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Decision No. 14,608

Application of MICHELLE KNAPP for the removal of Sunday F. Coward as a member of the Board of Education of the Freeport Union Free School District.

Decision No. 14,608

(July 20, 2001)

Ingerman, Smith, L.L.P., Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Lawrence W. Reich, Esq., of Counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner seeks the removal of Sunday F. Coward as a member of the Board of Education of the Freeport Union Free School District ("board"). The application must be denied.

Petitioner is a resident, taxpayer, and parent of a child in the Freeport Union Free School District. Sunday F. Coward was elected to the board of that district in May 2000.

Petitioner charges respondent Coward with several violations of board policies, over a period of several months. Most significantly, she claims that respondent took the substance of a private conversation between petitioner and another board member and published it on her web site in a "distorted, twisted" manner. She also claims that respondent Coward threatened her and made racist remarks to her following a board meeting on March 28, 2001.

The appeal must be dismissed. In an application to remove a school officer pursuant to Education Law "306, Commissioner"s Regulation "277.1(b) requires that the notice of petition must specifically advise the respondent that the application is being made for respondent"s removal from office. In this case, petitioner has failed to comply with "277.1(b), but instead has used the notice prescribed under "275.11(a) for appeals brought pursuant to Education Law "310. A notice of petition which fails to contain the language required by the Commissioner"s Regulations is fatally defective, and does not secure jurisdiction over the intended respondent (Appeal of Khalid, 40 Ed Dept Rep ____, Decision No. 14,570). It is the notice of petition that alerts a party to the fact that he or she is the subject of removal proceedings, and the failure to comply with "277.1(b) necessarily results in a jurisdictional failure and requires dismissal (Application of McCart, 39 Ed Dept Rep 534, Decision No. 14,302; Application of Brennan, 35 id. 214, Decision No. 13,520). To the same effect, see Appeal of Heller, 38 Ed Dept Rep 335, Decision No. 14,048; Application of the Board of Education of the Ardsley UFSD, 38 id. 221, Decision No. 14,019; Appeal of Chechek, 37 id. 624, Decision No. 13,943).

In view of this disposition, I will not address the parties" remaining contentions.