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Decision No. 14,497

Appeal of SANDRA MAJKA from action of the Board of Education of the New York Mills Union Free School District regarding appointment of a principal.

Decision No. 14,497

(November 30, 2000)

Brian Michael Miga, Esq., attorney for petitioner

Ferrara, Fiorenza, Larrison, Barrett & Reitz, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Perri R. Guido, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner, a member of the Board of Education of the New York Mills Union Free School District ("respondent"), challenges the appointment of respondent's president as Junior/Senior High School Principal. The appeal must be dismissed.

At its meeting on December 7, 1999, respondent appointed David Langone, the district's Junior/Senior High School Principal, as Superintendent of Schools. At that same meeting, respondent's then-president, Gary Hadfield, declared his intent to seek the now-vacant principal's position and stated that he would excuse himself from any discussion respondent might have regarding the principal's job while retaining his position as board president. On December 21, 2000, respondent held a special meeting to establish procedures and guidelines for the search for a new secondary principal. Although petitioner claims otherwise, Mr. Hadfield avers that he did not attend that meeting.

The district received thirteen applications for the position, including Mr. Hadfield's. Of those, respondent selected six for initial screening by the superintendent, who in turn selected five candidates to interview with a special interview committee comprised of three teachers, one student, one parent, one teacher aide, one secretary, the Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, the elementary principal and the district's Business Official. The committee selected three candidates for respondent to interview, including Mr. Hadfield. The committee recommended Mr. Hadfield and respondent concurred, although not unanimously.

For several reasons, respondent decided to reopen the search. Respondent states that the second group of applicants was weaker than the first, and after considerable discussion, a majority of respondent board decided to offer the position to Mr. Hadfield. On respondent's behalf, Superintendent Langone offered Mr. Hadfield the principal's position on May 16, 2000. Mr. Hadfield accepted and also resigned his position as respondent's president on May 22. Respondent formally appointed Mr. Hadfield on June 6, 2000, and he commenced work on July 1, 2000. This appeal ensued on July 7, 2000.

Petitioner contends that Mr. Hadfield improperly participated in the development of the criteria for the position, salary range and procedures to fill the principal's position. Petitioner contends that respondent's appointment of Mr. Hadfield violates General Municipal Law ""804 and 805(a) because, as respondent's president, Mr. Hadfield obtained confidential information to gain an advantage over other candidates. She seeks an order reversing the appointment and annulling the contract between respondent and Mr. Hadfield.

Respondent asserts that the petition must be dismissed because it fails to join necessary parties, is untimely and fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

As a preliminary matter, petitioner sets forth for the first time additional allegations and exhibits in her reply. The purpose of a reply is to respond to new material or affirmative defenses set forth in the answer (8 NYCRR "275.3 and "275.14). A reply is not meant to buttress allegations in the petition or to belatedly add assertions or exhibits that should have been in the petition (Appeal of McCart, et al., 39 Ed Dept Rep 534; Decision No. 14,302). Petitioner makes no effort to demonstrate that the new material contained in the reply was unavailable at the time the petition was filed, and indeed, respondent's meeting minutes and the newspaper article submitted all predate the July 7 filing date (see, e.g., Appeal of Julio I., 39 Ed Dept Rep 509, Decision No. 14,295). Therefore, while I have reviewed petitioner's reply, I have not considered those portions that contain new allegations or exhibits that are not responsive to new material or affirmative defenses set forth in the answer.

The appeal must be dismissed because of petitioner’s failure to join a necessary party. A party whose rights would be adversely affected by a determination of an appeal in favor of petitioner is a necessary party and must be joined as such (Appeal of MacKay, 39 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 14,391; Appeal of Heller, 38 id. 335, Decision No. 14,048). An individual must be clearly named as a respondent in the caption of the petition and served with a copy of the notice of petition and petition, to inform the person that he or she should respond to the petition and enter a defense (Appeal of Heller, supra). It is the notice of petition which alerts a party to the fact that he or she is required to appear in the appeal to answer the allegations contained in the petition (8 NYCRR "275.11, 275.13; Application of the Board of Education of the Ardsley Union Free School District, 38 Ed Dept Rep 221, Decision No. 14,019). Petitioner challenges respondent’s decision to appoint Mr. Hadfield as secondary principal and seeks to void the contract between him and respondent. Because a decision in favor of petitioner would clearly affect Mr. Hadfield's property rights (i.e., his job), he is a necessary party to this proceeding. Petitioner’s failure to join Mr. Hadfield therefore warrants dismissal of this appeal.

In light of this disposition, I need not address petitioner's other arguments, which I find to be without merit.