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Decision No. 14,468

Appeal of JOSEPH R. ZALESKI from action of the Board of Education of the Ausable Valley Central School District regarding a request for proposal.

Decision No. 14,468

(September 25, 2000)

Stafford, Trombley, Owens & Curtis, P.C., Dennis D. Curtin, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges the decision of the Board of Education of the Ausable Valley Central School District ("respondent") to issue a request for proposal ("RFP") for "architectural/engineering services". The appeal must be dismissed.

Respondent established a Facilities Committee comprised of district residents and employees, including an engineer and an architect, to examine the district’s facilities, identify possible capital deficiencies and make recommendations to respondent concerning the utilization of the district’s buildings. After apparently considering deficiencies informally identified by the Facilities Committee, respondent voted at its June 16, 1999 meeting to authorize its superintendent to search for an architect to complete a formal district study as a prerequisite to a capital improvement project. It appears that at its August 30, 1999 meeting, respondent was presented with and reviewed an RFP for "architectural/engineering services", which was published in the local paper as early as September 3, 1999. It is not clear from the record, however, when respondent formally approved the issuance of the RFP. The RFP requested the services of an architect and/or engineer to, among other things, "design and implement a comprehensive study to determine the most appropriate capital project which will meet the District’s needs in terms of existing and future educational space at the most reasonable cost to the District." Petitioner commenced this appeal challenging respondent’s authority to issue the RFP by serving his petition on September 28, 1999.

Petitioner contends that district policy 0220 requires respondent to use "district enrollment" and an "articulated curriculum" as the foundation for all management decisions within the district, and therefore prohibits respondent from issuing an RFP unless and until it develops an "articulated curriculum", which he contends respondent has failed to do.

Respondent asserts that the petition is both untimely and premature. As to the merits, respondent contends that it has authority pursuant to Education Law ""1709 and 1804 to issue the RFP and engage the services of an architect or engineer to assist the district in assessing its facility needs. Respondent explains that any capital project it proposes will be presented to district voters for approval.

An appeal to the Commissioner of Education must be commenced within 30 days of the making of the decision or the performance of the act complained of unless excused by the Commissioner for good cause shown (8 NYCRR "275.16; Appeal of Gorman, 39 Ed Dept Rep 377, Decision No. 14,265). Respondent contends that petitioner was required to commence an appeal within 30 days of its June 16, 1999 resolution authorizing its superintendent to search for an architect to complete a formal district study and that the appeal, commenced on September 28, 1999, is therefore untimely. I disagree. As noted by petitioner, at its June 16, 1999 meeting, respondent merely authorized its superintendent to search for an architect. There is nothing in the record to indicate that respondent decided at that meeting to issue the RFP in question. It was not until respondent’s August 30, 1999 meeting that the RFP was apparently presented to and reviewed by respondent. Because there is no evidence that respondent had decided prior to its August 30, 1999 meeting to issue an RFP, petitioner’s challenge, commenced on September 28, 1999, is timely.

Nor do I find merit to respondent’s claim that the petition is premature. Petitioner alleges that respondent’s decision to issue the RFP violates district policy 0220. Because the act complained of has, in fact, occurred, petitioner’s challenge is not premature.

The petition must, however, be dismissed because petitioner has failed to establish that he has been harmed by respondent’s actions. Pursuant to Education Law "310, an individual may not maintain an appeal unless aggrieved in the sense that he or she has suffered personal damage or injury to his or her civil, personal or property rights. Only persons who are directly affected by the action being appealed have standing to bring an appeal (Appeal of Lucente, 39 Ed Dept Rep 244, Decision No. 14,227; Appeal of Morris, et al., 38 id. 427, Decision No. 14,066). Although petitioner alleges that he is a district resident, he does not allege any facts establishing that he has been harmed by the respondent’s decision to issue the RFP. Petitioner’s mere status as a taxpayer is insufficient to establish standing to challenge the actions of the board of education (Appeal of Woodward, 36 Ed Dept Rep 445, Decision No. 13,773).

Even if the appeal were not dismissed on procedural grounds, I would dismiss it on the merits. District policy 0220, entitled "Statement of Educational Philosophy of the Ausable Valley Central School District", as its title suggests, sets forth the general educational philosophy of respondent’s district. The policy states that the district’s goal is to "empower students to reach their highest potential", and identifies ten ways through which respondent and district staff can achieve that end, one of which includes "[u]sing district enrollment and the articulated curriculum to form the foundation for all management decisions within the district." It is this latter statement that petitioner contends prohibits respondent from issuing the RFP because respondent has yet to articulate a curriculum.

I find petitioner’s argument unpersuasive. Policy 0220 simply acknowledges that the district seeks "to empower students to reach their highest potential" and recognizes that using "district enrollment" and the "articulated curriculum" to form the foundation for all management decisions is one way to facilitate that goal. Although it is not clear from the record what is meant by an "articulated curriculum" and whether respondent has one, nothing in policy 0220 prohibits respondent from engaging in appropriate planning activities regarding the district’s facilities. Education Law ""1709 and 1804 grant respondent broad authority to manage the educational affairs of the district. Respondent acted within the scope of its authority in seeking the assistance of professionals to evaluate the adequacy of the district’s facilities.

In light of this disposition, I decline to address the parties’ remaining contentions.