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Decision No. 15,185

Appeal of DENNIS CENTOFRANCHI from action of the Board of Education of the Salem Central School District, Thomas Steele, Board President, and Richard Wheeler, Superintendent, regarding the distribution of textbooks.

Decision No. 15,185

(March 7,2005)

Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart & Rhodes, P.C., attorneys for respondents, J. Lawrence Paltrowitz, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges the policy of the Board of Education of the Salem Central School District ("respondent board" or "board") and the actions of its president and superintendent (collectively referred to with the board as "respondents") pertaining to the loan of textbooks to nonpublic school students. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner and his two sons reside in the Salem Central School District ("district"). Petitioner's children attend The Albany Academy, a nonpublic school. By letter dated June 30, 2004, petitioner notified the superintendent that he believed the district's proposed policy concerning distribution of textbooks was unlawful. On July 7, 2004, respondent board adopted the policy despite petitioner's objection. By letter dated July 7, 2004, petitioner requested a listing of all textbooks, by subject and grade, that the district would be providing to his sons and to similar public school students. By letter dated July 12, 2004, the superintendent replied that the district was in the process of comparing textbook requests with the supply available in the district's inventory, and that the petitioner would be notified as to what textbooks would be provided to his sons once the review was complete. This appeal ensued. Petitioner's request for interim relief was denied on August 17, 2004.

Petitioner alleges that the board's textbook loan policy violates Education Law �701 and Part 21 of the Rules of the Board of Regents. Petitioner also contends that respondents failed to provide him with a list of textbooks that will be supplied to his sons and to public school students in the same classes as his sons. Petitioner requests that I declare the textbook loan policy illegal and direct respondent board to adopt a new policy in accordance with the Education Law. Petitioner also demands that all textbook loan requests from The Albany Academy and other nonpublic schools be filled in a timely manner. Finally, petitioner requests that I withhold public monies from the district for willfully violating the Education Law.

Respondents contend that the textbook policy does not violate the Education Law or the Rules of t he Board Regents. Respondents also contend that petitioner fails to state a cause of action, lacks standing and has failed to join necessary parties.

Subsequent to the filing of this appeal respondents filed a supplemental affidavit and exhibit pursuant to �276.5 of the Commissioner's regulations which I have accepted for consideration herein. The affidavit indicates that on September 1, 2004, respondent board adopted a revised textbook loan policy regarding the provision of textbooks and/or workbooks to resident pupils attending nonpublic schools.

The Commissioner of Education only decides matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Cordisco, 44 Ed Dept Rep 35, Decision No. 15,089; Appeal of Kushner, 43 id. 423, Decision No. 15,040). Because respondent board has adopted a revised textbook loan policy, this appeal must be dismissed as moot.

In light of this disposition, I need not address the parties' remaining contentions.