of the PTA Council, and Henry J. Grishman, Superintendent of Schools of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District regarding misuse of school property.

Decision No. 13,542

(January 26, 1996)

Guercio & Guercio, Esqs., attorneys for respondent Grishman,

Gregory J. Guercio, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal respondents' use of school property. The appeal must be dismissed.

Prior to the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District's annual election on May 3, 1995, petitioner Taubenfeld and another school board candidate mailed information to district residents outlining a school reorganization plan allegedly recommended by the district's superintendent, respondent Grishman. In response to this material, respondent Sherman prepared and distributed a flyer to the parents of children in the district which discussed the reorganization plan. In addition, the district's Parent Teacher Association (PTA) distributed another flyer to elementary school students that urged voters to support the school district's proposed budget. This appeal ensued.

Petitioners allege that respondents improperly used school property to produce and distribute the above described flyers in an impermissible attempt to influence the budget vote. They request that I assign a team to the district to investigate the alleged misuse of school property. Petitioners also seek the revocation of the PTA's charter. Respondent Grishman raises a number of procedural objections, including the failure to state a claim, lack of jurisdiction, timeliness and failure to effect personal service of the petition.

Before reaching the merits, I will address respondent Grishman's primary procedural argument. Grishman claims that he was not properly served in accordance with the Commissioner's regulations. The record in this case indicates that petitioners affixed the petition to respondent Grishman's door and mailed a certified copy to his residence. Section 275.8(a) of the Commissioner's regulations specifically requires that a petition be personally served or, in the event a respondent cannot be found, left with a person of suitable age and discretion at the respondent's residence or served in another manner "as directed by the Commissioner." I note that there is no evidence that respondent Grishman attempted to evade service or that alternate service was authorized. The appeal, therefore, must be dismissed. Since the appeal is procedurally defective, I will not reach the merits of petitioners' claims. However, in view of the serious allegations raised by petitioners, I am compelled to comment. Respondent Grishman admits that a partisan flyer was distributed to students using school district resources. Even though Grishman claims that this was done without his knowledge or permission, respondents are reminded that this kind of activity is strictly prohibited (Phillips v. Maurer, 67 NY 2d 672, 499 NYS2d 675). In Appeal of Allen, 32 Ed Dept Rep 69, the Commissioner specifically stated that a PTA is also prohibited from using a school district's established means of communicating with parents for partisan purposes. Respondents are admonished to conform their future conduct with this decision.



IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I, Richard P. Mills, Commissioner of Education of the State of New York, for and on behalf of the State Education Department, do hereunto set my hand and affix the seal of the State Education Department, at the City of Albany, this day of January, 1996.



Commissioner of Education