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Decision No. 13,764

Appeals of MORAVIA TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION from action of the Board of Education of the Moravia Central School District regarding shared decisionmaking.

Decision No. 13,764

(April 29, 1997)

Charles A. Marangola, Esq., attorney for respondent

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the actions of the Board of Education of the Moravia Central School District ("respondent") regarding shared decisionmaking. Petitioners filed two separate petitions. However, because both concern shared decisionmaking, they are consolidated for decision. The petitions must be dismissed.

Petitioner is the collective bargaining organization representing teachers in respondent's district. In the first petition, petitioner contends that prior to the 1995-96 school year, a building team established by the district's shared decisionmaking plan planned and approved staff development days. Petitioner further contends that, at the start of the 1995-96 school year, the building team was informed by a building principal that it could no longer plan staff development days in addition to the days that had already been built into the school schedule for that purpose. Petitioner alleges that, in an effort to accommodate this directive, the building team tried to schedule some staff development programs around student assemblies, but that those events were found to be logistically unsuitable. Petitioner asserts that because no additional days were designated on the calendar for staff development, the building team was led to believe that no more staff development days could be scheduled during the 1995-96 school year. Petitioner argues that respondent thereafter planned and held additional staff development on April 12 and September 4, 1996, without the input or involvement of the building team.

In the second petition, petitioner alleges that the building team had responsibility for the student discipline code and that the district's previous discipline code had been developed by the building team using the shared decisionmaking process. On May 7, 1996, respondent's principal invited building team members to a meeting on the topics of alternative instruction and the student discipline code. On July 31, 1996, respondent introduced a new student discipline code. At a meeting of respondent board held on August 21, 1996, petitioner's representative asked why the new code was not decided upon by the building team and was informed by the superintendent that building team approval of the code was not necessary since it was a non-delegable duty of respondent.

Petitioner alleges that the building team has authority under respondent's shared decisionmaking plan to plan and schedule staff development days and has responsibility for the student discipline code. Petitioner seeks a determination on these issues and the authority of the building teams. Petitioner also seeks an outside facilitator to address disputes and requests a meeting of involved parties to explain the issues raised in the appeals. Respondent raises a number of procedural objections in both appeals, including that the petitions were not verified, fail to state clear and concise claims, that petitioner seeks advisory opinions, that petitioner lacks standing as an unincorporated association, that petitioner is not an aggrieved party and that the appeal with regard to the staff development days is untimely. Respondent also contends that petitioner did not exhaust administrative remedies by failing to follow the dispute resolution mechanism provided in the district's shared decisionmaking plan. Finally, respondent contends that its scheduling of staff development days and formulation of the student discipline code were within its legal authority and not improper.

Before reaching the merits, I will address respondent's procedural objection regarding verification of the petitions. Respondent contends that the petitions are not properly verified as required by 8 NYCRR 275.5, which provides that "All pleadings shall be verified. The petition shall be verified by the oath of at least one of the petitioners... ." While respondent's copy of the petitions may not be verified, the petitions submitted to my Office of Counsel include verifications by petitioner, both dated September 19, 1996. Therefore, the petitions were properly verified.

Respondent also contends that the first appeal is untimely, since petitioner appeals the scheduling of the April 12, 1996 staff development day, and the appeal was not commenced until September 19, 1996. An appeal to the Commissioner of Education must be instituted within 30 days of the act complained of or the making of the challenged decision (8 NYCRR 275.16; Appeal of Saba, 36 Ed Dept Rep 233). Since the appeal was commenced more than 30 days from the April 12, 1996 staff development day, the appeal is untimely as to that issue. I note, however, that the first appeal is timely with respect to the staff development day held on September 4, 1996.

However, the appeals must be dismissed on the merits. While petitioner states that respondent improperly scheduled staff development days that had not been planned and approved by the building team and should not have formulated the student discipline code without the building team, I agree with respondent that it was within its discretion to schedule those days and enact a student discipline code. Respondent's shared decisionmaking plan provides:

It is understood by all shareholders/groups that issues which impact on the health, safety, and/or civil rights of students and/or employees, State, Federal or local laws and regulation, Commissioner's Regulations, collective negotiations, tax rates, Board of Education policy and/or administrative regulations are not subject to shared decisionmaking. (Respondent's Shared Decisionmaking Plan, page 13, No. 7)

Furthermore, Education Law '1709(32) specifically authorizes a board of education "to provide, in its discretion, in-service training for its teachers." Likewise, respondent is also authorized under '1709(2) to establish rules and regulations concerning order and discipline in the schools and under 8 NYCRR 100.2(l) must adopt a written policy on school conduct and discipline. Prior decisions of the Commissioner have discussed certain obligations of a board of education that are not delegable to a shared decisionmaking team (Appeal of Zaleski and Gimmi, 36 Ed Dept Rep 284; Appeal of Kastberg, et al., 35 id. 208). Based on the record before me, I find that respondent acted within its legal authority in scheduling the staff development days and adopting a student code of conduct. Therefore, there is no basis for me to grant the relief petitioner seeks.

In light of the foregoing disposition, I will not address the parties' remaining claims.