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Decision No. 14,909

Appeal of LARINA HENDERSON from action of the Board of Education of the Liberty Central School District, Superintendent Brian Howard, and Jeri-Ann Finnegan regarding a principal position.




Arthur P. Scheuermann, Esq., School Administrators Association of New York State, attorney for petitioner 

Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, L.L.P., attorneys for respondents, Kristin Koehler Guilbault, Esq., of counsel


MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges the decision of the Board of Education of the Liberty Central School District ("the board") and Superintendent Howard to appoint one principal for two separate schools.  The appeal must be dismissed.

The district's pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students attend White Sulphur Springs Elementary School ("WSS"), and its first through fourth grade students attend Liberty Elementary School ("Liberty").  WSS is located approximately six miles from Liberty.  Petitioner is a resident and taxpayer in the district.  During the 2002-2003 school year, two of her children attended WSS, and another attended Liberty.

On August 13, 2002, the board voted to terminate the employment of Lucy Smassanow (Smassanow) who had served as WSS Principal and Director of Community Schools.  On September 4, 2002, Jeri-Ann Finnegan (Finnegan), who had previously served as the Liberty principal, was assigned to serve as principal three days a week at Liberty and two days a week at WSS for the 2002-2003 school year.

Petitioner asserts that the board's assignment of one principal to two elementary schools violates "100.2(a) of the Commissioner's regulations and adversely affects students.  Petitioner seeks an order requiring the board to comply with the Commissioner's regulations by retaining a full-time principal for each school.  Respondents contend that the petition is untimely, that necessary parties were not joined, that Liberty and WSS constitute a single school, and that petitioner lacks standing to challenge the board's termination of Smassanow's employment.

By letter dated May 14, 2003, counsel for the board advised my Office of Counsel that the board had approved a resolution to close WSS at the end of the 2002-2003 school year.  That school year has ended and the appeal has become moot (Appeal of D.C., 41 Ed Dept Rep 277, Decision No. 14,684; Appeal of Camille S., 39 id. 574, Decision No. 14,316).

While I am constrained to dismiss the appeal as moot, I note that "100.2(a) of the Commissioner's regulations requires a board of education to "employ and assign to each school under its supervision a full-time principal holding the appropriate certification. . ."  Respondent"s assertion that the two buildings, which house different grades and are located miles apart, constitute one unit is not persuasive.     

The Commissioner may approve a different mode of building administration "upon submission of evidence that there are circumstances which do not justify the assignment of a principal to a particular school, or that another mode of building administration would be more effective" (8 NYCRR "100.2[a]).  However, respondent admitted that it did not request such a variance.  I remind respondent of the need to adhere to the requirements of "100.2(a) in the future.