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Decision No. 13,553

Appeal of SANDRA K. WERTIS, RICHARD L. WERTIS, GEORGETTE PERGOLA and STEVEN PERGOLA, on behalf of ALEXANDRA WERTIS and DANIEL PERGOLA, from action of the Board of Education of the Garden City Union Free School District and Dr. Lee S. Wilson, Superintendent of Schools, regarding educational placement.

Decision No. 13,553

(February 5, 1996)

Richard L. Wertis, Esq., attorney for petitioners

Cullen & Dykman, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Thomas B. Wassel and Mark A. Hernandez, Esqs., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the refusal of the Board of Education of the Garden City Union Free School District ("respondent board") to place their children in accelerated courses. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioners are the parents of two children, Alexandra and Daniel, who attend the Garden City Middle School. In March 1995, petitioners had discussions with school officials concerning the possibility of Alexandra and Daniel taking seventh grade courses in science and mathematics, respectively, when they entered the sixth grade. In a letter dated May 25, 1995, Mr. and Mrs. Wertis wrote to respondent superintendent requesting that Alexandra be permitted to take seventh grade science and mathematics. On June 21, 1995, petitioners met with the superintendent to discuss acceleration. In early July, the superintendent informed petitioners that he would permit Alexandra and Daniel to take the advanced courses when they began sixth grade at the middle school.

On August 30, 1995, petitioners were informed that respondent board had deferred the implementation of the superintendent's decision because questions had been raised regarding the board's lack of a policy in this area and potential accusations that preferential treatment had been granted to these two students. On August 31, 1995, Mr. Wertis wrote to respondent board requesting the reasons for the deferral in writing. On September 8, 1995, the superintendent sent petitioners a letter explaining why the board declined to approve the "partial acceleration" of Alexandra and Daniel. That letter stated that respondent's "Acceleration and Retention of Students" Policy 4750 addressed only "complete" acceleration (a student moving ahead to the next grade in all subjects), that the policy should be amended to address "partial" acceleration together with eligibility for other middle school students who might wish to be considered for "partial acceleration". The letter also stated that a formal program should be implemented with written recommendations, cost analysis and public input. This appeal ensued. Petitioners' request for interim relief pending a determination on the merits was denied on October 13, 1995.

Petitioners allege that respondent's actions denying their children accelerated courses is arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and contrary to sound educational policy. They seek an order permitting Alexandra and Daniel to take the accelerated courses. Respondent contends that its exercise of discretion was appropriate and should not be overturned.

Education Law '1709(3) gives boards of education broad power:

To prescribe the course of study by which the pupils of the schools shall be graded and classified, and to regulate the admission of pupils and their transfer from one class or department to another, as their scholarship shall warrant.

The record in this case indicates that while the superintendent thought that the determination to accelerate Alexandra and Daniel in science and mathematics was within his discretion, respondent board reviewed the matter and decided that it would defer the superintendent's decision. The reasons given for the deferral were numerous and legitimate, including the fact that no board policy existed regarding "partial" acceleration, eligibility of other students, transportation factors, cost and public input. While I am sympathetic to the disappointment petitioners experienced when they were told of respondent board's decision regarding their children, there is simply no basis in the record for me to overturn it.

I have reviewed the parties' remaining contentions and find them without merit.