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Decision No. 13,551

Appeal of GREENBURGH ELEVEN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS from action of the Board of Education of the Greenburgh Eleven Union Free School District and Superintendent Sandra Mallah regarding shared decisionmaking.

Decision No. 13,551

(February 5, 1996)

James R. Sandner, Esq., attorney for petitioner, James D. Bilik, Esq., of counsel

Shaw & Perelson, LLP, attorneys for respondent, David S. Shaw and Lisa Schreiner, Esqs., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the implementation of a shared decisionmaking plan by the Board of Education of the Greenburgh Eleven Union Free School District ("respondent"). The appeal must be sustained.

Petitioner is a union representing teachers and teaching assistants in the Greenburgh Eleven Union Free School District. Respondent is a special act school district created by the Legislature for the sole purpose of providing educational services to students who reside or attend Children's Village, a not-for-profit institution. On May 26, 1994, respondent adopted its shared decisionmaking plan, which was approved by the State Education Department on August 4, 1994.

Section I-B of respondent's shared decisionmaking plan calls for the selection of one to two special area teachers to serve on the building level shared decisionmaking teams. Section I-C of the plan states, in pertinent part:

Each stakeholder group elects its representative(s). In order to promote an opportunity for all staff to participate, the stakeholders in each building will select their own representatives at a site-based faculty meeting conducted during school time. Each principal will be responsible for assuring that the election is put on the agenda of one of their faculty meetings.

On March 23, 1995, representatives of the special area teachers were selected. The facts are in dispute regarding the method by which these representatives were selected. This appeal ensued.

Petitioner alleges that respondent violated the shared decisionmaking plan by failing to allow stakeholders to choose their representatives for the building teams in accordance with the plan. Respondent contends that it requested representation on the building teams and that since no special area teachers expressed interest, it sought representatives. Respondent also contends that the appeal is moot since the special area teacher named in the appeal declined a position on the building team.

Before reaching the merits, I will address the issue of mootness. Respondent cites my decision in Appeal of Jaffe, 34 Ed Dept Rep 652, to support the contention that the appeal is moot because the special area teacher mentioned in the appeal has subsequently declined an invitation to join the committee. Jaffe, however, is distinguishable from this case. In Jaffe, a school psychologist was selected to fill a pupil personnel teacher position on the building team. Because the school psychologist resigned and a pupil personnel teacher was selected for the building team, I dismissed the appeal as moot. In this case, petitioner contests the method of selection of stakeholders to the building teams, not the selection of any one individual. The question of whether respondent complied with its own plan with regard to stakeholder representation is still at issue. Therefore, I decline to dismiss the appeal as moot.

Turning to the merits, review of the plain language of the plan and the record in this matter supports petitioner's contention that respondent has violated the shared decisionmaking plan by failing to allow stakeholders to select building team representatives. Section I-C of respondent's shared decisionmaking plan provides that each stakeholder group shall elect its representative(s). Respondent asked for special area teacher representatives to serve on its building teams. While respondent attempts to characterize special area teachers' lack of interest as its reason for selecting representatives, my review of the record indicates that respondent never provided for the election of representatives from that group. Therefore, respondent is ordered to permit petitioner to conduct the election of its special area teacher representatives to the building teams at a faculty meeting scheduled at its earliest convenience.

I note that this is the third appeal filed by the petitioner regarding respondent's implementation of shared decisionmaking. The purpose of the shared decisionmaking is to foster communication among all parties involved in the critical job of educating our children. Reasonable communication between petitioner and respondent could resolve the issues between them without resorting to the appeal process. I urge the parties to comply with the spirit and letter of the regulation to achieve the important goals of shared decisionmaking.