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Decision No. 14,851

Appeal of JAMES PARISI from action of the Board of Education of the Cornwall Central School District and David V. Coates regarding a coaching appointment.  


Michael P. O'Connor, Esq., attorney for petitioner 

Girvin & Ferlazzo, P.C., attorneys for respondents, Kathy Ann Wolverton, Esq., of counsel


MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the decision of the Board of Education of the Cornwall Central School District ("the board") to appoint David Coates ("Coates") as the head coach for varsity football at Cornwall High School for the fall 2002 season.  The appeal must be dismissed.

The board annually appoints coaches for its interscholastic athletic teams.  The position of head coach for varsity football was among the positions that the district sought to fill for the 2002-03 school year.  The district's director of athletics formed a selection committee of community members and teaching staff.  The committee interviewed nine applicants including petitioner and Coates.  The committee unanimously recommended Coates for the position.  The director of athletics then recommended Coates to the superintendent, who in turn recommended him to the board.  The board appointed Coates to the head coach position at its June 17, 2002 meeting.  The board also granted him a probationary appointment as a physical education teacher.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner's request for interim relief was denied on July 22, 2002.

Petitioner contends that the board was required to appoint the most qualified candidate, and that he was more qualified than Coates.  Petitioner further contends that the board was not permitted to consider the fact that Coates had a teaching certificate because an amendment to the Commissioner's regulations permits professionally certified non-teacher coaches to be considered on equal footing with certified teachers.  Respondents contend that the appointment of Coates was proper and that his teacher certification was only one of the factors considered in his appointment.

Initially, I must address a procedural issue.  A reply is not meant to buttress allegations in the petition or to belatedly add assertions that should have been included in the petition (Appeal of Bean, 42 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 14,810; Appeal of O"Herron, 40 id. 204, Decision No. 14,461; Appeal of Simpson, et al., 40 id. 5, Decision No. 14,402). Therefore, while I have reviewed petitioner"s reply, I have not considered those portions that contain new assertions that are not responsive to new material or affirmative defenses set forth in the answer.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot. The Commissioner will only consider matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exists (Appeal of Monahan, 42 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 14,824; Appeal of Lee, 40 id. 19, Decision No. 14,407; Appeal of Swanson, 39 id. 312, Decision No. 14,247). Petitioner challenges the board"s varsity football coaching appointment for the fall 2002 season.  Because the season has ended, the matter is moot.

Even if the appeal were not dismissed as moot, it would be dismissed on the merits.  In an appeal to the Commissioner of Education, petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested (8 NYCRR "275.10) and the burden of establishing the facts upon which he seeks relief (Appeal of Lawson, 42 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 14,826; Appeal of a Student Suspected of Having a Disability, 41 id. ___, Decision No. 14,702; Appeal of L.S., 41 id. ___, Decision No. 14,683).  Petitioner has failed to cite any legal authority that supports his contention that he is entitled to the coaching position.  Section 135.4 of the Commissioner's regulations was amended to permit boards of education to consider applicants with a professional coaching certificate in a specific sport on an equal footing with certified teachers.  Nothing in the regulation requires a board to choose a candidate who has the professional coaching certificate over a certified teacher or prohibits it from considering the fact that a candidate has a teaching certificate among other factors. 

A board of education is vested with broad authority to make appointments (Appeal of Chichester, 39 Ed Dept Rep 470, Decision No. 14,286).  The director of athletics formed a selection committee that interviewed candidates who were eligible to coach the football team pursuant to "135.4[c][7][i][c] of the Commissioner"s regulations.  The committee recommended Coates based upon his qualifications, and the director of athletics and superintendent concurred. The board also heard public comment on petitioner"s qualifications.  The record indicates that Coates had significant experience playing and coaching football and demonstrated important interpersonal skills in his interview with the selection committee.  He also was eligible for a probationary appointment as a physical education teacher.

While there is no dispute that petitioner was also a highly qualified candidate, there is no evidence in the record before me that the board"s actions in appointing Coates were in any respect improper.