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Decision No. 13,563

Appeal of DELWYN J. MULDER, on behalf of his daughter, JESSICA MULDER, from action of the Board of Education of the Queensbury Central School District regarding class rank.

Appeal of DELWYN J. MULDER, on behalf of his daughter, JESSICA MULDER, from action of the Board of Education of the Queensbury Central School District regarding a transcript inaccuracy.

Decision No. 13,563

(March 8, 1996)

Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart & Rhodes, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Martin D. Auffredou, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--In two separate appeals, petitioner challenges the actions of the Board of Education of the Queensbury Central School District ("respondent") regarding his daughter's class rank and transcript. Because the petitions arise from the same facts, they are consolidated for decision. Both must be dismissed.

Petitioner is a resident of the district and his daughter, Jessica, is a senior in respondent's high school. Jessica attended ninth and tenth grades at the Emma Willard School, a nonpublic school. She transferred to Queensbury High School for eleventh and twelfth grades. Upon completion of her junior year, respondent calculated Jessica's class rank and cumulative grade point average (GPA). Respondent determines class rank based on a student's cumulative grade point average over a period of three years. To compute the average, respondent converted the letter grades used by the Emma Willard School into numerical grades used by respondent's high school. The highest grade awarded by the Emma Willard School is an "A," which was converted to a numerical grade of 94 on respondent's grade scale.

In October 1995, Jessica was informed that her GPA was 90.780 and her class rank was 18. The facts indicate that some confusion arose regarding the grade conversion scale and computations done by the guidance counselor and a secretary at respondent's high school. Petitioner subsequently spoke to the high school guidance counselor who explained that in respondent's numerical grading system, 100 is the highest possible grade and 65 is the lowest passing grade. Petitioner objected to the method used to calculate his daughter's grade point average as arbitrary and discriminatory and requested that respondent compute Jessica's grade point average using only courses that she took at respondent's high school. The principal at respondent's high school declined to adjust Jessica's GPA. Further discussions between petitioner and respondent's representative failed to resolve the dispute.

By letter dated October 25, 1995, respondent declined to adjust Jessica's GPA. The first appeal ensued. Petitioner's request for interim relief pending a determination on the merits was denied on December 6, 1995. Petitioner then filed a second appeal, alleging that respondent inaccurately prepared Jessica's transcript because it did not list the letter grades she received at Emma Willard. Petitioner's request for interim relief pending a determination on the merits of the second appeal was also denied. Petitioner seeks an order requiring respondent to use only numerical grades earned at respondent's high school to compute his daughter's GPA. Petitioner also seeks a determination that respondent incorrectly reported Jessica's grades on her transcript. He seeks an order requiring respondent to delete grades converted by respondent and list the actual letter grades received at Emma Willard School.

Respondent contends that its determination of Jessica's numerical average and class rank was not arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion. Respondent also contends that it has fairly and consistently applied the conversion schedule used to convert Jessica's grades to all students transferring into the district. As a procedural matter, respondent contends that petitioner fails to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. Respondent also raises defenses of res judicata and collateral estoppel. Finally, respondent contends that its refusal to delete the numerically equivalent grades on Jessica's transcript and replace them with Emma Willard's letter grades was not arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion.

The determination of class rank is a decision for the local board of education that should not be altered unless it is arbitrary and irrational (Appeal of Maloney, 33 Ed Dept Rep 154; Appeal of Kuttner, 32 id. 39). Furthermore, a board of education is empowered "to prescribe the course of study by which the pupils of the schools shall be graded and classified..." [Education Law '1709(3)]. A board of education may reasonably rely upon a student's official transcript from the school he or she previously attended in determining the grades received by the student while attending that school (Matter of Scibetta, 16 Ed Dept Rep 390).

In this case, respondent received a transcript from Emma Willard which contained letter grades. To determine Jessica's numerical GPA, respondent used the conversion table it applies to all transfer students. The record indicates that some initial confusion occurred in computing Jessica's GPA among school personnel. Later, respondent's guidance counselor contacted Emma Willard to determine if it had a numerical conversion of its own letter grades or if it would be willing to change any of the A grades Jessica received to an A+. The school informed respondent that it did not have a conversion table and could not alter Jessica's grades.

The record indicates that respondent has offered to include a copy of the Emma Willard transcript in any college application it sends out on Jessica's behalf. Respondent has also offered to incorporate into her college letter of recommendation an explanation of her cumulative grade point average and how it was calculated. While I am sympathetic to petitioner's concerns regarding the importance of Jessica's academic standing in her college applications, there is no evidence in the record that respondent acted arbitrarily, capriciously or irrationally. As respondent's principal correctly notes in his affidavits, the problem faced by petitioner and his daughter is not respondent's conversion scale or its application, but the fact that Emma Willard School does not award a grade of A+. Therefore, the highest score that Jessica could receive for grades attained in ninth and tenth grade is a numerical equivalent of 94. Based on the record before me, I cannot order the relief petitioner seeks or alter his daughter's GPA or transcript.

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