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Decision No. 14,231

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

Decision No. 14,231

(October 18, 1999)

James R. Sandner, Esq., attorney for petitioner, Christopher M. Callagy, Esq., of counsel

Shaw & Perelson, LLP, attorneys for respondents, David S. Shaw and Lisa S. Rusk, Esqs., of counsel


MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the adoption of a revised shared decisionmaking plan by the Board of Education of the Greenburgh Eleven Union Free School District ("respondent board") on February 27, 1998. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner, Greenburgh Eleven Federation of Teachers, Local 1532, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, is the exclusive collective bargaining organization representing the teachers in the Greenburgh Eleven Union Free School District. Petitioner contends that respondent board acted arbitrarily and capriciously and violated its own plan and the shared decisionmaking regulation when it approved the district’s revised shared decisionmaking plan without the teachers’ participation in the biennial review. It asserts that the teachers had inadequate time to review and discuss essential materials and issues, and thus were denied the opportunity to propose meaningful amendments to the plan.

Petitioner asserts that the district initially scheduled a meeting as part of the biennial review process on February 2, 1998, which was abruptly canceled without explanation. Petitioner further asserts that the district unilaterally rescheduled the meeting for February 9, and did not distribute any agenda, assessment plans, success statements, reports or test data until minutes before the meeting. Hence, petitioner contends, the teachers were deprived of sufficient time to evaluate the data in order to participate in the meeting in a meaningful way. Petitioner additionally contends that most teachers were not provided with notice of the rescheduled meeting until February 6.

Petitioner also contends that teachers were not involved in preparing an agenda or in developing the procedures to govern the meeting. It asserts that the district–appointed Compact Facilitator, Robert Schwartz, enforced the procedures arbitrarily and unfairly by expressing hostility toward the teachers and invoking a ten-minute time limit for questions. In addition, petitioner contends that Mr. Schwartz failed to allot any time to discuss the teachers’ beliefs regarding unlawful implementation of certain provisions of the current plan. In particular, petitioner claims that the district permitted unelected members to serve on the district-wide committee in contravention of section I-C of the plan, which directs that each stakeholder group elect its own representatives; never created a district-wide assessment committee as required by section III; never included biological parents in the biennial review; and failed to present raw data which would have enabled critical analysis of its claims of academic success. Petitioner states that after Mr. Schwartz denied its request for a second meeting, respondent board approved the plan without any further input from the teachers. Petitioner requests that I annul the plan and order respondent board to conduct the biennial review with the meaningful participation of teachers.

Respondents assert that the biennial review process was conducted in accordance with 8 NYCRR "100.11 and permitted the meaningful participation of and requisite consultation with all designated representatives.

Section 100.11 requires each board of education to develop and adopt a district plan for school-based planning and shared decisionmaking. Such district plan shall be developed in collaboration with a committee composed of the superintendent of schools, administrators, teachers and parents (8 NYCRR "100.11[b]). Furthermore, the plan may only be adopted "after consultation with and full participation by" these designated representatives and after "seeking endorsement of the plan" by the designated representatives (8 NYCRR "100.11[d][1]). In addition, "100.11(f) provides, in pertinent part:

The district's ‘Plan for the Participation by Teachers and Parents in School-based Planning and Shared Decisionmaking’ shall be reviewed biennially by the board of education . . . in accordance with subdivision (b) of this section. Any amendment or recertification of a plan shall be developed and adopted in the manner prescribed by subdivision (b) and paragraphs (d)(1) and (2) of this section.

Petitioner has the burden of establishing all the facts upon which it seeks relief (8 NYCRR "275.10; Appeal of Trombley, 39 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 14,189). Petitioner complains that the district unilaterally postponed the February 2 meeting and failed to give sufficient notice of the rescheduled meeting to its stakeholders. However, as respondent board correctly asserts, neither the regulation nor the district plan requires that stakeholder groups be consulted regarding the scheduling of meetings. Moreover, respondents assert that they posted notices, contacted all district-wide committee members by memorandum either in their school or home mailbox, and attempted to contact members by telephone or in person. In addition, respondents’ exhibits contain the February 3 memo from Mr. Schwartz with the new meeting date and evidence that an advertisement was placed in a local newspaper. It thus appears that respondents made numerous and reasonable efforts to notify all committee members of the changed meeting date. Although it claims the notice may have been short in some cases, petitioner does not allege that its members were unable to attend due to any lack of notification and otherwise fails to substantiate this allegation.

Petitioner further claims it was deprived of sufficient time to evaluate the data presented at the February 9 meeting, and that Mr. Schwartz arbitrarily denied its request for a second meeting. Respondents’ exhibits demonstrate that petitioner and all other stakeholder groups were originally provided with one week, which was subsequently extended by another week, to provide written comments in addition to the discussion that took place at the meeting. Additionally, the administrative stakeholders, the middle and elementary school teams and parent representatives all informed Mr. Schwartz in writing that they did not believe a second meeting was necessary. Only the high school team felt that a second meeting was "acceptable." Indeed, the record reflects that many team members criticized petitioner for being antagonistic and asking unnecessary, irrelevant questions. In short, petitioner has not presented sufficient evidence to meet its burden of proof on these issues.

A board of education must consult certain designated representatives when developing a plan for school-based planning and shared decisionmaking and when amending or recertifying the plan (8 NYCRR "100.11). The regulation, however, does not require the representatives’ endorsement of the plan as a precondition for approval. The regulation simply requires a board of education to seek the designated representatives’ endorsement of the plan before its adoption; it is not required to obtain such endorsement (Appeal of Passino, 34 Ed Dept Rep 6, Decision No. 13,214). There is also no requirement that all committee members agree to all aspects of the plan (Appeal of Council of Supervisors and Administrators, 34 Ed Dept Rep 536, Decision No. 13,404; Appeal of St. Victor, 33 id. 679, Decision 13,194). Upon my review of the record, it appears that respondents have met the requirements of the regulation.

I have considered petitioner’s remaining contentions and find them without merit.

This is now the fourth appeal filed by petitioner regarding shared decisionmaking. I reiterate my comments made in Appeal of Greenburgh Eleven Federation of Teachers (35 Ed Dept Rep 307, Decision No. 13,551), where I noted that the purpose of shared decisionmaking "is to foster communication among all parties involved in the critical job of educating our children. Reasonable communication between petitioner and respondent[s] 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."